"Everyone has a "set point" for happiness, just as they do for weight." - Martin Seligman
you have a list of things you’d like to change about:
- Your life (More time? more money? more fun?)
- Yourself (More fit? more patient? more light-hearted?)
- Your child (More cooperative? more responsible? more reasonable?)
Do you think you’d be happier if you could wave a wand and make things more perfect? Join the club! I wish I could hand you that wand.
But I'm afraid I have bad news. Your life will never be perfect. You will never be perfect. Your child will never be perfect. None of us will ever be perfect;
And even if things get better in your life, research shows that even desirable changes don't necessarily make you happier for long UNLESS you change your
happiness set point.
But I have good news, too.
You actually already have that magic wand, not for perfection, but for more happiness, even with things exactly as they are. Scientists have proven that you can change your happiness set-point so that you feel measurably happier.
Here are five strategies you can use, starting today.
1. Choose gratitude.
Feeling appreciation and gratitude makes us measurably happier. There is suffering in every life, and sometimes it seems there is a whole lot more dark
than light. But even in the hard times, there are so many blessings. Try to find a way to focus on those as much as you can. (If it helps, remind yourself
that much of our growth comes from overcoming those challenging hurdles.)
For parents, simply appreciating your child -- delighting in them, enjoying them -- can put the joy back into being a parent. Side benefit: Feeling deeply
appreciated is transformative for children.
Want some ideas on incorporating gratitude into your life? Gratitude Practices to Change Your Happiness Set Point
2. Choose to make the most of life by seeing the bright side.
Optimists are healthier, happier, have more fulfilling relationships, and live longer. Want to retrain yourself to see the glass as half-full? See this article on helping your child, and yourself, develop optimism.
3. Choose to stay conscious and present, even with discomfort.
Humans don't like discomfort. So when we start to feel uncomfortable, we run in the other direction, or we numb ourselves out. But
that just deadens our feelings of aliveness and joy. The only way around uncomfortable emotions is through. Those feelings of sadness or frustration
are there for a reason -- they're messages. Once we're willing to feel them, we get the message, and the emotions begin to dissipate.
Want to practice getting comfortable with discomfort? Any kind of meditation will work, and research shows that an hour a day can rewire your brain and change your happiness set point in only eight weeks. But even ten minutes
a day, repeated for long enough, will be just as effective. You don't need to do anything fancy. Just sit for ten minutes with your eyes closed and
notice what you experience. Don't try to change your breath or your thoughts; just notice them. If you feel uncomfortable, don't try to make it go
away -- just notice, and love yourself through it.
Over time, you'll notice that you're enjoying silence and stillness more, that you're curious instead of uncomfortable with your discomfort, and that you
feel a whole lot more alive and joyful.
4. Choose what is.
We all wish things were perfect. But you don’t have to be perfect to be happy! In fact, pursuing perfection actually sabotages happiness. That's because
we're always holding the reality of our experience up to some ideal that can never be attained, instead of appreciating what we have. It's like
we're always fighting with life.
So give up on perfection and accept what is. You can still take action to change things. But you'll do that more effectively from a positive, appreciative
5. Choose love.
The path to happiness requires you to accept and love yourself just the way you are, messy imperfections and all. In fact, I sometimes
think that the only thing that really matters in parenting is for the parent to deeply love and accept him or herself.
That's because your unconditional love for yourself is what allows you to love your child unconditionally. We know that's what every child needs, and deserves.
In fact, unconditional love cures a whole lot of problem behavior (and maturation cures most of the rest.)
For a whole series on healing your ability to love unconditionally, start here.
These practices will change your life over time. But why not start today, by talking to yourself like someone you appreciate and adore? You'll find that
love spills over into how you talk to your child. And your child's inner voice, when he grows up, will come from how you talk to him now.
Nothing has to be different for you to love yourself, wholly and completely, exactly as you are. Nothing is stopping you from being happier, starting today.
What are you waiting for?
"Nothing has to be different for you to be whole.” -- Stephen Levine