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Most of us realize that the secret to happiness is not owning a lot of stuff. It’s really about instilling in our kids a strong sense of authentic gratitude and appreciation for what the world offers free of charge. The best way to do it? Feel it yourself. “When parents express gratitude for everyday events, their kids grow up feeling more joyful, enthusiastic, determined, interested, and engaged in the world around them,” says Dr. Carter.

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Scienctists estimate that only half of an upbeat attitude is genetic. “Happiness is really a wide range of positive emotions that are more learned behavior than inborn traits,” says Christine Carter, Ph.D., executive director of the Greater Good Science Center, in Berkeley, California. “Our children develop their habits of thinking, feeling, and behaving based on what we teach them about the world, their relationships, and our expectations.”


The goal is for our children to have a firm foundation of contentment so they can learn to roll with the punches, enjoy what they have, and make the best of any situation. There are five keys to helping your kids stay in the bliss zone. These will be covered over the next five posts.

If you’re seeking a magic bullet or mystical elixir to enhance your happiness, you’re bound to be sorely disappointed. There is no “one size fits all” for happiness.

Instead, there are many ways to boost your happiness. Here are options to try:

  • Pick an activity that is meaningful to you, Cohn says. Whether you choose an activity that promotes a sense of gratitude, connectedness, forgiveness, or optimism, you’ll be most successful if your choices are personally relevant to you. And, he adds, this may also keep you from adapting to them too quickly.
  • Assess your strengths and develop practices that best use these gifts, Post suggests. Are you a good cook? Deliver a meal to a shut-in. A retired teacher? Consider tutoring a child. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
  • Vary your activities, because promoting happiness is largely a question of finding a good fit, Lyubomirsky says. To that end, she helped Signal Patterns develop a “Live Happy” iPhone application that starts with a short survey to identify the happiness strategies that you’re suited to, such as journaling or calling someone to express gratitude. “You can lose your will [to do those activities] if it’s not a good fit,” Lyubomirsky says.

And when it comes to happiness, maintaining your will — and acting on it — might just put a pleasurable, meaningful life well within reach.

There’s more to happiness than racking up pleasurable experiences. In fact, helping others – the opposite of hedonism – may be the most direct route to happiness, notes Stephen G. Post, PhD, co-author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People: The Exciting New Research That Proves the Link Between Doing Good and Living a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life.

“When people help others through formal volunteering or generous actions, about half report feeling a ‘helper’s high’ and 13% even experience alleviation of aches and pains,” says Post, professor of preventive medicine and director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y.

“For most people, a pretty low threshold of activity practiced well makes a difference,” Post says. This might involve volunteering just one or two hours each week or doing five generous things weekly – practices that are above and beyond what you normally do.

First documented in the 1990s, mood elevation from helping is associated with a release of serotonin, endorphins – the body’s natural opiates – and oxytocin, a “compassion hormone” that reinforces even more helping behavior, Post says.

Could compassion be rooted in our neurobiology? A National Academy of Sciences 2006 study showed that simply thinking about contributing to a charity of choice activates a part of the brain called the mesolimbic pathway, the brain’s reward center, which is associated with feelings of joy.

“Although just thinking about giving or writing a check can increase our levels of happiness, face-to-face interactions seem to have a higher impact,” Post says. “I think that’s because they engage the [brain’s] agents of giving more fully through tone of voice, facial expression, and the whole body.”

For quite some time, research has indicated that negative emotions are more powerful than positive ones, Cohn says. For example, studies show that people don’t have equal reactions to winning $3 and losing $3, he says. The loss tends to have a stronger effect than the gain.

Negative emotions might edge out positive emotions in the moment, says Cohn, because they’re telling you to find a problem and fix it. By contrast, positive emotions appear to win out over time because they let you build on what you have, a finding reinforced by Cohn’s recent study.

“We found that as positive emotions go up, there comes a point where negative emotions no longer have a significant negative impact on building resources or changing life satisfaction,” Cohn says. “Positive emotions won’t protect you from feeling bad about things, nor should they. But over time, they can protect you from the consequences of negative emotions.”

This may not be true for people with depression or other serious disorders, although they do show benefits when positive emotions are added to conventional psychotherapy, Cohn notes.

It’s true that people tend to adapt fairly quickly to positive changes in their lives, Lyubomirsky says. In fact, adaptation is one of the big obstacles to becoming happier. The long-awaited house, the new car, the prestigious job – all can bring a temporary boost, but then recede into the background over time.

Why does this happen? One reason, Lyubomirsky says, is that we evolved to pay more attention to novelty. For our ancestors, novelty signaled either danger or opportunity – for a new mate or food, for example. We’re attuned to contrasts, not sameness, but that also means we readily adapt to positive experiences that happen to us, Lyubomirsky says.

“I argue that you can thwart adaptation, slow it down, or prevent it with active ways of thinking or behaving,” says Lyubomirsky, who after moving to Santa Monica, Calif., found herself adapting to her beautiful surroundings. To counteract this trend, she put effort into appreciating the view she saw when running on a path overlooking the ocean. She says she now savors that view daily, trying to see it “through theeyes of a tourist.”

To help thwart adaptation, you can also use novelty to your advantage. For instance, if your home has become a little ho-hum, you might try rearranging furniture or hosting parties for a variety of friends. Voluntary activities like these are most effective because they require you to pay attention, Lyubomirsky notes.

Say you have two kids you’ve raised just the same, but they have opposite personalities — one sour, the other sunny. This makes it hard to dispute the fact that genes play a powerful role in each person’s happiness. There’s evidence that genetics contributes to about 50% of your happiness set point.

But that’s a far cry from 100%, says Sonja Lyubormirsky, PhD, author of The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want and professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside.

“If you do the work, research shows you can become happier, no matter what your set point is,” Lyubomirsky says. “You probably won’t go from a one to a 10, but you can become happier. It just takes commitment and effort, as with any meaningful goal in life.”

Not only can you become happier, but it gets easier over time, she says. Do you want to work on nurturing relationships, writing in a gratitude journal, committing random acts of kindness, or developing a program of morning meditation orexercise? Changes like these — proven methods for enhancing happiness — can become habits after a while, which means they eventually take less effort.

“Happiness is not just an emotional flight of fancy,” he says. It’s beneficial for the long run, serving a real function in our lives.

In psychological lingo, this is called the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, says Michael A. Cohn, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher with the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

Cohn recently conducted a study with 86 college students who submitted daily emotion reports. The researchers measured the students’ ability to flexibly respond to challenging and shifting circumstances and used a scale to assess life satisfaction. The study showed that positive emotions increased resilience — skills for identifying opportunities and bouncing back from adversity — as well as life satisfaction.

Say you have two kids you’ve raised just the same, but they have opposite personalities — one sour, the other sunny. This makes it hard to dispute the fact that genes play a powerful role in each person’s happiness. There’s evidence that genetics contributes to about 50% of your happiness set point.

But that’s a far cry from 100%, says Sonja Lyubormirsky, PhD, author of The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want and professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside.

“If you do the work, research shows you can become happier, no matter what your set point is,” Lyubomirsky says. “You probably won’t go from a one to a 10, but you can become happier. It just takes commitment and effort, as with any meaningful goal in life.”

Not only can you become happier, but it gets easier over time, she says. Do you want to work on nurturing relationships, writing in a gratitude journal, committing random acts of kindness, or developing a program of morning meditation orexercise? Changes like these — proven methods for enhancing happiness — can become habits after a while, which means they eventually take less effort.

The following series was originally posted on Webmd.com

If you’d like to be happier — who wouldn’t? — the first step may be to challenge your own views about happiness.

Maybe you think that to be happier, you need more than you have now — more freedom, more money, more love … fill in the blank. Or maybe you’ve convinced yourself that this is as good as it gets.

Such beliefs may be more myth than fact. Although a myth usually contains a kernel of truth, it can also sprout and grow, spreading seeds of doubt that can ultimately crowd out your own growth.

The following posts will discuss six common myths about happiness that may actually be downsizing your happiness. The truth may set you free for a happier life, starting right now.

  • Separate emotionally from the family you grew up in; not to the point of estrangement, but enough so that your identity is separate from that of your parents and siblings.
  • Build togetherness based on a shared intimacy and identity, while at the same time set boundaries to protect each partner’s autonomy.
  • Establish a rich and pleasureable sexual relationship and protect it from the intrusions of the worplace and family obligations.
  • For couples with children, embrace the daunting roles of parenthood and absorb the impact of a baby’s entrance into the marriage. Learn to continue the work of protecting the privacy of you and your spouse as a couple.
  • Confront and master the inevitable crisis of life.
  • Maintain the strength of the marital bond in the face of adversity. The marriage should be a safe haven in which partners are able to express their differences, anger and conflict.
  • Use humor and laughter to keep things in perspective and to avoid boredom and isolation.
  • Nurture and comfort each other, satisfying each partner’s needs for dependency and offering continuing encouragement and support.
  • Keep alive the early romantic, idealized images of falling in love, while facing the sober realities of the changes wrought by time.

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  • Learning how not to do for others what they can learn to do for themselves is one of the golden rules of adult maturity. 2 years ago
  • In an effort to avoid the feeling of failing people often don't put forth effort.By doing this they will not experience their full potential 3 years ago
  • The ability to successfully handle conflict is more important than the amount of conflict in a marriage. 3 years ago
  • Weekend challenge: Tell your spouse something you love about them and expect nothing in return. 3 years ago
  • Word Wed:Don't be anxious about anything,but in every situation,by prayer and petition,with thanksgiving,present your requests to God.Phil4 3 years ago

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