Using Gratitude To Change Your Happiness Level

Change Your Happiness Level (image)

DrMarkhamThumbnailDr. Laura Markham
Founder of | Author


“You are a great wizard. You can use your powers to practice white magic on yourself instead of the other kind. The most basic way to do that is to concentrate on naming, savoring, and feeling gratitude for the blessings you do have — your love for your kid, the pleasures of eating the food you like, the sight of the sky at dusk, the entertaining drama of your unique fate. Don’t ignore the bad stuff, but make a point of celebrating the beautiful stuff with all the exuberant devotion you can muster.”  — Rob Brezsny

If you feel like your life isn’t as joyful as you’d like, here’s a sure-fire strategy to replenish your joy quotient.

Research shows that feeling gratitude transforms our moods and our brains. One reason is that feeling grateful floods us with oxytocin, which creates more oxytocin receptors, which makes us happier. So gratitude can actually change our happiness set-point, which is our usual happiness level. Naturally, all those good feelings make us more compassionate parents.

Want to find more gratitude? These three simple habits can change your life.

1. Start a daily gratitude practice. Every morning, train yourself to find at least three things to be grateful for. Make it part of your morning ritual, so that you remember to do it – as you brush your teeth, nurse the baby, drink your coffee, drive the kids to school, whatever. Can’t find the time? Make it a morning ritual with your kids and let them chime in. Studies show this practice makes us feel measurably happier within a week, and raises our happiness “set-point” continually for as long as we do it.

2. Every day, find a moment to sit with each of your kids and feel appreciation. How did you get lucky enough to have this child put into your arms? Don’t let your worries steal this precious moment. Instead, remind yourself of how much you love this child. Let gratitude wash over you. Pour your love and appreciation into your child. You just changed your physiology, and your child’s, to make both of you happier and healthier.

3. When the upsets of daily life loom large, retrain yourself to find something positive in the situation. This may feel artificial at first, but you’ll quickly notice that your attitude really does depend on your perspective.

“Thank goodness she had this meltdown at home instead of in the store.”

“I’m getting better and better at dealing with his anger calmly.”

“This is a chance for him to get out all the tension from starting the new school.”

“At least this came up now, so I can see how upset he is about it and address it.”

“She cries with me because she trusts me.”

“How I handle my child’s emotions will make a difference for the rest of his life.”

“This isn’t a disaster. It’s an opportunity for growth.”

“Being a parent is a chance to be a hero.”

“True, my child sometimes drives me crazy. But what about those parents who so desperately want a child and can’t have one? Or who mourn a child? I am lucky, lucky, lucky to have this child, upsets and all.”

Gratitude doesn’t mean you don’t take action to change things that aren’t working. But you’ll do that better from the feeling of goodness that gratitude gives us.

Can’t find your gratitude? Life can be hard, even heart-breaking.

Yet, even during tough times, there is so much to be grateful for.

Remind yourself of what you already know: You are truly blessed.

This post was originally posted at on 9/6/16

About Dr. Laura Markham

DrMarkham180tallDr. Laura Markham is the founder of and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life. Dr. Laura says that earning her PhD in clinical psychology at Columbia University was just the beginning of her education as a psychologist. Becoming a mother convinced her that parents are doing the hardest job in the world, and need more support. She says her aspiration is to change the world, one child at a time — by supporting parents.

View all posts by Dr. Laura Markham here.



0 Comments on “Using Gratitude To Change Your Happiness Level”

  1. #2 is so important. Kids come with a unique set of challenges, and it is often easy to focus on those challenges rather than the child. I am so fortunate to have my children.

  2. Being a single Mom raising two daughters, I tried to show them these things. Life is hard and we have to work hard to get the things we want.We need to be grateful for what we have like each other, a roof over our heads and food in our bellies.

  3. I love all of these advices for living a happier life and making the kids apart of it makes it even better.

  4. I especially like #2. Take a break and let your kids know how much they matter to you, it does you both a lot of good.

  5. This is such a great reminder. Sometimes it’s so easy to forget all the amazing things that happen in our life on a dalily basis. I’ll will put these tools to use!

  6. I always remind myself that when things go wrong it will eventually be just a bad memory and to move forward. I love the phrases mentioned above!

  7. This was a great article. Gratitude is so important. We should show out children and teach our children this. Thanks!

  8. Such a wonderful post i really need to follow all 3 daily,how often we our busy days do we stop and take the time….

  9. I think I am a pretty positive person and try to see the good but it is hard in times like this. I think it’s a good idea to make it part of the family routine. I think “This isn’t a disaster. It’s an opportunity for growth.” is something I like to try to keep in mind.

  10. I have always done number 1 &3 but never thought about number 2 for everyday. There are so many precious moments with our children and grandchildren to have an attitude of gratitude. It works and great article!

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