How the new science of happiness can change your life for the better

Six Tools for Happiness
Adapted from What Happy People Know, by Dan Baker, Ph.D. and Cameron Stauth (Rodale Press, 2003).

Find out what they are:

1. Appreciation

This is the first and most fundamental happiness tool. Appreciation is the purest, strongest form of love. It is the outward-bound kind of love that asks for nothing and gives everything. Research now shows that it is physiologically impossible to be in a state of appreciation and a state of fear at the same time. Thus, appreciation is the antidote to fear.

2. Choice

Choice is the root of freedom and the voice of the heart. Having no choices, or options, feels like being in jail. It leads to depression, anxiety, and the condition called learned helplessness. Choice can even govern perception. Anyone can choose the course of their lives, but only happy people do it.

3. Personal power

This is the almost indefinable proactive force, similar to character, that gives you power over your feelings and power over your fate. Personal power has two components: taking responsibility and taking action. It means realizing that your life belongs to you and you alone, and then doing something about it. Personal power keeps you from being a victim.

4. Leading with your strengths

When you give in to the automatic fear reaction, it makes you focus on your weaknesses, which only reinforces your fear. But when you take the path of the intellect and spirit, you naturally begin to focus on your strengths–and start to solve your situation. People often think that fixing their weaknesses will save them, but it rarely works. It’s just too painful. Leading with your strengths feels good, and that’s why it works. Simple but true.

5. The power of language and stories

We don’t describe the world we see–we see the world we describe. Language, as the single most fundamental force of the human intellect, has the power to alter perception. We think in words, and these words have the power to limit us or to set us free; they can frighten us or evoke our courage. Similarly, the stories we tell ourselves about our own lives eventually become our lives. We can tell healthy stories or horror stories. The choice is ours.

6. Multidimensional living

There are three primary components of life: relationships, health, and purpose (which is usually work). Many people, though, put all their energy into just one area. The most common choice is work, because work best assuages our survival fears of not having enough and not being enough. Other people become obsessed with relationships (because relationship is another word for love), and some people limit their lives in the name of longevity. None of this works. Happiness comes from a full life.


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