By Jessica Stillman

Most parents will tell you their kids are the best thing that ever happened to them. Yet when researchers carefully measure people’s happiness, having children always seems to be a big joy-kill. How can both things be true?

One possible answer is that there is more than one type of happiness. Science shows that happiness can actually be broken down into pleasure (how you feel sitting on a sun lounger sipping a margarita) and purpose (the sense of well-being we get from feeling our lives have meaning and value). Kids, I can personally attest, definitely complicate the first type of happiness, but are an amazing boost to the second.

What are some other ways to boost this deeper kind of happiness, not just creating pleasure-filled but an actually meaningful one that leaves you with a sense of having really accomplished something? For this second, deeper type of joy, your usual run-of-the-mill happiness advice, sensible though it may be, just won’t make much of a dent.

For that, therapist Dr. Melanie Austin-McCain says, you need to go deeper. “It’s about finding out about who you are, the things you like do and that are meaningful for you and setting goals that align with those things,” she believes. How do you do that? Austin-McCain offers an easy-to-remember six-point framework to help people attain this deeper level of happiness. She calls this set of practices the Six Ms.

  1. Meditation. You don’t need complicated routines or a lot of time. You just need to build a few minutes for stillness and reflection into your days so you can visualize your goals and set your intentions.
  2. Movement. This applies to the mind as well as the body. Stay active, push yourself, and try new things.
  3. Management. “Be the CEO of your life,” Austin-McCain says. Analyze and optimize. Take control.
  4. Maximization. Adopt a growth mindset and truly believe that you and others have the potential to improve and grow.
  5. Meaningfulness. “Meaningfulness is more like gratitude — awareness and appreciation of the things around you,” she explains.
  6. Mentoring. This goes two ways. Make time to both teach and be taught, accept support and be supportive.


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