The New Year is rife with superstitions around bringing more luck into the following year: think, wearing lucky underwear, flushing all the toilets at midnight, or saying certain phrases all factor in. Most of us know, of course, that luck isn't a measurable thing, but science has shown that being a "lucky" person — the one who always wins the raffle, hits the green light, or gets that job — isn't a matter of being born under the right stars. Rather, it can be created through attitude, behavior, and thought patterns. In other words, scientific and mathematical studies say, you create your own luck.
Luck may all be in the mind, but that doesn't mean it's not a powerful idea. Many of us are very superstitious around luck and lucky people; we congregate around winners in casinos and stay away from those we consider to attract awful fortune, a study discovered in 2009, because we think the bad luck might be "contagious." This may be unconscious behavior, but it's common and powerful. A lot of traditions around New Year's Day and luck involve washing away bad luck to welcome good, which scientists in 2011 found to be a widespread belief. If you're ready to make 2019 your luckiest year, this is how to do it.
1. Use Superstitions To Your Advantage
Many of us have tokens or rituals to help us through moments of anxiety and pressure, whether they're lucky rabbit's feet, a particular coffee order or wearing a certain jacket for a job interview. It turns out that these superstitions, while they're not based in any real fact, can alter the outcome in our favor — by giving us more reassurance and support.
The root of power for these superstitious objects and rituals, according to science, is in our own self-belief. "The activation of superstitious thinking directly prior to a task may boost a person’s confidence in his or her ability to succeed — what’s known as self-efficacy — which in turn boosts expectations and persistence, thus improving performance," explains the Association of Psychological Science in a review of science on good luck charms. Don't throw away your lucky bear; it might genuinely make you feel more confident.
This use of superstitions for your own advantage can work for getting rid of 'bad luck' too. A study in 2013 found that a lot of people who consider themselves unlucky or 'jinxed' feel more comfortable once they've performed some kind of action to get rid of the bad luck, like knocking on wood. The effect was particularly pronounced if the physical movement involved pushing something away; people who did that felt more protected from potential negative outcomes.
2. Turn Bad Luck Into Good
Look at luck research and you'll inevitably come across the work of Dr. Richard Wiseman. He's produced landmark work on how humans create luck, and his four "resolutions" are based on experiments with people who either think they're inherently lucky or deeply cursed. "My research revealed that lucky people generate their own good fortune via four basic principles," he writes in The Luck Factor. "They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good."
Resilience is a much-studied phenomenon in psychology. It means adapting when you're faced with serious problems — not ignoring what's happened, but being capable of operating normally and thinking positively. There are a lot of ways to boost resilience, according to science: be optimistic, keep yourself healthy with a strong immune system, be prepared for things to change, and get support from others, for example.
3. Increase Your Opportunities
It's simple statistics: if you want to be luckier, you need to broaden your chances. A study in 2014 on serendipity found that people tended to have more serendipitous experiences if they changed their routine a lot, talked to others, made sure they remained open-minded and said "yes" to new things. They were curious rather than anxious, and that made a big difference.
This shift in perspective matters, sociologist Christina Carter told Nautilus. "If you’re anxious that you won’t find a parking place, then literally your vision narrows. You lose your peripheral vision the more anxious you are because your flight-or-fight mechanism creates binocular vision," she said. "We teach our kids not to talk to strangers and we teach them to fear other people, and that shuts them down to the opportunities that people might bring, but also creates anxiety." To be lucky, go out of your way to embrace the new and exciting. Take on fresh challenges, change up your routine and make an effort to reach out to others.
4. Play The Numbers
You lose 100 percent of the games you don't play. That's the message of mathematician David J. Hand, who writes that good luck is based on "[giving] yourself a chance of getting lucky. If you don’t apply for the job because you believe you will be unlucky, then you are certain not to get it. By increasing the chance of a favorable outcome, you can make your own luck." Enter competitions, apply for jobs, put your hand up for a promotion: if you're not in the running you have zero chance at all.
5. Boost Your Confidence Even Without A Rabbit's Foot
Can't quite get behind the power of the rabbit's foot, even if you know the science behind it? No worries: you can reap the benefits of a lucky charm without actually needing to own one. The power of lucky charms, says science, is all about confidence and persistence. Build your own reserves of those and you won't need any bits of dead animal to help you along: you'll attract more attention, feel better about going after what you want, and have the confidence to step outside the box and talk to strangers, leading to serendipitous encounters. Confident people are lucky people.
Psychological tips to boost confidence abound. Affirmations, reminding yourself of your big wins, a good support network and managing anxiety are all good tricks to dampen those self-doubting thoughts. Building up your self-belief will help you roll the dice more often and step forward for new opportunities.
I'm not telling you not to invest in a lucky crystal or rabbit's foot. I'm just saying that, in 2019, it's worth considering improving your luck by shifting your perspective and behavior. It's cheaper, and probably more effective, too.