Why wishing can enhance your life and how it’s done worldwide

Our strongest wishes are connected to our desires, which are deeply connected to our hearts. But wishes need our attention and commitment for them to come true. In a world that feels out of control, one that’s sometimes drowning in uncertainty, the act of wishing becomes even more powerful. But why leave our wishes to chance?


Make a wish

It begins in childhood, where we’re first encouraged to ‘make a wish.’ Our young lives are punctuated by beautiful, sweet traditions: we blow out the candles on our birthday cake, we toss a coin into a wishing well or fountain, we wish on a falling star, await the tooth fairy, blow the seeds off a dandelion, and we even wish on a fallen eyelash. The common thread among these traditions is the belief in something magical, which is such a special part of childhood.


As we get older, however, we start to take our wishes more seriously. Often these wishes are along the lines of ‘I wish for world peace,’ or ‘I wish I was happier.’ But our wishes don’t have to be abstract, unattainable concepts: these are ideas that can start small and get bigger as we send them out into the world. In other words, it starts with us.


Our personal acts, such as practicing kindness to others without expecting a reward, being respectful, giving to those who have less than us, and caring for the environment all go towards making our wishes come true – even on a very small level. So can offering our good wishes to others as a genuine show of support: say ‘I wish you all the best,’ and mean it. It’s about ‘being the change we wish to see in the world,’ as Gandhi so beautifully put it.



Desire vs. regrets

What does wishing mean? Often, it’s just an expression of desire. On a personal level, our wishes are often simple things that we can actually change. We say to ourselves ‘I wish I had more free time’; ‘I wish I could follow my dreams.’ And we all know those famous deathbed regrets, such as ‘I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me,’ and, of course, ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.’ It’s not always easy to just change our lives, since there are other people to consider, bills to pay, and responsibilities to attend to.


Living your best life

But it’s important to remember that if we don’t act upon our wishes, they can easily become regrets. If we wish we had more time, perhaps we need to consciously make time for more meaningful activities in our lives. If we feel we are not being true to ourselves, perhaps we need to look inward and discover what (or who) it is that is stopping us from being fulfilled. And as for working too hard – sometimes the answer is to prioritize quality time in our lives.


Ways of wishing

Different cultures and religions have various ways of making their hopes and dreams a reality. The common thread is that by focusing clearly on what we want, we’re taking the first step towards making it happen.


Prayer is the Christian way of directly asking your god to fulfill your desires. You can pray out loud, you can kneel down in church, you can even pray while you’re riding your bike.


During Japan’s Tanabata festival, which celebrates love, you write your wishes on small pieces of paper and hang them on bamboo trees, sometimes with accompanying decorations or offerings.


The joyful annual Hindu Maha Shivaratri festival honours Shiva, who is supposed to be in such a good mood on this day that he’ll grant any wish, as long as you only eat fruit, drink milk or water, and stay awake all night chanting his mantras. (In 2019 the festival falls on March 4th if you’d like to join in.)


Wishing meditation is the idea of ‘planting a seed,’ bringing our wish to the front of our consciousness, making it more present and thus – hopefully! – it will become reality.


Living the life you want doesn’t have to be impossible. Start acting upon your wishes and stop regretting; work out what it is that you want and do something now.




A traditional Japanese folk art, these beautiful decorative balls are often given as special gifts to children on New Year’s Day – which is why they are sometimes called a ‘mother’s love ball’. Originally made of old kimono fabrics, today they’re usually crafted from brightly colored embroidery threads and still symbolize a loving wish for happiness in the recipient’s life.



A man throws his paper wishes and prayers into the air in Tibet to celebrate Losar – the Tibetan new year – for well-being and good luck. These printed papers are commonly called lungta, which means wind horse. He may be wishing for himself, for his loved ones, or for the world at large. Writing your hopes and dreams onto wishing papers is a beautiful way to (literally) let your desires take flight, sending them out into the world to become reality.




Buddhist monks offer the blessed Sai Sin thread to visitors wishing for good health, protection and good fortune. The thread is usually white, to represent purity. Buddhists believe that the power of Buddha can be experienced through statues and other images of Buddha. Before the ball of thread is cut into smaller pieces, to be used as bracelets, the monks bless it in a special ceremony. The thread is wrapped around a statue of Buddha, then passed over the hands of the chanting monks, and sometimes even wrapped around the heads and hands of those who are there to pray, maintaining a constant connection with the Buddha and the monks. To receive the full protective powers of the thread, keep your bracelet on for at least three days and untie it rather than cut it off.