If you ask most people what they want in their lives, they will give some form of the answer, "I want to be happy and healthy."  And studies have shown those two states are related - happy people lead healthier lives.  So what can we do to encourage happiness?  So many times we fixate on the negatives.  It's time to make it a goal to be happier. 

           Get information from the experts.  Lots and lots of books have been written about happiness. Some favorites are:  HAPPY 4 LIFE by Bob Nozik, MD, THE ART OF HAPPINESS by the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, GATEWAY TO HAPPINESS by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin and YOUR BEST LIFE NOW by Joel Osteen. Get the wisdom of people who have spent a great deal of time thinking about how to achieve happiness.

           Once you have done some research, make your commitment to lifelong happiness.  Begin by living in the moment.  There are things in our pasts that we simply can't change. Don't spend your life on "shoulda, woulda, couldas" from the past. If you spend time dwelling on old problems and mistakes that you can't change, you will be unhappy. Think of the past only as a learning tool to stop new mistakes.  If you constantly dwell on the future, worrying about what might happen, you may be focusing on all the things that could go wrong.  These worries also create unhappiness. Use the future as a goal for planning purposes not for worring.  Instead stay in the moment and enjoy all the good things that are happening right now.

          One great way to focus on the moment and the happiness it presents is by having a Gratitude Journal. For years I have kept a simple journal.  Each morning I take a moment to write three or four things I'm grateful for that day.  This builds awareness of all the wonderful things in our lives that so often we ignore or take for granted.  Because I am spiritual I write my journal in prayer form, with the gratitude items taking up most of the page and a prayer request or two at the end of the page.  One of my greatest joys is seeing the requests on one page become the prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude sometime in the future.  Even iff you are not spiritual, a gratitude journal is a wonderful way to build awareness of all the good things in your life.

          Finally, share your life with those around you.  Stay open to new friendships.  Be interested in the people you meet whether they are at a party or standing in line at the grocery store.  Be open to meeting new people - that person may become one of your dearest friends.  Reach out to others - speak to your neighbors, welcome the latest person moving into your neighborhood.  What you radiate out will be reflected back.  Let your friendliness bring friendliness and happiness into your life.

         If happiness simply seems to be beyond you, discuss your feelings with your medical doctor.  You may be suffering from depression.  A therapist or counselor may help you to examine your feelings and how to choose happiness.  Hypnotherapy can be a valuable tool in encouraging happiness.  Make the decision to be happy and then go out and actualize happiness in your life.