Are you happy? Too many people I’ve asked hesitate and then aren’t too sure when they answer.

If there are habits we can develop and practice that create happiness in our lives, then we certainly should want to discover and practice them! The results would be positive living and happy relationships.

Here are some things to consider:

Happy people aren’t always grateful, but grateful people are almost always happy.

When you first begin to feel that pull “down” is the time to list the things for which you are thankful. The longer your list grows, the happier you’ll become. The late Robert Kennedy said it clearly: “Some men see things the way they are, and ask, why? I see things the way they could be and ask, why not.” Optimism is the soil in which happy ideas bloom.

Happy people continue to grow!

No, I don’t mean the size of your waist — although some people make others feel happy by feeding them. The growth that brings happiness is to keep learning, investing time and energy in new skills for your mind. Sometimes it means looking back. One of the lessons God taught the Israelites as they wandered in the desert was the joy of recalling past victories. Memory is a wonderful thing, especially if we concentrate on the positive events of our past. An example might be to build a scrapbook with your children or grandchildren that can help to create special memories in the storehouse of your brain — and theirs!

Happy people enjoy life!

A wise man told me his secret: find out what you enjoy doing and discover a way to make a living doing it! Another said: “My happiness is having something to do and someone to share it.” Too many people labor in an area with no enjoyment. If your job does not contribute to your joy, then schedule time for your hobbies and interests. I have met too many people who remained in a career they despised because they were afraid to run the risk of finding another job. Evaluate what you like about your job and then find one that draws on those skills.

Happy people don’t take themselves TOO seriously.

Look for laughter in your life every day. Try to make light of disappointing circumstances. Infuse some fun into each day, even if you need to laugh at yourself. Finally, learn to forgive others. To hold on to anger is to rob yourself of room for joy. Don’t waste your energy trying to get even with someone who may have wronged you.

I’ll never forget a man who said to me through sobs of grief: “I didn’t speak to my father for the last 10 years; yesterday he died of a sudden heart attack. Now I’ll never find peace with him.” If only he or his father could have let go of the anger that kept them apart until it was too late!

So, here’s the challenge. You say you want to be happy. Start by doing the things happy people do.

Be thankful. Keep growing. Enjoy your work. Laugh a little — or a lot! Cultivate an attitude of forgiveness. Those are the habits that breed happiness. Surprise yourself!

Dr. James E. Kilgore retired as the president of the International Family Foundation Inc. and is a Canton resident.

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