THE BLOG
11/24/2014 08:01 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Happiness Can Be Learned

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What's this you say -- learn to be happy?! Happiness depends on my circumstances. When things are good, I'm happy. When they're not, well...

I remember when I was a young adult and my friends were sitting around debating whether they were happy or not. I hadn't thought of it until then, and as we all started to do the inventory of accomplishments, lucky breaks, possessions and harmonious relationships, we all quickly became quite sad.

Fast forward several decades and today being happy is as easy and natural as breathing. But did it just happen? Am I one of those lucky slobs who has everything and wants nothing? No siree. To some degree, it was something I worked at, but I would have to call it a labor of love. In reality, I learned. I learned how to be happy. I learned how not to be unhappy, and I want to share that with you.

First, there is no universal measure or definition. What makes you happy might not necessarily meet someone else's criteria -- but so what! Let them live their miserable existence with "higher" standards, and you can live yours being happy with what you have and who you are. Happiness has no judge. No other person can decide whether your criteria for happiness is worthwhile or not. In fact, your own inner judge is hard enough on you without having to meet everyone else's happiness criteria. Every time someone starts criticizing the things that make you feel good or the value of what you have, recognize that the judge only has power if you believe in what they say. Let the judge think whatever he/she likes, but decide to be happy anyway. You will quickly see how their opinions carry no weight or power.

Happiness is not a physical thing. In fact, it's not a thing at all. It's a state of mind -- therefore it's very controllable. It also means that happiness is not dependent on money, possessions, people, circumstances or anything external. Can these external things contribute to your happiness? Sure. But if you understand the laws of attraction, like attracts like. Someone who believes that people are inherently good and life is full of promise will attract positive change in their lives. If you expect the worst, well, read on.

Preparation for the worst is defeatist. I was talking to a homeless man, and he said that he doesn't expect anything good to happen so he won't get disappointed when it doesn't. It broke my heart to hear those words. The key here is that the expectation is set as low as possible, so there is absolutely no hope. In his mind, no hope equals no disappointment. But let's look at disappointment. You are disappointed when things do not go the way you had hoped or planned. But was there some good that resulted from the actual outcome? Was there a lesson learned? Was there an incremental step forward? Was something gained? Was it good for awhile? Was there possibility? Can we be thankful for that and move forward? Let's not expect the worst or prepare for the worst. Let's fully enjoy what we have and make the most of it while we have it. We can figure the next step out later when our hearts and our instincts tell us it's time.

Positivity makes a difference. It's impossible to think negatively and be happy. If you think poorly of something or someone, you will not feel a higher feeling of satisfaction and comfort as long as that something or someone is in your life. So decide. Does it go, or do you change your frame of reference? Can you focus on the good in your situation and make it all about that? Can you learn to take the less desirable aspects and find a way to coexist? Can you look forward to your future? To each new day? Can you see your life unfold in a series of positive change, one step, one word and one thought at a time? Yes, the slightest thing makes a difference. Be discerning in your thoughts, words and actions, and choose positivity.

It doesn't take much to fuel a happy engine. You will know when you've reached that magical state of mind when little stupid things make you happy. The first customer of the day smiles at you, your baby lets you sleep 10 minutes longer, your teacher gives you an easy homework assignment. The list goes on. Does it have to be big things that make you happy? Heck no! A multitude of little things can be so much more impactful. Focus on those to shift your mind in the right direction. No thing is too small to be thankful for.

All of life's lessons are a blessing. When adversity strikes, it's for good reason. Pay attention. It's telling you something. What do you need to change? How do you need to grow?What new and different and wonderful thing is out there waiting to be discovered? What are you waiting for? Go out and find it.

Realize that you can't read this article and be cured. We all have ingrained loops going through our minds that have slowly and effectively brainwashed us into criticizing and judging ourselves and our situations. Dedicate yourself to discovering these thoughts and overcoming them. Find your demons. Face them and refute them. Rise above your susceptible state of mind. Choose happiness. Feed it, nurture it, and don't take it for granted. Don't expect it to be fleeting, or it will be. And don't take it for granted because old habits will creep back in. I believe in taking regular doses of Vitamin I. That's I for Inspiration. Feed your happy thoughts, practice gratitude on a regular basis, and learn more about how to get and stay happy.

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Cindy Tansin is author of the book Lead With Your Heart and the Rest will Follow. Her expertise is in promoting personal and professional growth, addressing issues of mind, body, spirit, and financial soundness. Follow her at www.cindytansin.com