07/18/2013 10:56 am ET Updated Sep 17, 2013

12 Tips for Staying Optimistic in Tough Times

The old joke goes like this:

A mom and dad are worried about the extreme personalities of their six-year-old twin boys --one's a total pessimist, the other a total optimist. So they take the kids to a psychiatrist.

First, the shrink leads the pessimist into a room piled high with toys and announces, "All of these are yours!"But instead of squealing with delight, the kid bursts into tears. "Why are your crying?" the doctor asks. "Don't you want to play with any of your toys?" "Yes," the boy says, "but I'm afraid I'll break them!"

Then, the psychiatrist takes the optimistic child into a room filled only with horse manure. Rather than run out of the room in disgust, the boy begins jumping up and down with glee, screaming "Bring me a shovel, bring me a shovel!"

"What do you need a shovel for?" the shrink asks.

"Well, with all this manure," the little boy says, "there must be a pony in here somewhere!"

Okay, maybe that's a little extreme -- but the truth is, we do in fact control our outlook on life, not the other way around. No matter how genuinely we believe that the deck is stacked against us -- especially in these politically noisy and economically fraught times -- doom and gloom do not control our lives -- that is, unless we permit them to.

And the (really!) good news is: experts insist that we can find our way to the sunnier side of the street, simply by practicing a few easy exercises. From taking care of your body, to slightly altering your word-choices, to surrounding yourself with laughter (my favorite tip, btw), all of us can live up to Charlie Chaplin's famous observation about happiness:

"You'll never find a rainbow if you're looking down."

So take a look at these tips, and see which ones work for you. And whatever you do, keeping smiling.

12 Tips to Stay Optimistic in Tough Times