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Today is part of your life’s journey.

Don’t miss it.

We live our lives at a high rate of speed. We tell ourselves we will be happy if we get the house, get the car, get the wife or get the husband. We will surely be happy when we get our dream job. But wait, how about the corner office? Now look, there’s a better car.

If we focus just beyond our reach, there is always something out of our grasp. Don’t miss what is right in front of you. Happy people do more than acknowledge what is in front of them, they learn to savor and appreciate it.

They learn to smell the flower, pet the dog and admire the sunrise.

Every life has challenges. If you think the family down the street has a pain-free life, you are mistaken. Life is filled with peaks and valleys. But you can find happiness in either.

Life’s journey brings with it certain milestones. I will be happy when I get to start school.  I will be happy when I get to middle school.  I will be joyous when I can drive a car. I cannot wait until I am 21. But reality tells us that our teen years, though happy and carefree, can be angst-filled and awkward.  Our 20s can be exciting, but are also filled with job changes and the stress of finding a spouse. Even retirement years bring their own sets of problems. Do I have enough money? Do I have a support system? For some, retirement is a lonely time – a time of isolation.

Age alone has little impact on happiness.

In the same way, gender plays no role in happiness. Neither sex is happier than the other. Men and women socialize differently, but they also have different levels of need. For example, women may gain more benefit from having a lot of friends. But at the end of the day, no gender has a corner on the market on happiness.

And money? One of the most common themes associated with happiness is money.  But money is vitally important to happiness only when it is being spent on the most basic life necessities: food, shelter and health care.  Once these basic needs are met, money loses much of its power. Happiness is not necessarily having what you want; happiness is wanting what you have. Tangible purchases bring pleasure for approximately 90 days. But experiences are remembered far longer.  It is not what you buy that makes you happy, but what you experience in life.  For example, a wonderful trip will give you lasting memories, but the pleasure of a new car will wane in just three months.

The Rolling Stones said it well:

You can’t always get what you want

But if you try sometimes, you just might find

You get what you need

Genetics also play a strong role in our happiness.  About 50 percent of our happiness quotient is determined by genetics. Ten percent is based on life experiences and 40 percent is derived from our own volition.  We can choose to be happy.

When I was in medical school, our days and nights were filled with studying. I took great joy late into the evenings when I broke away from my studies to sit on a little balcony at the back of our apartment.  Below us was a little hut where several musicians lived. They scattered during the day to pick up work and maybe bring home a little food to share. Everything they had was shared with one another. After their evening meal together, they began to sing and play. Every night was filled with joy. They were practicing a play about good kings and bad kings. I don’t know if they ever performed it anywhere or not. It didn’t matter, for their joy came not from performing, but practicing. They found happiness in their journey.

Each member of the group was concerned for the whole, not just for themselves.

If we are more focused on others than ourselves, we will find it can bring us contentment.

Happy people like themselves. They feel they have something to offer and they like to know they are contributing. Being a productive citizen of the world gives us a sense of accomplishment.

Happy people feel they can make a difference in the lives of others. It is not that they want to control others, but they have a sense that they can contribute in a positive way. They like to feel a part of something larger than themselves and know how they fit in. They recognize the importance of connecting with those around them.

Optimism is a characteristic of happy people. They look for positives in people, places and things. Even in our darkest times, we can often see good coming from a bad situation. Sometimes the lesson may be unclear at the time, but can be seen many years later as life unfolds.

Happy people are close to others. We all need connection. The most important aspect is to have a close, trusting relationship with others. Isolation does not lend itself well to being happy.

Spirituality is one of the keys to being happy.  We need to believe in the intangibles that add meaning and value to our lives. There is something beyond us. The more I learn of science, the more I believe in God. In fact, I have come to the conclusion in my own mind that science is God. He is the ultimate and supreme power. We are only seeing a glimpse of that power. Man congratulates himself on inventions, but we only make discoveries — not inventions. Electricity was there all the time before it was discovered. The ability to float was there since the beginning of water, but it took perhaps millions of years before man recognized it and built boats. All knowledge is in existence, we continue to uncover facts and put God’s elements together in new and different ways.

Happy people tend to have balance in their lives. In our fast-paced world, it is easy to spend too much time working and not enough time relaxing and recharging. Work, play and spirituality are all components we need in our lives to be happy. If any of the three begins to dominate, we can quickly become out of balance. It is important to live life deliberately. Happy people take note of the balance in their lives.

Creativity can play an important role in our happiness.  You don’t have to be a grand artist or musician, but you need to be creative in thought. Look for problems from a variety of viewpoints. Be a creative problem solver. Creative people do not let life stand still. They continue to seek out new ideas. They pursue new experiences and seek to explore and gain understanding.

It is within us all to be happy.  Being happy is a fundamental right of all humans. Not only is it a right, it is essential to our overall health and wellbeing. The relationship between mind, body and spirit is central to our health.

Proverbs 17:22 says that “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…”

Written thousands of years ago, that ancient proverb is still rock-solid today.