"If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands!"

What's that you hear? Nothing?

According to the Secret Society of Happy People, many people--even those who are living fulfilled lives--have a hard time admitting that they're happy. But they're urging those of us who are to come out of the closet. In fact, they've officially named August "Admit You're Happy Month." In past years, over a dozen state governors have issued proclamations celebrating this fact and urging their constituents to lighten up.

Why this reluctance to own up to a pleasant state of mind? Theories abound. Dr. Paul Pearsall, author of "The Pleasure Principle," notes that the United States was founded by Puritans--a hard-working but not exactly wacky group of people--for whom an attack of the sillies could lead to being bound in the stocks in the town square. Their legacy has survived both in the "Work Ethic" that bears their name and in our guilt over feeling happy.

Others assert that being openly happy is an invitation to the universe to put you in your place. Then there are the dour religious folks who feel you can't be happy in light of sin and corruption...and those who feel that somehow those who are suffering will be even more offended if they see someone else daring to be happy. It's the same dubious equation as that of starving children in Africa being somehow aided by a protesting youngster a world away who's forced to eat peas.

However, while most of the world's religions recommend joy, a merry heart, or the "path of happiness," many of us have trouble manifesting these feelings with abandon.This is why the Secret Society of Happy People has come up with some helpful suggestions for celebrating this month. They have named silver the color of the month--as in "silver lining"--and suggest you give your silver coins to charity; pay someone else's toll, subway, or bus fare; or pass out silver Hershey's Kisses.

You might also make an extra effort to recognize and admit your happy moments to your family, friends, and co-workers, send e-greeting cards, take a personal Happiness Inventory, and don't even think of raining on someone else's parade. (Other suggestions can be found at the Secret Society of Happy People website--along with a report on whether your state's governor is happy, undecided, or a "stick in the mud.")

Need something specific to be happy about? The Secret Society of Happy People names the 10 happiest events and moments of each year (last year's included the first map of the human genetic code, the Subway Series, and Harry Potter) and held a massive vote for the 100 happiest events, inventions, and social changes of the century. This list, posted on their website, celebrates indoor plumbing, air conditioning, medical advances, women's right to vote, man walking on the moon, pizza delivery, and Captain Kangaroo.

Perhaps you already missed celebrating Air Conditioning Appreciation Day (July 3), Moon Day (July 20), Cousin's Day (July 24), and National Mustard Day (August 4)--but you're still well in time for National Tooth Fairy Day (August 22), Be Kind to Humankind Week (August 25-31), and Be Late for Something Day (September 5).

So smile and let the world smile with you--or, if it doesn't, give it a Hershey's Kiss.
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