We are all in search of happiness. Most of us want to feel happy, or at least content, most of the time. The challenge is that a great deal of what happens to us in life is beyond our control. We can’t control how other people act. We can’t control who lives or dies. We can’t control the economy, the job market or the weather. There is so much in life that is out of our hands.

Fortunately, our happiness isn’t dependent on our external circumstances. It is dependent us. What we choose to do, think and say has more of an impact on our emotional well-being than anything else. Happiness is truly a personal choice. To that end, below are some “Happiness Rules” to give you a way to choose happiness every day:

Don’t expect other people to make you happy. You can reasonably expect the people in your life to be kind, helpful and responsible. No one should be trying to make your life harder. However, you cannot expect other people to make you happy. Your happiness is your responsibility, and no one else’s.

Don’t let others treat you badly. You have every right to eliminate from your life people who choose to be unkind to you. You are not obliged to be in a relationship with anyone who treats you poorly. That includes your spouse, your adult children, your parents, your siblings and your friends. It’s quite simple. If people want to spend time with you, they must treat you with kindness.

Work hard. The best antidote to a depressed or bad mood is to accomplish something. Sitting and watching TV is about the worst thing you can do when you are feeling badly. The way to get out of a funk is to do something worthwhile. It can be as simple as cleaning your bathroom. By the time you are finished, you will feel better simply by having made your home a little bit more pleasant. Work is the best way to snap out of a bad mood and get mentally back on the happiness track.

Be kind … no matter what. You cannot be mean and be happy at the same time. So you have a choice. You can be mean and choose to make yourself and everyone around you miserable. Or you can be kind and be happy. You can lift others up and possibly change someone else’s life for the better. When you think about it, the choice really isn’t that hard to make.

Focus on improving yourself, not others. You can’t control other people, so why even bother trying? Let other people take responsibility for their own behavior. Instead, focus on continually improving yourself. Improve your health, intellect and skills. Improve your impact on the world by striving to be a kinder, more patient and more compassionate person. Continually work toward becoming the best version of you possible.

Ignore other people, when necessary. There are some people who like to create havoc. They would rather be unkind than be pleasant. They like to undermine the confidence of others instead of lifting them up. Ignore them. There is nothing wrong with ignoring people sometimes. In fact, your happiness is dependent on not engaging with people when they don’t conduct themselves properly.

Regularly do something creative. We all have a creative side. Expressing that side of our personalities is important to our feeling fulfilled. There are so many things that we can do to satisfy our artistic side. We can paint a picture or play an instrument. We can cook, garden, or redecorate a room. We can write a heartfelt letter to someone we love. Anytime we make something beautiful out of nothing, we are being “creative” in the truest sense of the word.

Become a master of the positive spin. We all face frustrations and tragedies. No one goes through life unscathed. The difference between bitter people and happy people is that happy people use their tragedies to become deeper, kinder, gentler, and more compassionate individuals. And bitter people decide in the face of tragedy (or disappointment) to be bitter (mean, divisive, insensitive, etc.). People who are happy choose the “positive spin” on every situation. They take bad situations and turn them to their advantage.

Don’t turn obstacles into roadblocks. Realize that obstacles are just that; things to get around, but not things to prevent you from living the life of your dreams. Now this isn’t about bullying your way through life until you get your way. It is about accepting life’s inevitable disappointments with grace. It is about continuing to strive for your goals, rather than crumbling, in the face of challenges. It is about having a positive attitude, even when life doesn’t happen on your timetable. And most importantly, it is about having faith that if you do your best, God will take care of any obstacles.

The Happiness Rules are all about taking ownership of our own happiness. They are about having the right attitude toward what we can’t control in life and taking full responsibility for what we can control. We are each blessed with a certain number of days on this earth. Be sure to apply some of the Happiness Rules to your life, and make all of your days beautiful.

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