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Spend some time researching happiness stats in this country, and you’ll get results ranging from how much money you need to make to truly be happy and the dismal percentage of Americans that actually are. Happiness is important, yet it’s one of the more overlooked indicators of a full life.

Often, we get caught up in the accumulation of stuff – job titles, fabulous vacations, handbags, etc. – in the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, those things are just that – things. True happiness comes from within and the material things we collect have a negligible effect at best.

So what is it you are trying to bury? What’s going on in your life currently that is making you unhappy?

I think a big part of the reason why so many of us are unhappy is because we hold onto bad experiences from the past and attach them to current situations far too often. You will never heal from past hurts if you keep opening the wounds during current ones. Your narrative may be powerful, but keeping a Rolodex of your past pains is truly only hurting you.

With that said, being unhappy serves a valuable purpose…for a moment. Happiness is a good identifier of the state of your overall well-being. So if you are feeling empty, sad or disillusioned, it’s a great time to take stock in what’s happening in your life to make you so unsettled and identify the problem.

Focus on what serves you, and eliminate the things that drain you. Are daily post-work drinks no longer as fun as they used to be? Cut back and find another activity. Have the weekly painting classes turned into more of an escape than a creative outlet? Reevaluate what you are truly doing there and solve that specific problem.

And if your unhappiness is caused by struggle from things that happened to you in your past, talk to someone. Your spouse. A friend. A professional. Ripping open old wounds every time someone tip toes close to them doesn’t serve you positively. True happiness happens when you accept your current reality – and the current reality often has much to do with what happened to you in the past.

Action step

The secret to happiness is this: it’s a verb. Like cooking, networking or writing, the more you choose to do it, the better you will get at it. Choosing happiness can be as simple as waking up and telling yourself “I’m going to be happy today” but it helps a lot when you have created a life you love living. That doesn’t mean that you will go throughout your day with a natural passion about every single thing you do. Your happiness will ebb and flow, but everything you do will serve your overall purpose.

This week, I want you to set an intention to make being happy your default, and go through your day paying close attention to how you feel and act in most situations. I don’t expect you to float on cloud nine when something bad happens; I just want you to determine where exactly the feelings are coming from within yourself before you dwell on the negative. Give yourself the time you need each day to examine your feelings and you will find that happiness will become an easier choice to make.

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