Waking up every morning is very interesting. I’m here. Sleeping. Comfortable and cozy. Why would I want to leave the safety and warmth of my bed and comforter, for the cold wooden floor of my apartment and even colder white tile floor of my bathroom? Why would I make a choice like that? What is the benefit of this choice? Am I going to find some secret of life? Am I going to be fully satisfied with the bottom line outcome of this day? Am I going to receive some major award for making this choice?

Back at my bed, my feet touch that wooden floor and as soon as that happens, the moment it happens is an extremely special moment. It happens every morning. It’s not special to this morning, it’s EVERY morning. As soon as I feel that wood under my feet a million paths spring forward from my toes. Each path is special and unique in its own way. Some paths lead to fortune and fame. Some lead to quiet retirement. Others are rocky and unsure. The one thing these paths DO have in common is that fact that they are determined by ME. I dictate their mood. I decide their conditions. With some of these paths I take chances and risks. While others are sure, straight, and safe.

The most exciting thing about these paths is that I choose them. I decide. I have free will and I can manipulate the conditions so that they work to my advantage. Though there are moments that I cannot control while traveling these paths, the conditions and moods are all me. Even the paths that are risky and take chances, are still controlled in that I chose them to be risky and unsure. These are paths that I’m scared of taking often. I’m not in a safe place. I’m not doing familiar actions. I’m trying new ideas. I’m opening myself up for loss, pain, or possibly death. These same paths can have amazing rewards at the end of them. The ultimate reward is returning to this safe place. My bed with its warm covers and comfy pillows. Once I’m there, I get to reset so that the next morning I get to choose again.

Choosing and realizing you can choose is perhaps the most important part of this process. So many people go through life feeling trapped or limited. They believe that the outside world has set these conditions upon them and they have no choice but to live the life they are given. Also, they use phrases like; “that’s just life” or “those are the cards I was dealt”.  Any good poker player can tell you that when the cards are not with you, there’s not a lot you can do. I don’t believe that this is the way life works. I believe you DO have a choice. I also believe that YOU are the dealer of those cards and you can stack the deck however you would like to insure your own success. It’s not cheating either, it’s completely legitimate and anyone can do it and know that you have more trump cards in your pocket than the world will ever know.

Free choice is the core of this thinking. So let’s take inventory of what you CAN control and manipulate to your favor so that the path you choose each morning will be a successful and happy one. Number one, and I will talk about it a lot is happiness.  You can absolutely choose happiness every morning. Being happy is not a condition that is thrust upon you. It’s an emotion that you can feel without outside influence of any kind. We all have things that make us smile. Throughout our day and life we have moments when we randomly smile or even laugh. We think of a loved one, or something they did. We think of our pet, or something they did. Finding those moments and fitting them together so that they never stop coming, can help you perpetuate the emotion of happiness. Blaming outside forces, people, or conditions is also a choice you make.  You have let that person or condition spoil your happiness. YOU did that. YOU let them. You don’t have to let them. Simply choose to be happy anyway. What made you smile? What made you happy? Go back there. It’s not hard to do, but it can be a challenge if you believe conditions are not ever under your control. Someone is making you angry or sad. Get away from that person. “But that person is my boss. I have to work with them.” NO YOU DON’T! If you’re miserable in your job because of a person/boss or condition, you have to move on. Or you can allow your happiness to control your situation. Once that happens, the crappy boss or co-worker will not seem as important. In fact, your job may even become better because of the choices you’ve made.  Getting up every morning and choosing that happy path can become addictive. So much so you won’t make any other choice in the morning. You can decide to just roll along with life and hope something good or positive happens to you. You have to attract that happiness by being happy when you walk out the door. Happy people with happy dispositions, tend to attract happy people. They sort of gravitate towards each other. There are always going to be people that don’t want to be happy. They are much better, in their minds, complaining about life and hoping someone hears them and changes it for them. The only person who can implement change in your life is you.

The change isn’t drastic or dramatic. It doesn’t take years of training. There’s not a degree needed or special medication that comes with this change. It’s truly as simple as choosing to be happy. The paths that shoot out from your toes each morning are the same for every other person in the world who wakes up and gets out of bed. I would like to think that those million paths that are in front of you, about ¾ of them are happy paths. Other choices are going to come up while you’re on that happy path and the answer to those choices should always be; happy.

This is going to be a big challenge for some, and especially those who may battle depression. There are no perfect answers. However, if you at least try, there can be progress made towards happiness. Moving through life as though we have no control of any kind, hoping happiness just happens isn’t enough. That’s letting life come to you rather than taking a more proactive approach and setting yourself up for success by keeping a positive outlook on life.

One of the first places to begin is to focus on what you have. Things in your life that you are grateful for is a great way to feel happy. Your family, your home, your friends are all things that sometimes we take for granted. A spouse or partner is not just there for convenience. They are there because they chose to be there. Whether it’s through marriage or a long-term commitment, having someone in your corner is a good thing. The place where you live is home. You may rent an apartment or house. You may own your own home. That place where you lay your head down at night is a good thing. It’s where all of your possessions are kept, and it can be your place of rest and solitude. Friends are another thing many folks forget to be thankful for. They are there for us when we’re down. They help us out when we need a helping hand. Friends can be an influence on us, and we don’t even realize it.

Another part of our human condition is how we treat others. Understanding “The Golden Rule” can be a huge step towards happiness. It works very simply. Treat people like you want people to treat you. If you’re kind, friendly, and helpful to others, then those tributes will come back to you. Often, they will come back in so many ways, you may actually miss some of them. That positive energy that you have put out in the world will most definitely come back to you. Just like negative energy will come back to haunt you. Having a grudge or harboring anger is only going to bring sadness and regret. If someone treats you poorly, it’s very likely they were treated poorly by someone else. If you let that energy go and DO NOT act upon it, then that circle ends as does the bad karma that was thrown your way.

Something that is tied closely to how you treat others, is the concept of making a difference. Understanding that our actions affect others can be a difficult concept to grasp, but it’s true. Going above something like putting the milk carton back in the fridge when it’s empty, we truly can make a difference not just in someone else’s life, but in the entire world. The theory of the butterfly effect states that a butterfly flaps its wings here and typhoon moves forward on the other side of the world. If this concept is true, then grasping the fact that you make a difference in the world around you definitely rings true. Little things like; paying for the person behind you in line, opening a door for a stranger, giving a smile to someone you believe needs it can most definitely make a difference. It starts a kindness avalanche that cannot be stopped by any amount of negative energy. You pay for the person behind you in line. That person decides that with the money you saved them, they’re going to give it to a local charity. That local charity often struggles to get donations and with this new donation they receive a new idea of reaching out to a new demographic or donor group. This boosts their financial intake over the next few months and hundreds of people benefit from this organizations services. That all happened because you paid for the person behind you in line. Making a difference can be as simple as volunteering at a shelter or soup kitchen, or as difficult as taking a group of teenagers on a mission trip to South America. This idea of making a difference can definitely bring happiness into your life and into the lives of countless others.

The search for happiness can also be tied to inner peace. Finding comfort and solace in your own mind can simplify the happiness equation. Once there is peace in your mind, or at least a place in your mind where there is peace, then the idea of happiness becomes very attainable. Meditation and prayer has always been a way to find that peace. It connects you in a very real way with the ebb and flow of nature and the calm that comes from quiet meditation. If your choice is prayer, this is a wonderful way to find happiness. Talking with God, or your idea of a greater power, gives you a sense of helping others through that greater force within us all. Also, thinking about others and their troubles can give you a better handle on being grateful for everything that you have been given in your life.

What kind of seeds you sew in your life can also make a difference in your quest for happiness. Negative complaints and putting others down can slow the process of achieving happiness. No one controls your life or what you do. Blaming others and casting negative thoughts about them into the universe only slows your progress. Here’s the secret; IT’S NOT THEIR FAULT! Honestly, it’s your fault for allowing their conditions to cross over into your path. Remember: We decide the conditions for happiness NOT others. Another negative condition we struggle with as humans is weather. When it’s sunny and warm we equate that with happy. When it’s cold and rainy with equate that with sad. There are definitely physical connections with our bodies and the weather we live in. People move to warm climates when they retire, because living in a warmer climate can be easier on your body. Meditation can assist in helping detach yourself from the environment around you and find a “happy place” or sunny vista for your consciousness to reside. It may be a quiet forest, next to a babbling brook. It might be a quiet mountain top, with a cool breeze. Whatever your mind creates as peace you can know that when you go there, it will be comforting. This place can be accessed in the dead of winter or on the rainiest of spring days.

Another area of our lives that has a huge effect on our happiness is our physical well-being. It goes a little deeper than eating right and getting exercise. When you fill your body with nutrition that has empty calories and processed products, your emotional condition can suffer. Also, letting yourself become sedentary can lead to bigger health problems than obesity. Gaining weight is only one of the many problems that can cause us to lose focus and let our emotional health waver. Good nutrition like; eating leafy greens, lean proteins, and fruits and vegetables can help our overall well-being anchor our happiness. Physical activity helps to stimulate not only the body and its functions, but also helps the creative flow of ideas, dreams, and emotions that we live with every day. Moderation is a key to this physical well-being as well. We make like wine, but that doesn’t mean we should drink it all the time. We may enjoy cake, pie, and ice cream, but that doesn’t mean every meal should end with them. Never having another glass of wine or never eating dessert again is not a realistic idea. I also believe that tying these pleasures to rewards can also be dangerous. With this being the concept, then we may only get a glass of wine once a month. Research has shown that wine can be good for you. That does not mean you drink more of it. It simply means you drink it within reason. Once or twice a week is definitely moderation of this pleasure. This holds true for desserts, but maybe not as frequent. One dessert a week can become a special moment in the week. Don’t consider it a reward. Consider it your moment with sweetness. I’m not a nutritionist, however, I do believe you can trade out other items for these moderated items. Instead of a cocktail; mull some berries and pour sparkling water over them. You get the sweetness and bubbles which help to trick your brain into believing you’re enjoying something that should be consumed in moderation. Dessert can be manipulated in the same way. Fresh fruit, 72% cacao chocolate, and frozen yogurt are all good alternatives to richer sweeter desserts. Also, your brain will again be tricked into believing you’re having something that satisfies that sweet tooth. Changing your diet can be a HUGE step towards mental well-being. Eliminating processed food, refined sugar, and Trans fats definitely clears your system and makes your body one step closer to happy.

The suggestions I’ve given you today, are just that; suggestions. Some of this will work for you and some of it will not. However, I can promise you this; if you simply choose happy it’s a great first step. Try this tomorrow morning; wake up, let your feet hit the floor and take a moment. Tell yourself, “I’m going to be happy today. I’m going to think about my kids, my husband/wife/bf/gf, my family, my dog. All the things I’m thankful for and I’m going to move into this day with a happy thought. If something slows that happiness down, remember that thought you had at the start of the day. It’s not an easy path. But anything worth having takes commitment and dedication. So do it! Choose Happy!

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