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Choosing Happiness
By Lori Jewett

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Abraham Lincoln

Well, it turns out that Abe Lincoln was right, happiness is a choice. Abe wasn't the only one to thing so. Many people have jumped on that bandwagon, including Martin Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Seligman has been researching and writing about positive psychology and the pursuit of happiness for many years and he assures us that happy people are not happy because of their good looks, their social standing, their income or the size and number of the homes they own. Happy people feel the way they do because of the attitude they take towards life in general, and how they perceive and deal with life's difficulties in particular.

So, do happy people make light of their troubles? Do they grin and bear it or, even worse, plaster a phony smile on their faces every morning and hope they can fool everyone including themselves? No, because a fake, foolish grin and happiness have little to do with each other. In fact, happy people experience just as many disappointments and as much pain as the rest of us. How they deal with these challenges is what makes the difference. Happy people don't block out or repress their negative feelings; they experience them fully. They acknowledge their pain and anguish and try to find ways to work through it. What they don't do is this; happy people don't wallow in it. Wallowing is known in professional circles as rumination - the non-productive, mental rehashing of negative events and emotions. Happy people also choose to see the cause of negative events as someone else's fault and as temporary setbacks rather than a sign that their entire lives are horrible and beyond hope. Put simply, happy people tend to be optimists.

Oh yeah, I hear the collective sighs of all of you born pessimists. I feel your pain, really I do, because I am one of you. And you are right that our tendency towards optimism and pessimism is, in large part, genetically determined. But wait! Before you jump off that bridge, read on. Fellow pessimists, our lives are not horrible, we are not beyond hope. Even the most pessimistic among us can learn to think more optimistically. It's true. There are ways that we can change the way we think and to become happier people in the process. I'm not saying it will be easy. Changing the way you think takes work, but it is well worth the effort.

As in all things, admitting you have a problem is the first step. Are you a pessimist. Do you blame yourself for everything that goes wrong in your life? Do you think that your life stinks, that you've really screwed it up and that it'll probably better get any better? Do you assume that everyone else's life is better? When things go well for you are you more likely to chalk it up to luck, or finally being in the right place at the right time rather than to your own hard work? Still not sure where you fall on the optimism/pessimism scale. Visit www.AuthenticHappiness.com for free questionnaires on this and other related subjects. Once you know for sure that you are a pessimist and you accept the challenge of doing something about it, fear not, there is much help to be had. Click around the Authentic Happiness site. Dr. Seligman and his colleagues have a lot of great information and resources to share. For those of you who like to read the old fashioned way, there are many books that can help. Martin Seligman's book "Authentic Happiness" is a great pace to start. Two other choices are "How We Choose to Be Happy" by Rick Foster and "The How of Happiness" by Sonja Lyubominsky. Other recommended reading ideas can be found at www.betweenusgirls.info. Whatever you do, don't think that you are beyond hope. We can all become happier than we are, it just comes more easily to some of us than it does to others. What have you got to lose? Frown lines? Crabbiness? Despair? Negativity? Not a tough choice really. Now, in the words of David Partridge, come on, get happy!

Lori Jewett is a trained counselor, blogger and pursuer of happiness. Find out about happiness, stress management, health concerns and much more at http://www.betweenusgirls.info

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