A faint “Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha!” came forcibly out of my mouth. Driving through Los Angeles, I tried to muster up some laughter. There was nothing at all funny. No joke I heard. No recollection of a fun memory. Nothing in my life was even remotely happy at the time. It was nearly 20 years ago and I was a young gal trying to make a living as an entrepreneur. I knew if I wanted to survive that my attitude needed to change. Knowing that laughter is great medicine, (Proverbs 17:22) I began forcing myself to laugh. It was awkward initially, but it made me really laugh. Within moments my demeanor changed and the world around me was much brighter.

Happiness can improve your health. Rich Bay, Ph.D., the chief executive officer of Upper Bay Counseling and Support Services Inc., writes, “Happiness is good for us. It brings up physical, mental and emotional health … People who are happy do better in social relationships, use their intelligence more efficiently, are more optimistic, have better physical health and are more creative.” With happiness having such a terrific effect on us, why does it seem to elude our grasp?

Many people walk around with what I call a “gray cloud” hanging over their head. I have my fair share of melancholy days but know how draining it is to my vitality to remain in that state. Then there are people who are always smiling and cheerful. They light up the room. How about you? Are you happy? Do you light up a room when you enter or do you have that “gray cloud” following you?

Well my friend, just blow that cloud away because a bright sunny day awaits you! Is it possible to make happiness a lifestyle? It sure is! Like any habit, it will take effort. Here are some ways to begin developing the habit of happiness:

Mind your mind! Thoughts and feelings shape our attitude. Attitude can be our best friend or worst enemy. Rather than complaining, make a list of all the positive things in each area of your life. Review it often. Focusing on what is positive and good will change your perception of life. Attitude can be described as “… an inward feeling expressed by outward behavior. It is seen by all without you having to say a word.”

Add laughter to your life. A good hearty laugh can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, elevate mood, boost immune system, improve brain function and protect the heart. If you are struggling with unhappiness, laughter can be a powerful way to unlock healing for your body and mind. Look for ways to add humor to your life and laugh daily.

Practice smiling. Smiling is contagious and will elevate your mood. If you are having a hard time finding something to smile about, try one of these: Jump on the bed. Dance around the house. Look at your baby pictures. Visit a pet store. Sing out loud. Read the comics. Hug someone you love.

Practicing positive attitudes such as appreciation, forgiveness, love, joy and compassion will assist you in creating happiness as a habit. As the Partridge Family sings … “Come on, get happy!” The choice is yours.

In your pursuit of wellness, never give up!

Pam Vos, CFT, owns Forever Fit! Fitness Studio in Port Hueneme. She also teaches a 12-week wellness program titled “Forever Fit Living” for small groups as well as employees of corporations, including Pepperdine University.