After meeting new people, they note the abnormal amount of happiness that exudes from me and then ask how and why I’m so happy. The first response is, “I woke up this morning; whatever happens after that is my choice. If I choose to have a fantastic day, then I will. If I choose to have stress, anxiety or depression, well, those conditions will be granted too.”

Through life experiences, I’ve realized that we only have this one life. This is not a dress rehearsal, this is it! If you’ve lived long enough, there have been some highs and lows, ups and downs and you’ve learned a lot along the way.

One day, I made a DECISION that I was going to be happy…I mean really happy, and made a lot of changes in order to attain and maintain it.

“Some people have so given up on life, they’ve joined the Thank God It’s Friday Club. How sad.” – Jim Rohn

At what point did having child-like happiness become abnormal? What point did it become normal to have anxiety, stress and depression and self-medicate to alleviate the issues, but not resolve them.

Thinking of my little cousin who is 18 months and hilarious, her unbound joy and happiness lights up any room she enters. My family relishes in her freedom and courage to attempt new things. When she fails at doing something for the first time, we cheer for her and encourage her to keep trying until successful. When she finally gets it right, we cheer loudly for her and celebrate.

On the contrary, if she pouted and displayed unhappiness for an hour, similar to what is considered normal for adults, we would become concerned. If her lack of enthusiasm, moodiness, sadness and low energy continued for more than 3 days, she would be rushed to the doctor because there is obviously something wrong. When asked what’s wrong by the doctor, would be report, she’s unhappy, not playful and sad; and although she’s eating well, she doesn’t have a temperature; although she’s not displaying signs of any acute illnesses, she’s also not displaying signs of joy.

After running tests and scans, the doctor wouldn’t find anything wrong with her. What if he came back and diagnosed that she was just displaying signs of being an adult?

Now, ponder for a moment, at what point in our lives did it become okay for us to display the same emotions described above for years on end. In children, we would be greatly concerned, but fail to be concerned about ourselves.

Unhappy During The Prime of Our Lives

An article from The Economist, displays a “U-bend” of happiness based on age. According to the chart, happiness levels are fairly high up to 18 years old, decline sharply in the early 20’s, level out and then dip again in the late 30s, increase again in the mid-50s, and peak later in life. Most people reach the point of happiness that was experienced before/at the age of 18 again in their mid to late 60’s.

Looking at the age range where people are most unhappy, it’s during the time we are in the workforce. One would assume that when we rush to enter the workforce, eager to make our mark on the world, climb the corporate ladder, work long arduous hours, attain multiple degrees, move up in positions, attain seniority, rank advancements and achieve professional milestones that we would be happier, but the statistics (and real life examples) show otherwise.

The majority of us spend the peak of their lives at the lowest point of happiness, only to realize as we become more mature (dare I say older) that we need to make the rest of our lives, the best of our lives.

Why is the happiness of an 18 year old regained at the age of 66? Is this at that point we realize we have fewer days in front of us than behind us? Can it be attributed to seeing close friends and family pass away due to old age or sudden illnesses?

Should it be considered lunacy to continue to be stuck in the rat race and not find your way out until you are in your 60’s? Why not live your best life for the majority of your life?

Well……there’s a problem with that. Actually, there are a LOT of problems. However, we don’t have as many problems as we have decisions to make. The lack of making DECISIONS causes unhappiness, which causes stress, anxiety and depression; which has the trickle effect to cause all sorts of health issues. Happiness and living a life with less stress and anxiety starts with a DECISION. I have found that it takes just as much effort to be miserable as it does to be happy. If you want things to change, you must be willing to change.

Happiness Is A State of Mind, Not Material Possessions

Harvard Professor and author of the book “Happier” Tal Ben Shahar states, “Happiness is mostly dependent on our state of mind, not on our status or the state of our bank account. Barring extreme circumstances, our level of well-being is determined by what we choose to focus on (the full or the empty part of the glass) and by our interpretation of external events.”

Over the next couple of weeks, make it a point to adopt new habits to change your mindset. With small tweaks, you can refresh your mindset. If you desire to be happy, make it a goal each day and set out to achieve it.

Below are 3 things you can do (and corresponding videos hyperlinked) to increase happiness and lower stress in the next 7 days:

  1. DECIDE to change. Jim Rohn- The Day That Turns Your Life Around
  2. Forgive someone….maybe two people. Buddha states, “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” It takes a lot to forgive others, but when you do, it creates so much more room in your life for more positive experiences. Oprah and T.D. Jakes– Forgiveness
  3. Play a song from your childhood and dance. Music has the ability to quickly shift our mood and make us happier. Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson (from the 80’s) are always good choices. The key is not to take yourself too seriously. Imitate the moves from Beat Itand smile while you are doing it.

What are your thoughts on happiness? Do you have daily practices to create happiness and what have you done to lower your stress?


Christy Rutherford, an Executive Leadership Strategist, trains leaders on leadership principles to assist them with realizing their full potential and increase productivity. She also coaches Type A leaders who are suffering from burnout, which impacts their performance at work and home.

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“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar