“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of . . . ” For many of us, happiness is an ever-illusive dream. Especially in today’s world.

Life these days is full of stress. Uncertainty. Deadlines. Worry. Budgeting. It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race of life, somehow thinking that happiness comes with having it all. The six figure income, the latest gadgets…

Or so we think.

But “materialism is toxic to happiness,” according to University of Illinois psychologist Ed Diener. (1) Depression and anxiety are on the rise. Life coaches and counselors all across the US report that the uncertainty of finances and the war on terrorism are killing happiness in America.

But does it have to? What is happiness and where does it come from? What does the pursuit of happiness really look like?

In today’s unstable economy, finding our happiness in stuff or in monetary success may just not be the best option.

Success may be elusive in today’s world, but happiness doesn’t have to be. You can be happy no matter what. That’s right. No matter what curveballs life throws your way, you have a choice.

Your attitude is your choice.

A traffic jam. An unexpected bill. Bad news from the doctor. Life isn’t perfect, but each day brings with it little joys that we can find…if we look for them. Joy isn’t so much a mystical feeling. It’s a daily reality that life is worth living. That it can be satisfying and fun. Even if everything doesn’t go your way.

If you find yourself starving for happiness, try these tips.

Relax…don’t take life so seriously.

Too often, we let life circumstances destroy our joy. But whether you get the contract…the raise…the new car…or not, you can enjoy your life. The world doesn’t rest on your shoulders. Stop focusing on the negative, and instead, look for the blessings in your day. Laugh. Take off your mask. You don’t have to be perfect.

Do something for yourself.

Sure you need to work hard, but you also need to play. Whether it’s painting, running, hanging out with friends, doing yoga, playing disc golf, or strumming on your guitar that you enjoy, leave time in your schedule to do it. Find what makes you feel alive, and don’t hold back for fear of failure. Pursue your dreams.

Focus on what’s really important.

People. Relationships. Time together. That’s the stuff of life. So don’t let stress steal your fun. Don’t burn yourself out. And don’t let your work isolate you. It’s just plain not worth it. So hang out. Cultivate relationships. Spend time with those you love. And forgive easy.

Help other people. It’s easy to think that life is just plain awful when you’ve had a bad day. But remember, the world is bigger than you! Step outside of yourself and help someone else. Smile. Offer a kind word. Pay for the drive-thru order behind you. Carry groceries for a senior citizen. There’s nothing like a random act of kindness to brighten up your day…and someone else’s.

Look for the good.

Turn on the TV too often and you’ll become jaded. Terrorism. War. Disease. Poverty. Murder. That’s what the news reports. But, too often, the stories of kindness and giving pass by the wayside. Sure, they’re not shocking and sensational, but they’re true. Look around you for the good.


Research shows that the physical act of smiling, even when you don’t feel like it, will boost your mood. And smiles are contagious.

Happiness is here and now. Not somewhere in the distant future when you get your dream house or the latest model sportscar. Every day…even in this moment…there are so many things to be grateful for. To take joy in. To laugh about. Don’t miss it.

Sure, stress, traffic jams, bad hair days, and breakups will come. It’s the stuff of life. But don’t let it become who you are. Enjoy your life. Live…don’t just exist. You won’t regret it.

(1) Marilyn Elias, “Psychologists know what makes people happy,” USA Today, December 8, 2002,
(2) Catherine Rampell, “The happiest state in America,” New York Times, March 10, 2009,