Live Life Fully: What will make you happy?

By Linda Arnold

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Are some people just more cranky than others? Or more perky? Do circumstances matter? I would say yes, yes and sometimes.

Yet, things don’t have to stay this way. If you find you’re stuck on a lower rung of the happiness ladder and would like to climb closer to the top, there are steps you can take to increase your position.

Obviously, there are clinical situations that may require further attention. I’m just saying that if you’ve got the will to create a sunnier disposition, there’s a way.

I’ve just returned from a seminar on “The 15-Minute Miracle.”

It’s a journaling technique that provides triggers that help us get “unstuck” from old patterns of thinking, while creating templates that invite a joyful, productive approach to experiencing life.

Positive results from participants who engage in this 15-minute daily practice have included breakthroughs in areas ranging from health to relationships to prosperity and abundance.

Taking stock of our attitudes and outlooks on life can yield clues on how well we deal with stressors in our lives. And, while we don’t often have control over the stressors, we do have control over our response to stressful situations.

We’re all familiar with our IQ (intelligence quotient), and there’s been a lot of recent research on the theory of EQ (emotional quotient).

Now there’s interest in our HQ. It’s not just the abbreviation for “headquarters” anymore. It can also refer to our “happiness quotient.”

Psychologist Dan Baker has developed a questionnaire on this topic, based on the theory that happiness develops from a number of internal qualities — including courage, love, humor, altruism and a sense of purpose.

Happiness quiz

Take a look and see how you’d rank yourself.

Don’t overanalyze the statements — just go with your gut feeling. You’ll likely gain some insights into areas that could boost your happiness on an ongoing basis.

Start by choosing how often you agree with the following statements:

N = Never; R = Rarely; S = Sometimes; O = Often

1. I believe my life will truly begin when the right person or circumstance comes along.

2. I feel best when I give unconditionally to others.

3. When I think about people in my life, I focus on those who have hurt or disappointed me.

4. When I think about people in my life, I focus on those I care about and love.

5. There’s not enough time for taking care of me.

6. I’ve helped myself through difficult times with a strong, positive attitude.

7. I take myself very, very seriously.

8. I believe it’s up to me to live my life fully — and to find meaning.

9. When things don’t go well, I feel trapped or overwhelmed.

10. Although life’s circumstances change, my beliefs and capabilities will allow me to survive and thrive.

11. Who wouldn’t rather receive a gift than give one?

12. There is a spiritual power that I can turn to for comfort whenever I need to.

13. Life is a big joke, and I’m in the middle of it.

14. Fear keeps me from standing up for what I believe is right.

15. I’ve grown — emotionally and spiritually — through difficult and painful life events.

16. If I don’t have enough money or love, then I can’t feel secure.

17. Taking care of my health is a priority.

18. People hurt my feelings.

19. Life is good. I really appreciate what I have.

20. I’m unclear about the purpose and meaning of my life.

21. What matters most is enjoying relationships and moments.

22. I just have too much to do.

23. I feel fulfilled.

Did you notice any themes emerging from your responses? Are you consistently searching externally for things or people to make you happy?

Are you dwelling on people and circumstances in your past that caused you pain?

If you feel overwhelmed, this will be evident in your answers. Are you a giver, a taker or a little of both? How’s your support system?

Do you have a spiritual foundation of some sort, from which to draw courage and strength — and experience peace?

Hopefully, you’re able to laugh at yourself from time to time — and to take time for self care and nurturing. If you’re burned out, you’re not going to be able to contribute to your own life, much less those of significant others in your life.

Life is full of ups and downs; that’s what gives us the contrasts.

I’m not suggesting we strive for a Pollyanna/Stepford-wife type of existence. I’m just saying there are things within our control that can make a big difference in how we act — and react — to situations in our lives.

While life circumstances obviously affect all of us to a certain degree, they’re not as big a factor as you might think. How many stories have you heard about wealthy, powerful people who are miserable?

Abraham Lincoln, even though he suffered from depression, said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Hopefully, the quiz helped you set your mind toward areas that could give your happiness quotient some fuel injection.

Everything starts with gratitude and appreciation for what we already have.

Then we can build on that foundation. It also helps greatly to be aware of where you’re putting your focus.

As Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “If you’re depressed, you’re living in the past. If you’re anxious, you’re living in the future. If you’re at peace, you’re living in the present.”

Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a psychological counselor, certified wellness instructor and syndicated columnist. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda at

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