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The search for happiness is the fifth and final theme from Woman Alone, and perhaps one of the most important. We live in a culture that bombards us with advertisements for products intended to make us wealthier, help us extract more pleasure from life, get thinner, younger or more attractive. We are encouraged to take a supplement for every type of health issue, extolled to visit this or that exotic place, assured that if we get our tummy tucked or our face lifted we will attract more success or even love. Yet, how many who have attained the greatest fame, wealth, power, or worldly beauty are living lives of quiet desperation? How many have taken their lives in some manner? Nothing gained nor achieved brought them happiness. You cannot get happiness, contentment, or peace from another person, place, or accomplishment. These much sought after states of being come from learning how, deep within yourself, to respond wisely to what life brings to your experience.

If you look back to your childhood, what did you believe would make you happy? I recall once, at about age six, asking for a set of plastic farm animals for Christmas. I loved to play in our side yard where there was a lot of bare ground. Here I would build roads and create homes and farms and villages that I traveled with my tiny cars and trucks. I thought it would be such fun to have cows, pigs and horses scattered on that vast playground. Instead, I got a beautiful doll that was certainly more expensive than the toys I had asked for, and which I loved, but it was the set of animals that I felt would make me happy. So instead of that doll bringing me happiness, I felt disappointment.

As I got older, I believed that if I fell in love, married, had children, and had a nice home I would live happily-ever-after. I accomplished all those things, plus studied to become a teacher and an artist. But my youngest son was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at 14 months. Then, after almost twenty-five years my marriage failed…..there was no happily-ever-after. One by one my ideals were shattered from disappointing relationships to health issues in my family. What did it all mean?

I have learned that you must base your happiness on things within yourself, because those outer things will not always be there. And, even if they are there, you may grow bored or irritated by them and happiness disappears. If happiness depends on anything outside you, it is on very shaky ground.

How do I find this inner happiness day by day? These are my suggestions:

1. Have a Daily Ritual – By creating a morning ritual, you set the whole tone for the day. For me that ritual is to get dressed in comfortable clothes, pour my tea, walk mindfully through my garden to my studio where I sit in stillness and sip my tea. I take the time to watch the birds, butterflies and other creatures that visit my garden. Then I do my yoga stretches, journal, and meditate, which may be followed by journaling again if needed. It is during this time that I connect with my Higher Power, with God. I both talk to and listen to the Divine.

2. Live with Gratitude – I believe there is truth in the statement that what you focus on you attract – so focus on what you are grateful for. As I walk through the garden to the studio I thank God for the beauty, the fresh smell of the air, the musical sound of the creek, the plop of a frog into the water, the pure miracle of another day. Then, once I read a quote from some inspirational book and contemplate for a moment, I start my journal with what I am grateful for in that day. Some I know make a list of things they are grateful for each evening before bedtime. You will find what works best for you. By practicing gratitude, your perception will change. You will develop a sense of appreciating the smaller things in life and will become more mindful of each moment.

3. Have a Vision – Manifestation is extremely powerful, so get focused on creating your vision then setting your intention of moving toward that vision. By getting clear about what you want and sending out positive thoughts, feelings, and emotions about it, you will find the key to fulfilling your dreams. Each year or two I create a Vision Board that illustrates in pictures and words what my vision is and keep it where I see it often during the day. You might also create a mantra that encompasses your vision and say it often to yourself. You might even find it sufficient to simply write down your vision.

4. Be Open to Opportunities – When you have an open heart, work hard and search long enough, opportunities will come your way. Be bold; tell the universe what you want. Yes, you may get a hundred “no’s,” but you will eventually get one “yes.” You will be surprised how often the universe says “yes!” You just have to be ready and ask.

5. Live with Authenticity and Integrity – Be who you really are, no pretenses, and be sure your actions fit with your words. Allow life to flow through you. Don’t let your ego take over. Instead, give without expecting, refrain from gossip, and do not judge.

6. Don’t be Afraid to Take Risks – It is your birth right to live how you choose; dare to live it. Be bold and courageous and follow your inner guidance and your intuition.

7. Love, Nurture and Honor Yourself – Speak to yourself with kindness, nourish your body with whole foods, and honor your value by living life by your own morals. Get good rest, exercise and nourishing food. Allow yourself play time and time for sacred relationships.

8. Practice Presence – We live in a society where we all want everything yesterday. We forget to fully be in and experience the present moment. Take time to notice the breeze on your cheeks, the feel of the earth to your bare feet, to see the budding blossoms. And be sure to put our full focus on that loved one who wants to communicate with you. Savor each moment.

Start by determining which of these is already a part of your life then begin to practice until you’ve added to that list.