As a featured speaker at the HealthTrust University Conference in August, Dale Smith Thomas encouraged attendees to choose happiness on a daily basis.

“We often think that happiness depends on our circumstances,” says Thomas, an author and motivational speaker. “But we can’t often control many of the circumstances in our life. What we can control, however, is our reaction to it.”

While research shows that some people are born predisposed to happiness (yes, some people just naturally wake up on the right side of the bed all the time), Thomas says that you have to choose to be happy each and every day. And while it may seem easier said than done, she gave advice and tips on how to make that choice.

5 Keys to Happiness

1. Start your morning off right.

Whatever you focus on first thing in the morning stays with you throughout the day, Thomas says. Wake up 15–30 minutes early each day to set goals for your day, read or just relax with a cup of coffee.

2. Keep a gratitude journal.

At the end of each day, take 10 minutes to think about your day and what made you happy. Jot down what you are grateful for or the little things that brought a smile to your face. Writing it down will give you the opportunity to read again if you find yourself in a slump.

3. Evaluate your surroundings.

You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, Thomas says. Who is influencing your behavior? She suggests writing down the names of the people you associate with the most and putting a plus (+) or minus (-) sign next to their name to determine how their behavior affects you.

What you watch, read and listen to also affects your attitude. Negativity is the new normal, she says, noting that headline news, talk radio and even daily conversations choose to focus on the negative rather than the positive. Choose to be positive, even when it’s the “weird” thing to do, she says.

4. Change how you think.

Instead of focusing on the problems in your day, focus instead on the solutions. “Whatever you focus on only gets bigger,” Thomas says. “Where your attention goes, energy flows.” Put your energy toward creating solutions for your problems.

5. Pay it forward.

Pay a compliment to three people every day. Tell the Starbucks barista that she is doing a great job, compliment a co-worker on his or her hard work, or let a friend know you’re grateful for their friendship. “Plant some seeds of happiness in the lives of others,” Thomas says.


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