We’ve all met people who seem to be happy most of the time. You may have assumed these people are just naturally happy, or that they are the lucky people who have an easy life, or they had really loving parents. Often, this is just not the case.

In my book, 21 Days to Happiness, I explain how happy people make specific choices regarding their thinking and behavior. Happy people tend to consciously or unconsciously think and behave in ways that result in happiness. Unhappy people unconsciously think and behave in ways that create unhappiness. What choices and thoughts are you making about your happiness?

Wherever you are on the happiness continuum, you have the ability to make changes that improve how happy you are. Here are 5 key areas to help you get started.

Happy people are consistently grateful for what they have, rather than complaining about what they don’t have. They notice the many gifts and blessings that come their way and they frequently express gratitude for the everyday things in their lives – the beauty of nature, the food they eat, the smile on a friend’s face, their ability to see, hear, walk, talk. Even many disabled people who may not have the blessings of eyesight, hearing, speech or legs are often happy people because they focus on what they do have and what they can do, rather than focusing on what they are missing out on.

Happy people see the glass as half full, while unhappy people tend to be pessimistic – to see the glass as half empty. Optimistic thinking does not just happen – it is a choice regarding how you see life. Optimistic people are optimistic because they unconsciously or consciously CHOOSE to be optimistic. Instead of noticing everything that is a problem, happy people to look for opportunities. Happy people realize that their thinking is the beginning of a creative process that leads to success. By thinking in positive ways, they move themselves to act in ways that move them closer to their dreams.

Happy people choose to be kind and compassionate toward themselves and others. Happy people have learned that how they treat themselves and others determines much of how they feel. Happy people do not wait to be happy before being kind to themselves and others. They realize that their happiness is the RESULT of their caring behavior, not the CAUSE of it. They are kind, caring and compassionate whether or not they feel like it. They have chosen this way of being, and their happiness is the result.

Happy people do not harbor resentment toward others, even others who have been mean and hurtful toward them. They realize that resentment makes them unhappy, so they choose to allow people their humanness and forgive them their hurtful behavior. Because happy people tend not to take personally others’ uncaring behavior, they don’t get their feelings hurt in the same way that people do who take others’ behavior personally. Happy people recognize that another’s behavior is really about that other person, so they move into compassion toward themselves and others rather than into judgment.

Happy people realize what they can control and what they can’t. They live by the Serenity Prayer, accepting the things they cannot change and changing the things they can. Unhappy people are constantly trying to change people and circumstances and do not accept their lack of control. As a result, they are constantly frustrated. Happy people realize they cannot control others and outcomes, so they focus on what they can control – their own thinking and behavior. Acceptance of what they can and cannot control leads to happiness and inner peace.

If you want to be happy, then you need to recognize that happiness is the result of your thinking and behavior, not the cause of it. Choose to focus on becoming conscious of what thoughts and behavior make you feel happy and you can become a happy person – regardless of your present circumstances. Happiness does not just happen – it takes practice!

The first three areas – gratitude, optimism and kindness – are all featured in my book, 21 Days to Happiness as part of a 21 day journey toward a happier life. You’ll find more resources for how to make easy changes to your life in these and other areas in each chapter. I’d love for you to take that journey with me!