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Happiness is a choice
Kathy Kurazawa and her daughter Rita Kalifeh-Teel share their happiness at the graduation of the first group of participants from the Canyon Ranch Institute Life Enhancement Program at Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care. Kathy and Rita both serve on the CRI LEP Core Team.

Savannah resident Kathy Kurazawa is Assistant to the President of Morris Multimedia, Inc., and a Core Team Champion for the Canyon Ranch Institute Life Enhancement Program at Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care, Inc.

ONE OF THE most popular songs to come along in the past year or so is "Happy" by Pharrell Williams. The first line of lyrics says "It might seem crazy what I'm about to say... Because I'm Happy!" That's exactly how I feel.

I proudly admit that I am a happy person, and I have strong feelings about happiness. You might think there’s nothing special to say about happiness—that people are either happy or they’re not. I don’t think it’s quite that simple.

I admit that many years ago I wasn’t as happy as I am today, so I definitely have a point of comparison. One difference now is that I have a loving and supporting husband and daughter. I have many wonderful friends, my two dogs give me great pleasure, I love riding my motorcycle (that helps me reduce stress), and I am now proud to be on the team of the Canyon Ranch Institute Life Enhancement Program (CRI LEP) in Savannah. One of the topics we discuss in the CRI LEP is the importance of having a sense of purpose. We talk about joy. We ask each other what brings us joy and meaning in life. We discuss—among laughter and sometimes a few tears—the choices we can make that lead to the outcomes we want.

That word “choice” is a whopper. When you feel you have no choices, life can be pretty grim. I believe we always have choices but maybe we simply haven’t always considered what they are.

For example, we can choose to watch reality shows that contain negative content, fighting, or bad language —shows that “bring us down.” Or we can choose to watch little or none of that type of program.

I’m not suggesting that we ignore what’s happening around us, or that we try to live in a bubble. I am suggesting that we can choose to limit the amount of negativity we absorb on a regular basis. We can turn off the violent television program or change the channel. We can choose entertainment that is not created at the expense of others’ misery. We can choose to surround ourselves with people who are positive and supportive of us.

Do you know someone who seems to always be wrapped up in troubles and sad stories? It’s one thing to be a good listener, but over time, that type of negative conversation doesn’t do the talker or the listener much good. We can choose to change the subject or limit the amount of time we listen.

It’s one thing to talk about happiness and another to actually live it. At some point in our lives we all struggle with disappointment, sadness in relationships, regrets, loneliness, and dreams that never seem to come true. Here are some ideas for how to break the cycle and bring a little happiness into your life:

Practice self-acceptance. When you lose yourself at a family dinner and have a second helping of dessert, don’t wake up the next day feeling as if you’re a “bad” person. No one can do everything right every day. Be kind to yourself, and return to your goals as soon as you can. You’re human!

Take time to laugh. Laughter has a way of breaking tension and making us feel better. It’s physically healthy, too. When we laugh, blood flows more easily, blood pressure and blood sugar go down, the immune system’s ability to fight infection goes up, and sleep comes more easily. If you have a computer, sign up for the joke of the day. Or play a game with children in your life.

Sleep it off. When we’re not well rested, the smallest irritations can build up to major heartbreaks. With a good night’s sleep, happiness often returns.

Find BFFs. Most people think that means “best friends forever.” I think it means “best fun friends,” because I place a high value on surrounding myself with people who have a sense of humor and like to laugh. I spend time with friends who enjoy riding motorcycles as much as I do. The more time we share with people who don’t “sweat the small stuff,” as my husband says, the more time we have to make life meaningful—and happy.

Focus outward. A tremendous source of happiness comes from doing something for someone else. Even little things can make a big difference. Write a thank you note to express your appreciation of a friend or family member. Help someone in need or who is less fortunate than you. The possibilities are endless.

Albert Einstein was a very smart man, and something he said is as valuable as all his mathematical genius—“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”

I think Albert Einstein was a very happy person. I am, too. I hope that you are, and I wish you the best in all you do to balance your life to find and keep happiness alive!