Step #1: Define Happiness

First ask, “What makes me happy?” Think carefully about this because your definition of happiness may be very different from the cultural norm (I know mine is!) and it will influence every other significant decision in your life.
For example, my husband and I both choose to work part-time. We make much less than we could if we worked more, but we enjoy the balance we’ve created in our lives. Knowing this has guided our attitudes toward our family, childrearing, and money and success.

One caveat: when you’re thinking about what makes you happy, try to look close to home. Thinking that happiness is somewhere “out there”—in the next partner, or job, or vacation—makes things so much harder than they have to be.
On the other hand, if you believe happiness is found inside you, then happiness becomes a compass and a teacher that leads you to live your best life.

Step #2: Accept Yourself

Acceptance for your self may be the most important step on your path to happiness. When you accept that you are fine just the way you are right now, you will experience more happiness right now. When you no longer push yourself to be different, you will find peace and with it greater happiness.

Step #3: Follow Your Bliss

There has never been any better advice than Joseph Campbell’s “Follow your bliss.” Following your bliss is about listening to your heart's desires, noticing what truly inspires you and making time for those activities. As long as you are devoting some part of your day to something that delights you – even if it is only 15 minutes a day – you will be happier.
But there’s even more to it than just carving out that 15 minutes to be happy. The Law of Attraction states that energy flows where attention goes.
Once you create even that small space for joy in your life, you will find that the joy overflows into the rest of the day, and it will become easier to feel joy even from the things that you don’t immediately regard as blissful. But it all starts with recognizing what makes you happy and giving it time in the course of your life.

Step #4: Choose Happiness

As I mentioned earlier some people believe that happiness is just around the corner, right after they get that perfect job or partner. That’s chasing happiness. I believe in choosing happiness.

Many who choose happiness do it unconsciously, and they do it by following the first two steps above: they notice what makes them happy, and they make time for it in their lives. There are no drawbacks to doing the same thing on purpose, however. If you take the previous two steps you will have set the intention to be happy, and happiness is certain to follow.

Of course, stressful or unexpected events happen, so this step is all about re-intending to be happy—no matter what—after something knocks you off your stride. Setting (and re-setting!) a positive intention to let the next moment (and then the next!) delight you is a great way to have a happy day (and a happy life).

Step #5: Your Joy List

It’s easy to overlook a lot of the things that make us happy simply because it doesn't cost anything. That’s one of the problems with chasing happiness: it can make us disregard the things that make us happy in the present because a) they’re not what we think we really want, and b) they don’t seem likely to get us what we think we want.

The answer to this is to make a joy list of everything in your life that costs no money and delights you, like laughter, friendship, walks outside, kindness and birds in flight.
Keep your list close and appreciate all the delights that are available to you – and then enjoy at least one of them daily. (Easy to do when you’ve carved out that 15 minutes, right?)

Step #6: Honor Your Priorities

When people are asked what they care about most, time and time again they say their family and friends. When we honor these priorities, it pays off: people who give their time, energy and attention to their most important relationships are sure to experience more happiness.
All too often, however, our most important relationships compete with our jobs and myriad other responsibilities. But even the busiest schedules can allow for important personal relationships when they are made a priority. All it takes is a little practice.

When requests are made of your time, be prepared to answer: “I’m sorry, I can’t. My priority right now is time with my family (or friends, or walks with my dog…). Could we look at next week (or month, or year)?”
You might even want to practice these phrases in a mirror when you get a spare minute. After a few times you’ll become a pro at honoring your priorities, and you’ll see how good that feels.

Step #7: Practice Forgiveness

In order to be happy now, you have to let go of resentment. Everyone knows what it’s like to experience disappointment. But when you wish or expect things to be different than they are you make yourself powerless—a passive victim—and that never feels good.

When you forgive someone or something for not being what you wanted or needed, you not only create space for better feeling emotions, you take charge of the situation—you exert your own power over it. If you do this, you will feel relief, and that is an important step back in the direction of happiness.

Step #8: Voice Your Gratitude

Get in the habit of saying out loud three things you are grateful for. Do this right now, before you go on reading this. Gratitude is often referred to as the shortest shortcut to happiness, and you’ll find that the more grateful you are, the happier you will feel.

Step #9: Take Exquisite Care of Yourself

This step doesn’t need a lot of explanation. Just be kind to yourself. Life always gets better when you treat yourself well.

Step #10: Be Present

Focusing on some disappointment from the past or some hope for the future are the chief causes of unhappiness. In the English language, the word "present" has three distinct meanings: "here", "now" and "a gift."

The more present you are in each moment, the more happiness you will find—the more gifts will open in front of you as you watch. Take a deep breath, look around you, find something to appreciate, and you’ll see what I mean.
I hope you will find these steps helpful and give yourself the gift of being truly happy in 2010.

Author's Bio: 

Stacey Curnow works as a certified nurse-midwife in North Carolina, and over more than 15 years her career has taken her from western Indian reservations to a center-city Bronx hospital to the mountains of southwestern Mexico.
She has been an enthusiastic student of positive psychology for years and applies it to her midwifery and life coaching practices with great success. You can find out more about her services at
She is the creator of a thriving blog and many of her articles have been published in print magazines and online.
She lives in Asheville, NC with her husband, young son, and Ruby the wonder chicken.