I was 41 years old, stretched out on a lounge chair by my pool and reflecting on my life. I had achieved all that I thought I needed to be happy.

You see when I was a child, I imagined there were five main things that ensured a happy life: a successful career that helped people, a loving husband, a comfortable home, a great body, and a wonderful circle of friends. After years of study, hard work, and a few "lucky breaks," I finally had them all. (Okay, so my body didn't quite look like Halle Berry's--four out of five isn't bad!) You think I'd have been on the top of the world.

But surprisingly I wasn't. I felt an emptiness inside that the outer successes of life couldn't fill. I was also afraid that if I lost any of those things, I might be miserable. Sadly, I knew I wasn't alone in feeling this way.

While happiness is the one thing that we all truly want, so few of us really experience a deep and lasting fulfillment that feeds our soul. Our Founding Fathers even guaranteed us the right to pursue happiness, so why aren't we finding it?

Because we're looking for happiness, in the words of the old country western song, in "all the wrong places."

That week I threw myself into the study of happiness. The culmination for me was when I discovered a state I call Happy for No Reason, a neurophysiological state of inner peace and well-being that isn't dependent on circumstances. I believe this is our essential state.

When you're Happy for No Reason, you don't need to manipulate the world around you to try to make yourself happy. You bring happiness to your everyday experiences rather than trying to extract happiness from them.

Most of us spend our time struggling to string together as many happy experiences as we can, like beads in a necklace, to create a happy life. We do our best to find just the right beads that will fulfill us. Being Happy for No Reason, in this analogy, is like having a happy string. No matter what beads we put on our necklace--good and not so good--our inner reality, the string that runs through them all, is happy, and we experience an unshakeable positive state inside.

So, how do we get there?

I found the answer in the lives of the 100 deeply happy people I interviewed as research for my book Happy for No Reason. The only difference between happy and unhappy people is that they have different habits. In fact, I identified 21 core happiness habits that anyone can practice to be happier.

One of the most important habits that happy people share is that they let love lead. Although they have the same fears, pain, and disappointments as the rest of us, they're able to keep their hearts open and flowing. This is the key to making your life--and every relationship in it--successful and fulfilling.

How do you let love lead? Here are three tips to get you started:

1. Reach Out and Touch Someone. Schedule time every day to call or visit someone you love or care about. It doesn't have to be a long call or an elaborate outing. Remember to focus on expressing your love or care for them, rather than looking for them to fill you up.

Taking the time to connect with someone from the level of your heart has been shown to make the actual rhythms of your heartbeat coherent, which is correlated with increased calmness, strengthened immune system functioning, normalized blood pressure, and improved general well-being. For some people, a much-loved pet can be a great heart connection. What's important is focusing on the bond you feel radiating from within you that links you to the special beings in your life.

2. Spread Lovingkindness. One way to power up your heart's flow is by sending loving kindness to your friends and family, as well as strangers you pass on the street. Next time you're waiting for the elevator at work, stuck in a line at the store, or caught up in traffic, send a silent wish to the people you see for their happiness, well-being, and health. Simply wishing others well switches on the "pump" in your own heart that generates love and creates a strong current of happiness.

3. Hang with the Happy. We catch the emotions of those around us just like we catch their colds--it's called emotional contagion. So it's important to make wise choices about the company you keep. Create appropriate boundaries with emotional bullies and "happiness vampires" who suck the life out of you. Develop your happiness "dream team"--a mastermind or support group you meet with regularly to keep you steady on the path of raising your happiness.

"Happily ever after" isn't just for fairytales or for only the lucky few. Imagine experiencing inner peace and well-being as the backdrop for everything else in your life. When you're Happy for No Reason, it's not that your life and your relationships always look perfect--it's that however they look, you'll still be happy!

Author's Bio: 

By Marci Shimoff. Based on the New York Times bestseller Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out, which offers a revolutionary approach to experiencing deep and lasting happiness. The woman's face of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and a featured teacher in The Secret, Marci is an authority on success, happiness, and the law of attraction. To order Happy for No Reason, newly released in paperback, and receive free bonus gifts, go to http://www.happyfornoreason.com/mybook