Did you know Happiness is a choice? You are the one in control of making that decision every single day. It's hard to fathom when it feels like the whole world and the economy are in chaos. However, I learned through tragedy and ultimately triumph, I could choose "happy," no matter what.

Years ago, I experienced the worst that could happen. I tragically lost my son, and a few years after that, my husband. With those tragedies I realized life isn't about careers, or jobs, or money. Those things can enhance life, but really, there's only one thing that matters, and that's love and expressing love every single day. Therein is the seed that creates "happy."

The loss of two people I deeply loved changed me forever.

I was challenged to build a life that was the highest expression of love I could possibly have.

I thought I would forever be condemned to a life of sadness. What I learned is that the quality of your life is, in fact, a choice. I could choose to grieve for the rest of my life, or I could choose acceptance and learn to smile at the memories. It was a long road getting to "acceptance."

In the pursuit of healing, I realized that grieving has cycles and so does life... and careers... and love! There's no magic number or perfect career that gives continuous happiness or peace of mind, because life isn't about a number. It's about following your heart, doing something you love, and expressing love every single day.

There's no one person that can make you happy for the rest of your life... except you.

I found peace around money, my job, and my spirit the day I decided I would be grateful for what I have and the lessons I've learned. My will to survive was stronger than I ever dreamed possible.

These 9 steps are tools that I implemented when I struggled with resilience. They work!

1. Choose "Happy"
When awakening in the morning, your only choice should be to smile. Be grateful you are alive and blessed with another day. Tragedy is not a sentence or a label you have to wear forever.

2. Feed the Spirit
Read at least 15 minutes every day from Motivational Books, the Bible, or whatever inspires you. E-mail me for a bibliography of books that helped me find strength and hope.

3. Surround Yourself with People Who Love You.
Be with your children, grandchildren, parents, or friends. Ask nothing of them, except just to be with you. Be with those who share your beliefs and support your goals. Avoid negative people. Invite a friend to join you for coffee, even when you don't feel like it.

4. Share Laughter
Remember, laughter is the buffer for difficult times. Find a friend who makes you laugh, or a funny movie, or something on YouTube! Laughter literally changes your body chemistry.

5. Create Something
Everyone can create something whether it's a garden, a poem, painting a room, building a sand castle, stringing beads, cooking, etc. Being able to create something beautiful is what distinguishes us as spiritual beings! Creativity comes from spirit.

After my daughter was born with a birth defect, I wrote my first book, because her imperfection inspired me. When my son died, I created a garden to experience the cycles of life. When my marriage ended, I painted, pouring my heart into each stroke of the brush.

Recognize you can be the most creative when you are going through tough times because your brain longs for positive stimulation. Chaos fuels creativity. Go ahead, light the fire.

6. Recognize Chaos as the Door to Transition and Re-Organization
You can't transition without chaos. Remove the fear, it's just a stage. Carl Jung said, "What you resist, persists." Don't resist transition... welcome it!

7. Use Symbols to Trigger your Faith
Symbols have been used since man and woman were created.
Roses are symbols of undying love and resilience. They are cut back every year, weather snow and frost, and yet they come back with glorious blooms each spring.

Your symbol can be in the form of a stone, a rose petal, a piece of jewelry,... really anything that has special meaning. Clutch it, touch it, gaze upon it to remind yourself you are alive with possibility!

After my husband died, I created a "Joyful Tree." I wrote encouraging words in calligraphy, cut them up, and tied them to a ficus tree in my home (see what I mean about creativity coming alive in the throws of chaos?). Every morning I see my tree and focus on a different word for inspiration. (To any reader interested in a free copy of those words in Calligraphy, I'm happy to email them to you.)

8. Fuel your Body with Neurochemicals
No... you can't find them in pill form at the pharmacy, but you can manufacture them in your body.

We all know the value of eating well and exercising. It's even more important when in crisis. Too much sugar and you have fluctuations in brain chemistry that causes you deeper distress. Eat well and exercise often.

Exercise releases "feel good" endorphins into the brain. When my son died, I continued to go to the gym and always felt better after.
Invite a friend to join you for a neurochemical boost!

9. Share your Feelings and Ask for Support
Ask a friend or family member to listen to you. Remember, there isn't one of us who hasn't had a life without challenge or tragedy. It's the assimilation of those experiences that create the tapestry of our lives. They are gifts from God that shape us, and when shared, can change people's lives.

These are just a few of my "action steps." Trust me, they work.

My resilient life has taught me, everything is perfect right now. If it seems imperfect it's just the perfect order of how things have to happen. If you are in chaos, you are also on the brink of transition. Trust it. You can't have one without the other.

You see, life isn't about complacency! It's about taking the sum total of all the joys, the sorrows, the tragedies, and the triumphs; finding a path for resilience, and building a life that is happy.

Author's Bio: 

Sandy Peckinpah is the author of 6 books, a staff writer for a magazine, and speaks about resilience and using your past as a platform to the future. One of her books was made into a spoken word CD, starring the voice of Melissa Gilbert and made it to the Grammy Ballot in 2009. Sandy has developed a program called "Breakthrough to Happy." Read more at http://BreakthroughToHappy.com or http://SandyPeckinpah.com