Let's face it: "bad" stuff happens. Divorce, a break-up, parental alienation, illness, addiction, the loss of a job, the loss of a friendship, a disagreement with a loved one, abuse...There are so many things that can affect you day-in and day-out. What has always fascinated me is why some people who seem to have gone through so much in their lives are still thriving in spite of their challenges. Others do not fare so well and become helpless victims on the tides of their own suffering.

How do you remain happy in spite of life's inevitable challenges? How do you remain centered and grounded when there seems to be a storm of negative energy around you? How do you foster peace in your heart when someone has hurt you or something has dramatically affected your life? It starts with your thoughts.

Your thoughts are powerful tools you can use to change your life. For example, let's say you are going through a divorce. You were not the one to ask for it or you caught your ex cheating, and are really angry about the break-up. You catch yourself thinking about thoughts of anger, resentment, revenge, and sadness throughout your day. Thoughts of revenge like you want to key their car (or worse), fixating on something they said, telling yourself your life is over, or you hate your ex. I fully believe in feeling all of your feelings, but I also believe in processing them and letting them go. When you begin to ruminate on certain thoughts or when you stay stuck in dis-empowering emotions and thoughts, it is time to consciously tell yourself that you need to move on. Find more empowering thoughts that will have you feeling better. Focus on the good, even if it is hard to do find it at that time. Even a mantra like "peace" or "love" helps.

"Bad" stuff happens, but if you look back on your life that "bad" stuff inevitably had something positive that was divorce coachingcreated from it. These challenges are ultimately learning opportunities if you choose to view them this way. Happiness is yours whenever you decide to be happy. No matter what is going on for you, you are not obligated to be down, sad, depressed, numb, or anything that does not enhance your life. I'm not saying that you should never feel anger, sadness, grief, etc., but there is a time limit for these emotions.

When you find yourself struggling to remain positive and be happy in a world that seems unfriendly and unhappy, take heart. Like anything, learning how to find happiness right where you are--that it's available to you right now--and that you can be positive in spite of what's going on; these are habits. When you become aware that you would like to change, and consciously take action to change your thoughts, you will notice a difference.

Here are 13 ways you can claim your happiness, starting today:

1. Go have fun. Start creating wonderful, positive experiences starting today.
2. Contribute. Many times people become unhappy when they are "wrapped up in themselves." Join a group for the socialization and for contributing to a greater cause.
3. Start a gratitude practice. Focusing on what you are grateful for shifts your mind to the positive in life.
4. Start a hobby or activity that gives you pleasure, gets you in flow (you lose track of time), and provides a sense of meaning to your life.
5. Nurture yourself. If you are going through a challenging time, take the time to care for yourself. This is a time when you'll want to provide extra nurturing and care.
6. Be the hero of your life, not a victim. Start seeing life through a hero/heroine's eyes. How would they handle challenges differently than a victim?
7. You are 100% responsible for your thoughts, words, and actions. No more blaming and no more complaining! Find proactive solutions to your issues or change your thoughts about them. Stop giving your power away.
8. Work on being in the moment. Meditate, pay attention to your breathing, and consciously make a continual effort to bring yourself to the present moment.
9. Stop hanging out with negative or unhappy people.
10. Stop watching or reading about negative stuff. Feed your mind positive stuff.
11. Focus on what's positive in your life. Negativity is a habit. So is positivity.
12. Take care of your body. Exercise and eat right. Being healthy makes a difference in the way you go about your day--you have more energy, you're less stressed, and you feel better about yourself and life in general.
13. Be yourself. Being authentic to who you are, knowing what your own goals and dreams are, and what your beliefs are are essential ingredients to a happy and fulfilled life. Living a lie or living to please others is a path to pain.

Being happy is a choice. It is not an end point, it is the journey. At any moment in time, you can make the choice to be happy. In this world that is in an economic crisis, a moral crisis, and has an uncertain future, it is still possible to be happy even if it seems as though every one else around you is dissatisfied with life or downright unhappy. No more prescriptions for unhappiness--take control of your life. Take your power back and claim your right to be happy! However, no one is going to do this for you--you have to! Are you ready? Life's too short to be sitting on the sidelines, watching life go by. At some point we all have to leave this world--until then, make the most of every day.

Author's Bio: 

Nicole Nenninger, Psy.M., is the author of "Transforming Divorce--How to Get Back on Track and Create a Life You Love." She and her husband, Don Nenninger, have a private practice in New York where they coach and counsel clients from all over the world. The two recently co-authored their book, "Open to Love--The Secrets of Loving Relationships."