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Live Life Fully: What does it take to make you happy?

By Linda Arnold

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Are some people just more cranky than others? Or more perky? Do circumstances influence crankiness and perkiness?

I would say yes, yes and sometimes.

We're all familiar with our IQ (intelligence quotient), and there's been a lot of recent research on EQ theory (emotional quotient). Now there's interest in our HQ. It's not just the abbreviation for headquarters anymore. It can also refer to our "happiness quotient." Taking a look at our attitudes and outlooks on life can yield clues into our HQ.

Psychologist Dan Baker has developed a questionnaire on this topic, based on the theory that happiness develops from a number of internal qualities, including courage, love, humor, altruism and a sense of purpose.

Happiness quiz

Take a look and see how you'd rank yourself. Don't overanalyze the statements -- just go with your gut feeling. You'll likely gain some insights into areas that could boost your happiness on an ongoing basis.

Start by choosing how often you agree with the following statements:

N = Never; R = Rarely; S = Sometimes; F = Frequently

1. I believe my life will truly begin when the right person or circumstance comes along.

2. I feel best when I give unconditionally to others.

3. When I think about people in my life, I focus on those who have hurt or disappointed me.

4. When I think about people in my life, I focus on those I care about and love.

5. There is not enough time for taking care of me.

6. I've helped myself through difficult times with a strong, positive attitude.

7. I take myself very, very seriously.

8. I believe it's up to me to live my life fully -- and to find meaning.

9. When things don't go well, I feel trapped or overwhelmed.

10. Although life's circumstances change, my beliefs and capabilities will allow me to survive and thrive.

11. Who wouldn't rather receive a gift than give one?

12. There is a spiritual power that I can turn to for comfort whenever I need to.

13. Life is a big joke, and I'm in the middle of it.

14. Fear keeps me from standing up for what I believe is right.

15. I've grown, emotionally and spiritually, through difficult and painful life events.

16. If I don't have enough money or love, then I can't feel secure.

17. Taking care of my health is a priority.

18. People hurt my feelings.

19. Life is good. I really appreciate what I have.

20. I'm unclear about the purpose and meaning of my life.

21. What matters most is enjoying relationships and moments.

22. I just have too much to do.

23. I feel fulfilled.

Did you notice any themes emerging from your responses? Are you consistently searching externally for things or people to make you happy? Are you dwelling on people and circumstances in your past that caused you pain?

If you feel overwhelmed, this will be evident in your answers. Are you a giver, a taker or a little of both? How's your support system? Do you have a spiritual foundation of some sort, from which to draw courage and strength -- and experience peace?

Hopefully, you're able to laugh at yourself from time to time -- and to take time for self care and nurturing. If you're burned out, you're not going to be able to contribute to your own life, much less to the significant others in your life.

Life is full of ups and downs, and I'm not suggesting we strive for a Pollyanna/Stepford type of existence. I'm just saying there are things within our control that can make a big difference in how we act -- and react -- to situations in our lives.

Are you living your life "on purpose," or have you not yet discovered your purpose? Some helpful books worth considering in this arena are "The Purpose of Your Life" by Carol Adrienne and "True Purpose" by Tim Kelley. Also, psychologist Dan Baker's book "What Happy People Know" is a good one.

While life circumstances obviously affect all of us to a certain degree, they're not as big a factor as you might think. How many stories have you heard of wealthy, powerful people who are miserable? Contrast that with reports of those of more modest means who seem happy most of the time.

Abraham Lincoln, even though he suffered from depression, said, "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Hopefully, the quiz will help you set your mind toward areas that could give your happiness quotient some fuel injection.

Everything starts with gratitude and appreciation for what we already have. Then we can build on that foundation. It also helps greatly to be aware of where you're putting your focus.

As Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, "If you're depressed, you're living in the past. If you're anxious, you're living in the future. If you're at peace, you're living in the present."

Linda Arnold, MBA, is a certified wellness instructor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications company specializing in advertising, public relations, government relations and interactive marketing. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or emailed to livelifefully@arnoldagency.com.


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