by Annette Bridges. © 2008. All rights reserved. boasts more than 200,000 titles on the subject of happiness. Yet with all the reading we’re doing, many of us will still say we haven’t found it yet. Some say a deep longing for happiness is at the heart of the desire for money, fame and power. Perhaps the best advice anyone could give us is to stop waiting for happiness to come galloping over the next horizon.

From my own experience, I’ve concluded that happiness is not found in our trying to be someone different than who we are nor is it found in running from here to somewhere else. And happiness is not found in the things we desire nor is it based on conditions.

Lately however, I’ve realized that happiness is always within our reach, but to have it we must sometimes take a stand and mentally fight for our divine right to be happy.

This is not a new discovery or one only discovered by me. I’ve found several other folks who have reached a similar conclusion. Such as Abraham Lincoln, who said, “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” And Roman Emperor Marcus Antonius who said, “No man is happy who does not think himself so.” Or English Journalist Roger L’Estrange when he said, “It is not the place nor the condition, but the mind alone that can make anyone happy or miserable.”

I realize some of you may be skeptical at the idea that you could be happy regardless of your conditions and circumstances. I know I’ve had many times in my life when I’ve sighed and lamented, “What is there to be happy about?” This question is generally followed by my long list of reasons why I can’t possibly be happy.

But time and again in my life, I have indeed proven to myself that a change in attitude and viewpoint leads to a change in perspective and outlook which consequently and inevitably results in improved situations.

I love the old story of the gatekeeper, which for me beautifully drives home the idea that your thoughts will make you happy or unhappy no matter where you are.

There was a gatekeeper to a small town. One day a visitor came to the gate and asked, “What kind of town is this?”

The gatekeeper asked the visitor, “From what kind of town did you come?”

The inquirer reported his town was one of dissatisfaction, disharmony and disgust to which the gatekeeper responded, “You will find this town to be the same.”

Sadly, the visitor went on his way somewhere else.

The next day another visitor arrived at the gate and asked the gatekeeper about his town.

And again the gatekeeper asked, “From what kind of town did you come?”

This visitor gave a glowing report of his former home telling of the love, the sharing and the goodwill of its inhabitants.

To this report the gatekeeper exclaimed, “Come in! This place will be just as that from which you came.”

As I said earlier, I’ve concluded happiness is not found in the running from here to somewhere else. Whether here or somewhere else, happiness must be found within or we’ll never permanently be happy. You take with you what you’ve packed!

I’ve decided that happiness must be as consciously practiced as gratitude, forgiveness and kindness. And as with everything else, the more we practice it, the better we get at it. And when need be, we must defend and argue for our divine right to be happy and not allow anything to rob us or stop us from being happy.

The Psalmist proclaims, “This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalms 118:24) A couple of verses prior to this one give us some reasons why our divine right to happiness is assured. “The Lord is on our side.” (Psalms 118:6) “The Lord is our strength and song.” (Psalms 118:14)

Two of the biggest deterrents to our happiness begin with “I can’t” or “I could if.” Let’s try beginning our day with “I will” and see what happens. And remember — God wants us all to be happy. That means being happy ourselves and bringing happiness to others around us.