Author tells women how to live happy in five steps

Marcie Shimoff was the guest speaker at the 9th Annual Healthy Woman Anniversary Celebration.

On Thursday, Oct. 6, Marci Shimoff, the woman's face of the self-help book series "Chicken Soup for the Soul," gave five ways to live happier during the 9th Annual Healthy Woman Anniversary Celebration.

During the event, Shimoff said that there is good and bad news about happiness today.

"The bad news is that we have an epidemic of unhappiness in our culture," Shimoff said. "One out of four people in America are depressed.

"The good news is that scientists cracked that (code). They actually know what it takes to be happier."

Each individual has a "happiness set point," which she said was similar to a personal happiness thermostat that can be changed. She said that 50 percent of the set point is genetic, 10 percent is related to circumstances and 40 percent is related to thought and behavior habits.

She said that science has found that genes can also be influenced to change.

The first step to becoming happier, Shimoff said, is to create "new neural pathways" and go from a victim to a victor in life.

"It's our thoughts," Shimoff said. "It's our brain patterns that partially determine our happiness. Our thoughts determine our attitude; they determine our self-esteem. Low self-esteem is very much tied to unhappiness."

She said that, to create new neural pathways, a person can start looking for good things in the world and people, savor the good "at least 20 seconds" and replace one negative thought with three positive thoughts.

The second step a person can take to be happier is "to live with an open heart."

The third step for happiness is "to live your soul's passions."

"If you can't do those for your work, find those to do anyway," Shimoff said.

She said her father was an example of this idea. Her father, who was a dentist, turned to needlepoint after retiring. She said that he realized that working with his hands was his passion.

"It doesn't matter how old we are," Shimoff said. "It doesn't matter. We all have passions."

The fourth step to happiness is to surround yourself with supportive and happy people. She said that happiness, and even unhappiness, is contagious.

"The research shows that we become the average of the five people we spend the most time with," Shimoff said.

The fifth step for happiness, according to Shimoff, is to laugh.

She said that laughing creates good chemicals in the body that makes people happier. She said that smiling would do the same.

Shimoff said she believes that happier people could help create a happier world.

"That's why it matters how we feel inside," Shimoff said. "The world may not look different, but when we feel better inside, the world seems entirely different to us."

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