“I'm not happy with ____________________ . I'm not happy about ____________________ .”

You fill in the blanks. It's highly likely that something readily comes to mind that completes the sentences. Your answers might be: “the weather, my job, my marriage, my boss, my children, my looks … “

There's no shortage of things that drag down our thoughts and feelings. Life offers us many reasons to be unhappy. And we're usually quick to grab them. Depending on what poll you consult and what specifics are measured, up to 70% of Americans are unhappy about something at any given time. This means that about 7 out of every 10 people you encounter today are somewhat miserable. This qualifies as an epidemic!

Is there anything that can be done about all this unhappiness? The answer is both “yes” and “no.” No, there really isn't anything you or I can do to make someone else happy. Happiness is a personal issue. There's nothing anyone can do for or give to someone else that will once and for all cure their unhappiness. But there are things we can do for ourselves that will make us happier. We can choose happiness by practicing “happy” thinking and right actions.

Here are 12 things you can do today that are guaranteed to make you happier:

1. Take time for God.

Take some time today to think about the good things God has done for you. Make a short list of your blessings and tell God “thank you” for His gifts and His care for you. Put your present problems and future concerns in His hands and leave them there.

2. Work on your face.

I'm not talking about your make-up, I'm talking about your countenance. What message do you send with your face? Is your countenance characterized by frowns, smirks or smiles? Consciously smile more and your heart will reflect your face.

3. Surprise strangers with words and acts of generosity, kindness and service.

Do something today for someone you don't know that will bless them and brighten their day. It'll do something good for you too. Be nice to someone who can't do anything nice for you in return.

4. Surprise someone you know with words and acts of generosity, kindness and service.

Sometimes it's easier to do something nice for people we don't know than for the ones closest to us. Don't miss an opportunity to do something good for the people around you.

5. Let others go first.

Whether it's in traffic, at an elevator, at a door, at the grocery store or cafe — wherever — slow down and let others go first. You'll be amazed at how much fun this is.

6. Connect with someone who's hurting.

We all know people who are going through tough times. Move past your own problems and communicate care to someone who's hurting. Call them, write them, send them flowers, pray for them. Decide to lift someone else up today. Be a burden-bearer.

7. Say “please” and “thank you.”

No, I'm not your mother, but it's still good advice. Using these phrases really does make a difference, not just to others, but it'll make you happier too.

8. Overlook offenses.

When someone says or does something to you today that would normally hurt your feelings, make you mad, or generate a nasty reaction, choose to forgive and overlook it. Make this a “grace day.” Let people who offend you go free. Be a forgiver today.

9. Tell two people in your life why you love and appreciate them.

Go ahead, tell the people you love why you love them — what you love about them — why you appreciate them. You don't have to be hyper-mushy or teary-eyed when you do it, but do it. You'll be happier when you do, and they'll be blessed by it.

10. Decide that you're only going to say good things about people.

Whether you realize it or not, gossipy, grumbling, nitpicking, demeaning words about others bring you down. They do more damage to your emotions than you can imagine. You're in control of what you say today. Decide to have a gossiping-free, grumbling-free, nitpicking-free day.  If you can't say something good about someone, don't say anything at all!

11. Do right when tempted to do wrong.

Good moral choices makes us happy. When you do right rather than wrong you'll always feel better. Don't let anyone or anything pull you into a moral gutter today, in your mind, attitudes, words or actions. Live by God's rules and you'll be at peace.

12.  Do it all again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and the next day ….

If you want a happier day, do these things today. If you want a happier life, keep doing them for the rest of your life!

Dale O'Shields