Author Dr. Dan Baker in his book, What Happy People Know, states, that most people have a narrow definition of happiness. Too often, itís perceived as a mood or an emotion, but that is short-lived and temporary.

ďHappiness isnít the art of building a trouble free life. Itís the art of responding well when trouble strikes. Every choice has consequences, and these consequences create our lives ó for better or for worse. . . . Itís nothing less than cherishing each day.Ē

The author lists 12 qualities of happiness. ďNot all of these qualities must be present for happiness to exist, and they donít all have to be there in equal amounts. Most of them must be abundant, though, for someone to experience the kind of lasting, rock-solid happiness that endures even when life gets tough to take ó as it always does, sooner or later.Ē

The 12 qualities of happiness:

Love. This is the wellspring of happiness, renewable and everlasting. We often think that being loved is the best feeling in the world, but itís the second best. The best is loving someone else. Love is the polar opposite of fear, emotionally and neurologically. Thus, it is the antidote to fear and the first step toward happiness.

Optimism provides power over painful events . . . realizing that the more painful the event, the more profound the lesson. Once you bring this knowledge into your heart, you can never again look at any event as all bad. Optimism gives you power over fear of the future and over regret for the past.

Courage. This is your strongest weapon for overcoming the split second power of the fear system. . . . It is natureís natural balance for the fear that has helped us survive. Itís the quality that allows us to thrive.

A sense of freedom. Nothing fills the soul like freedom . . . when we choose, we define who we are. Everyone has the power to make choices, but unhappy people donít know they have it . . . Iíve met a thousand rich people who didnít feel free. Choice is available to anyone who has the courage to exercise it.

Proactivity. Happy people participate in their own destinies and forge their own happiness. They donít wait for events or other people to make them happy. Theyíre not passive victims.

Security. Happy people know that nothing, over time, lasts ó not money, not approval, not even life itself . . . they simply like who they are. Theyíre not slaves to popularity, longevity, or financial status. They know that security is an inside job.

Health. Happiness and health are interdependent. . . . Of special importance for happiness is healthy mood chemistry. An imbalance of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, for example, can mask the happiness that lies beneath it.

Spirituality. Happy people arenít afraid to go beyond the boundaries of their own lives. They let go, and welcome extraordinary experiences. They have markedly less fear of death. Theyíre not concerned about dying - theyíre concerned about not living.

Altruism. Unhappy people are usually too self-absorbed to be altruistic. But happy people know how good it feels. It connects you to others, gives you a purpose, and gets you outside yourself.

Perspective. Unhappy people tend to see things in absolute terms and often canít distinguish small problems from big ones. Happy people see shades of gray, and they know how to prioritize their problems and turn them into possibilities. They donít lose sight of lifeís big picture during bad times.

Humor is a shift of perception that gives people the guts to go on when life looks its worst. There is an abandonment in it that is close to enlightenment. It lifts suffering off the heart and hands it to the intellect and spirit, which alone have the power to heal it.

Purpose. Happy people know why theyíre here on earth. Theyíre doing the things they were meant to do. If they died today, they would be satisfied with their lives.

To help identify your sense of purpose, the author lists these questions to answer: What brings vitality to your life? What do you want to be known as? Whatís your proudest achievement? What does your life stand for? What would you sacrifice your life for? In what situation do you feel most alive? What would you want on your tombstone?

Finally, I believe cultivating the habit of happiness is intertwined with practicing gratitude and spirituality. Itís one of the best antidote against fear and unhappiness.

Mary Garza Cummings is a free-lance writer. To contact her, email askseniorfocus@aol.com