This past Memorial Day, I stood in a cemetery where many of my family members' graves are located. The day was dreary from both the reminder of lost loved ones and the pouring rain that soaked my family and me from head to toe. As I looked around at the endless headstones, my heart was heavy as I noticed the bundles of beautiful flowers people brought to their loved ones had fallen over and were covered in mud and rain from the storm.

Then I noticed my tiny five-year-old niece wandering away from the rest of my family. She walked to a grave with toppled flowers and thoughtfully lifted them back up. Even though her hair was soaking wet, and her shoes were covered with mud, the smile never left her face as she continued from grave to grave, lifting up all the fallen flowers.

Because of her, I began to smile and found joy through the gloom and doom of the day. This instance got me thinking: How did she manage to stay happy even with dark clouds raining down on her? She had mastered that part of life at only five years old. I realized that even on the darkest of days, happiness is often hiding in plain sight, and there are many different paths that lead to true joy.

1. Smile

Have you ever passed a random stranger on the street and received a genuine smile? And did that gesture make you so happy that you smiled back? It's true when people say smiling is contagious. Through the hustle and bustle of this world, there never seems to be enough smiles going around. It's nice to share even the smallest act of kindness with others. Smiling can reaslly brighten even the gloomiest of days, whether it's yours or someone else's!

2. Serve others

Getting lost in doing kind things for others has a positive effect on your mood. While serving others, you lose focus on your own struggles and get a chance to help someone through their own. Whether it is baking an extra batch of cookies for a lonley neighbor, cleaning without being asked, or taking time out of your day to volunteer, serving brings happiness.

3. Take a break

With social media and notifications buzzing in our pockets all day, it is easy to communicate with others every hour of the day. We forget to take time for ourselves every once in a while. Sometimes life is going full throttle, and you have to slam on the breaks. Turn off your smartphone and take a walk around the neighborhood. Set your responsibilities aside for bit. Literally stop and smell the roses. Slow down and enjoy your "me" time.

4. Focus on the here and now

Do you ever find yourself in the middle of a project, only to worry about the upcoming projects and obligations in the next few days, weeks, or months? It is so easy to get stressed over the future and other unknowns, but true happiness begins today. Focus only on the current tasks and happenings right in front of you. Don't let your anxieties cloud the wonderful things you are supposed to be enjoying today.

5. Notice beautiful things

In the story above, a five-year-old was able to discover the beauty hiding in a dark and stormy day. Each day is filled with highs and lows, but we can find the hidden gems. For every negative, there are twice the amount of positives. Visit an art museum, go on a hike and enjoy the view, walk around a flower garden, or simply look around and write down all of the beautiful people and circumstances in your life. Noticing beautiful things leads to an increased sense of gratitude in your life, and gratitude is a building block of happiness.

6. Spend time with people you love

Money cannot buy you happiness, because your family and friends give you happiness free of charge. Nothing is more glorious than laughing with your loved ones. Surrounding yourself with people who love you gives life and happiness a brand new meaning; they are reason enough to be happy. A simple phone call, a short visit, or a movie night can bring an immense amount of joy to your life.

7. Treat yourself

While serving others, meeting your deadlines, and completing all of your work is important, it is also important to take care of yourself. Do something you love, something you always look forward to. Grab a diet coke on the way home from work, go on a bike ride, or bake some cookies. Be yourself and do what truly makes your life an extraordinary experience.

Everyone loves to be happy, and everyone tries to be happy, but life can still grow dark and heavy at times. No one has perfected the art of achieving constant happiness, but that does not mean you can't try. Discover the true meaning of happiness, try new things, and incorporate positive actions and thoughts into your daily life. True happiness can be achieved, the light at the end of the tunnel can be found, and there is no greater feeling than being able to enjoy the amazing life you live each day.

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