Times are tough, life isn't fair and people get hurt. There is little we can do to alter these facts of life. Often, we can only change our attitude.

Unhappiness comes for many reasons. Some, like stubbing a toe, leave us unhappy for a moment before we return to our usual routine. Others, such as death or divorce, require more time to recover.

Feeling sorrow is not a bad thing, unless it consumes you. When your days are filled with sorrow, your mind constantly wanders toward your ailment. Some days, there seems to be no hope. I am here to say that there is hope. Your life can change. The eternal night of depression can blossom into the radiant dawn of a new day.

The following pointers I discovered during my own struggle and victory against the powerful grip of depression.

Before I begin, I want to make something clear. Depression is addicting. It is like a powerful drug. You want to be free from your depressed condition, but it keeps pulling you in. It is as if feeling disheartened feels more secure than a more constant happiness.

Trudging through the muck of depression and staying happy is like riding a bike for the first time. At first you fall, scrape your knee, and wonder if it is really worth it. Some fear that they may fall and get hurt again, so instead, they sit on the ground and complain, accepting their fate. As you try again, you may fall a few more times. It is easy to give up, but do not do so! Eventually you will find yourself riding free. Remember, even experienced bicyclists fall occasionally. The most important thing is to get back up every time.

1. Recognize the problem

This may seem obvious, but often, the person suffering from chronic depression does not recognize that there is a problem.

2. Find something that makes you laugh

I have seen many ways to turn your frown upside-down. My brother would tell himself that he was more of a ladies-man then everyone else and their dogs. On top of that, he would say it in a Russian accent. I love telling people good morning during an evening stroll, and enjoying their reactions. I also like to talk to people in a Scottish or British accent.

Make yourself laugh, do something a little silly and be happy - if even for a moment. It is approximately 703 times easier to climb a mountain you have already started to climb, rather than staying at the bottom, unsure if you will make it or not.

3. Smile

I have found that as I even force a smile, especially at other people, I feel happier and better about life.

4. Service

When you serve others, you tend to forget a little about yourself. Service distracts you from the negative things in life, makes you feel useful and productive, and replaces sadness with the sweet feeling of having made someone's day a little brighter.

5. Prayer

Prayer is essential. No one can do it alone. Relying on God's power will strengthen your daily efforts to stay happy. I have poured out my soul countless times to God, just talking to Him about my sorrows. As I have done this, He has given me the peace I needed to help myself get and stayhappy.

6. Happiness is a choice

Just as you pick your friends, your clothes, but not your friend's nose - you can pick an attitude. I understand that choosing your emotions is not easy, but it is worth it and very possible. Once you recognize you are feeling down, start making steps to change the feelings and thoughts inside you.

7. Choose your thoughts carefully

In a depressive state, thoughts are destructive. You mourn your loss, and wonder why it could not have been different, you wonder why you are the way you are. You wish to be someone else, somewhere else. There are endless thoughts that can run through your mind as you struggle against the grasp of depression.

Sometimes, depression seems to have no rhyme or reason to it. You just feel sad, and you do not know why. I would always try to understand why I felt the way I did. I thought that, if I could only know why, it would be easier to get rid of the sorrow. I quickly found that doing so only made matters worse. I had to learn that despite not understanding the complete why, I needed to take action and choose to think about something else.

8. Look for patterns

Once you have found happiness, recognize the thoughts that precede your feelings of sorrow and push them out of the way. Sing a song from a movie, think of some quote that can give you strength, pray, just find something that will distract you from your pain and focus on it. Avoid things, places and people that bring back those feelings of sorrow.

9. Seek out professional help

Sometimes, freeing yourself from depression cannot be done alone. Find a good psychologist and request some extra help.

As smoke addicts or alcoholics try to quit, they follow a similar pattern: getting rid of the substance, finding alternatives, making choices, seeking professional help and avoiding things that bring back the desire to return to their old habit. They find strength through divine interventions and push through.

By following these guidelines, you too, like me, will soon be able to pull yourself out of the deep crevice of depression and step into the light of happiness.

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