My son, Max, is bipolar. Even with proper medication, he has days when he is very “up” and days when he is very “down.” (The medication keeps the highs from being too high and the lows from being so low.) But, like most bipolar individuals, he is very intelligent.

The other day, on one of his “down” days, he and I had a discussion about the meaning of life and how to be happy. Intellectually, he recognizes that some of his moods result from the chemical imbalance that makes him bipolar. But, like all of us, he would like to be happy as much as possible.

I explained to Max that I believe that happy should be more of a verb than an adjective. In other words, I think that we are responsible for our own happiness. I do not believe that happiness should or truly can come form any event or outside influence. Rather, we have to choose to be happy.

My friend tells a story about a bumper sticker she has on her little red sports car. The sticker simply says, “I am happy.” She says that hundreds of people of rolled down their window to tell her that they would be happy too if they had a little red sports car. As Dani says, they are missing the point. Dani is not happy because of the little red sports car. She was happy before she got the little red sports car.

I find this to be true in my life. While there are certain things and people in my life that please me, whether I am happy is a function of my decision to be happy REGARDLESS of what I have or who I'm with.

Like all of us, Max wants to be happy. For me, this has never been a difficult challenge. My siblings tell me that I was born happy and was always smiling as a child. But I do believe that happiness can be learned as well as forgotten. I told Max that one of the keys to happiness is GRATITUDE. I have found that if I lose focus and my happy attitude, the best cure is to remember all of my blessings. Being thankful for everything we do have makes it so much easier to be happy.

One of my favorite Christmas songs as always been “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow.” My favorite line of this song is towards the end. “And when you're worried and you can't sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep and you'll fall asleep, counting your blessings.” Gratitude for our blessings takes away our stress and we remember that we have much to be thankful for regardless of what else happens.

At the beginning of this new year, I hope each of us can remember to be thankful for all we have, especially our friends and family and that we will each resolve to be happy every day of this year.

Warmest regards,