One should put aside hope and concentrate on joy.

-- Spinoza

My friend Jan and I challenge each other in happiness contests. We tend to do this on dull gray days in February or on mornings when we have tedious work ahead. Late in the day, we'll e-mail each other our entries. It isn't that we do anything special, but rather that we appreciate what happens. Our lists are simple: I made some delicious turkey noodle soup. I bought hyacinths at the grocery store. I walked in the snow at sunset or read a good book by the fire. I had a phone call with my daughter and listened to geese flying overhead. When we have these contests, we create our own good days.

When we radiate joy, we attract it. On my best days, when I am out running errands, I try to really look into the faces of the people I encounter. That involves making eye contact and, in my heart, wishing them well. I'll try to beam happiness their way. When I am capable of this, people often respond by beaming back. Their facial muscles will soften and their voices will be lighter and warmer. This meeting can be a matter of milliseconds, but it turns an interaction into a moment.

Of course, I don't walk around joy-filled every day. I am still impatient and easily rattled by stress. I have days when I am lost in a fog of self-pity or soul-draining misery. Many mornings I still wake up in a sour mood, and I can ruminate over a casual remark to the point of absurdity. Even now, my fallback expression is a deep and furrowed frown. I continue to hold my rank as the worst Buddhist in the world. But I am more capable of inviting joy into my life.

-- Mary Pipher, Finding Peace