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For most of my adult life I believed that I just wasn’t meant to be a happy person. While I was successful in my career as a grant writer and columnist and worked hard to be a good mom to my three kids, I often had to drag myself out of bed and then force myself to do basic daily tasks like making dinner or getting the children ready for bed. I once read a poll that said 52 percent of people describe themselves as extremely happy, and my reaction was to sit back and think, Really?

My low point was in 2002 after I gave birth to twins in my seventh month of pregnancy. Dealing with feeding tubes and taking the newborns to more than 20 medical appointments a month while still caring for my older children pushed me to the limit. I remember seriously thinking that it would be a relief if a car hit me while I was pushing my grocery cart across the parking lot.

At that point, I decided that I needed to make improving my mental health a priority. My kids truly needed me to be at my best. So, after talking with other people who took antidepressants, I went on Zoloft for a year and a half. While it helped me to begin functioning more normally, I wasn’t exactly happy.

Over the next 10 years, I tried other ways to lift my mood. I changed my diet, exercised and attended psychotherapy. But through it all I felt numb.

Finally, last January — after looking around and realizing that my kids were all doing well, my marriage was great, and we had a comfortable life — I realized there was just no excuse for not feeling more joyful. I decided to do whatever it took to change my life. Instead of limping from day to day, doing my best to get by, I wanted to be what I call a “default happy person.” I made that my New Year’s resolution and approached it like a scientist tackles an experiment.

I read countless books and magazines to find out what the key conditions for happiness were, and became fascinated with Health Realization, a philosophy that revolves around the idea...
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