Many people wait around for happiness to find them, when, in fact, there are techniques you can use to create a happier and more enjoyable life

“Research has shown you have control over your happiness,” said Dr. Stacy Blackburn, a Mayo Clinic Health System family physician. “It all relates back to your personality and also your thoughts and behaviors, which can be changed.”

While some people think landing their dream job or driving a fancy car will bring them lots of joy, this is not often the case, she said. Happy people tend to build their life choices around five pillars:

• Appreciating what you have.

• Devoting time to friends and family.

• Feeling a sense of purpose.

• Living in the moment.

• Maintaining an optimistic outlook.

Optimism is one aspect of your life over which you have complete control. Being optimistic involves seeing your situation from the positive side instead of the negative. If you aren’t naturally an optimistic person, Blackburn suggests combating negative thoughts by recognizing them and trying to look at the situation from another perspective. For instance, asking yourself: What can I learn from this experience that I can use in the future?

Relationships are an important part of being happy. When you surround yourself with happy people, their happiness is likely to rub off on you and improve your mood. Blackburn said research suggests that relationships provide the strongest meaning and bring the most purpose to your life. It’s important you make time for these relationships and give happiness in return. Communicating kind words and actions to the special people in your life and showing appreciation can help you become a happier person.

Taking time out of your day to recognize the good things in your life and appreciate what you have also can help keep you happy, she said. This can be as simple as taking a minute every day to identify at least one thing that enriches your life.

People who strive to meet a goal or fulfill a mission are happier than those who don’t have such aspirations. Goals provide a sense of purpose, boost self-esteem and bring people together. The goal itself doesn’t matter as long as it is moving you closer toward living a happier life.

“Aligning everyday activities with the long-term meaning and purpose of your life can help you feel more content,” Blackburn said.

The bottom line: Be proactive.

“Don’t wait for joy to come on a day when you’re less busy or stressed, because that day may never come,” she said. “Look for opportunities throughout your day to enjoy the small pleasures in life. Focus your energy on the positives of the present instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.”