Happy people don’t just wait for chance—they focus on and generate happiness. They know what makes them happy and engage in activities that put them in “the zone.” They also give generously of themselves.

Use these 4 techniques to experience more happiness in your life.

1. Set out to be happy.

Intend. Decide. Plan to be happy today. What meetings, events and work do you have scheduled? How can you enjoy them?

Leadership trainer, Gayle, learned how to set out being happy early on. She grew up on a farm and helped with milking the cows and feeding the pigs. Each morning, her mother would open the blinds and say, "It’s going to be a great day today, Gayle!” Gayle would roll out of bed excited, put her boots on and work on the farm before school. One rainy morning when her mother entered her room smiling with her daily greeting, “It’s going to be a great day today,” Gayle snapped, “No it’s not! It’s raining!” They went back and forth like that for a few minutes. Then Gayle’s mother turned off the lights and closed the blinds. “You might as well go back to bed. If you’ve already decided it’s going to be a terrible day, it probably will be.” Sure enough, that day turned out to be pretty long and boring.

“I really got the message my mom was trying to teach that day,” Gayle remembers. “It’s affected my whole outlook on life. Now I focus on making every day a good day, and I pass this message on to my students.” Gayle is a highly enthusiastic and happy person who loves her work. In her seminars, she passes out rocks painted by her 92-year-old mother that say, “It’s a great day!”

Gear yourself toward happiness first thing in the morning. Run through the events of the day in your mind and imagine being happy. Some days will be happier than others, but at least you’ll begin with a running start. That single act of deciding to generate happiness will bring you greater joy.

2. Know what makes you happy.

What makes *you* truly, authentically happy? You. Not your family, friends or co-workers. What makes your day? Take a moment right now to jot down 10 things that make you happy. Let your thoughts range freely. Maybe some things you haven’t done in a long time will pop-up on your list, such as watercolor painting or playing tennis. A flight attendant, Rebecca, gains happiness from fresh-cut flowers, knitting, gardening and walking her two dogs. George enjoys number puzzles, creating movies for fun and hiking. Large or small, know the exact things that make you happy.

A database manager applies her recipe for happiness every day. “Laughing makes me the happiest,” she says. “I try to do it early in the day. I finish visiting with my co-workers and doing my comedy routine and the rest of my day is filled with the vibrations from that joy.” Her co-workers benefit as well. Her humor is contagious. Because a sense of rapport filters through the group, co-workers can rely on and rally behind each other on projects when needed.

What’s on your list? Prioritize things that make you happy. Sprinkle them into each day. You’ll benefit. Your family and co-workers will benefit too. And happiness almost always increases productivity.

3. Engage in what you do.

It’s important to do what you love. It’s equally important to find ways to engage fully in what you love to do. Whether it’s knitting, running or designing a website—find those activities that pull your whole focus into them.

One working professional, Jeff, finds time to engage in his passion for basketball. “Every Tuesday and Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m., I get together with the guys and play basketball. It’s my escape. For those two hours, I don’t think about anything but crossover dribbles, rebounds and jump shots. I lose myself in the moment with the rest of the guys. We don’t talk about what happened that day or what went wrong. It’s therapeutic.”

What activities stop you from thinking about everything else when you’re immersed in them? What things absorb you in the present moment? The key is to find something in which you have some skill or mastery, but which also challenges you. The balance between challenge and mastery leads to what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow.” Your brain and your body synchronize for an optimal experience. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, it only matters that you do it. The more you engage in flow at work, in your free time and at home, the greater your happiness.

4. Contribute.

In what ways do you like to give? Your life is bigger than just you. When you give of yourself—your gifts, time and talent—you make a difference for others. Whether it’s a small project at your kids’ school or a lifelong commitment to a cause, such as Hospice or Habitat for Humanity, make an effort to contribute to others.

Busy professionals can still find time to contribute. For example, Janice takes one hour a week to tutor a student. A full-time civil engineer, John, volunteers for Save Our Shores. Maya, a working mom, volunteers on fundraisers at her daughter’s school. “I get to use my skills in a way that gives to these children. I have a lot of fun with the projects, I like to get involved, and I see the difference it makes in terms of providing things like art supplies for the kids so they can express their own budding interests.”

Contribution can come from how you spend your free time and volunteer hours. It can also come from your chosen profession.

The highest form of giving is when you give freely, without expecting anything in return, rather than giving out of obligation, guilt or pressure. It’s not about giving so your name will be framed on a plaque. It’s giving for the sake of giving, because you care.

What can you do today to increase your happiness? Start by setting out to be happy. Then take a moment to remember and list the things that make you happy and start doing them. Engage in activities that put you in a state of flow—perhaps running, playing music or sculpting. Also remember to contribute to others, even in simple, everyday ways, such as paying the toll for the person in the car behind you. Pursue and increase your happiness. You’ll be happy you did.

Author's Bio: 

Sue Brenner, Performance Coach and Author, wants you to get the most out of life and work. That’s why she wrote "The Naked Desk: Everything you need to strip away clutter, save time and get things done" - http://x.actionsymphony.com . While you’re there, get her free eZine, "Ignite Your Life."