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How to keep your spirits up in wartime: seven helpful tips
By David Leonhardt

War and happiness are incompatible. War means killing, and that is horrible for everyone being killed, everyone killing, everyone losing somebody close to them and everybody watching - even from afar.

War means our sense of control is replaced by a sense of fear. A world at war shows a threatening face, rather than a comforting face. Worst of all, there is nothing we can do about it. We are not in control, and we are not even sure that the people in control are in control.

Can we still be happy, even in wartime? Yes we can. That does not mean the war will be pleasant, nor does it mean there won't be times we cry. There are times when even the happiest people cry.

Here are seven tips to help keep your spirits up in wartime:

Don't play the "play-by-play" game. It is important to keep abreast of how events are unfolding, but gluing yourself to TV war coverage is no recipe for happiness. (Ever notice how carried away we can get by the play-by-play at a simple football or basketball game?) In fact, the more war coverage you watch, the more you should watch something de-stressing, such as comedy, or escapist, such as a fantasy show, or inspiring, such as a religious program.

Count your blessings. Despite overwhelming events, people today enjoy more comforts, more things, more opportunity and more knowledge than ever before. Taking time to appreciate those things brings both comfort and a positive perspective. For starters, be grateful you do not live in Iraq. If war is depressing in other parts of the world, imagine living in Iraq.

Have faith. Religion is a great comfort to people in times like these. Many people who do not practice a faith believe in God, and this is an ideal time to seek out one's spiritual side.

Smile at strangers and friends alike. A smile is an instant mood-booster, both for the person smiling and for everyone else around. When you smile at someone, you will likely elicit a smile back from her. Your smile helps her, her return smile helps you. Smiles on people around us put a comforting face on what might otherwise seem like a scary world.

Learn a new skill. Learning a new hobby or job skill adds excitement, a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of control. The war may be outside our control, but learning a new skill puts us back in the driver's seat. If it means taking a class, it also provides positive social interactions with other people who are feeling upbeat . . . and that can boost everyone's mood.

Study history. You don't have to become a scholar to notice that history is full of wars, famine, daily hardship and suppression. But it is also full of wonder, perseverance, great deeds and recovery to give us hope. Even if events around us seem bleak at the moment, history shows that they will not always be that way.

Volunteer. War and terrorism give us the sense that lots of bad things are happening to the world, and we are powerless to make good things take their place. Volunteering at a local animal shelter, seniors home or food bank gives us back the power to make our world a better place. It gives us something to optimistic about and gives us a positive role to play.

May the war be light on your spirit, may the soldiers return to their families quickly, and may the Iraqi people also discover happiness soon.

David Leonhardt is the Happy Guy, author of "Climb your Stairway to Heaven: the 9 habits of maximum happiness" at TheHappyGuy.com/happiness-self-help-book.html. Sign up for your free "Daily Dose of Happiness" at http://TheHappyGuy.com/daily-happiness-free-ezine.html.

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