Earlier this week I read that Wednesday, March 20 was not only the first day of spring but also the international day of happiness. There is a complicated system of figuring out which country ranks where, it’s Finland for the win if you didn’t read the study, and out of 156 countries, the United States fell to number 19th place. Last year we were number 18.

Dictionary.com defines happiness as a noun meaning “the quality or state of being happy; good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.”

I think being happy is based on a set of circumstances when things are going good in your life. You have friends, your family gets along and you enjoy being with them, you have enough resources to pay all your bills with a little extra to splurge on things you want or to travel. When things are going your way, you are happy.

But what about when things aren’t going your way? Do you automatically become unhappy? And where does joy fit into the whole equation?

To me, and you may disagree and that’s perfectly fine, happiness is based on circumstances that are sometimes of your doing, often not. Politicians bickering in Washington causing a government shutdown doesn’t make most Americans happy. My car wreck while sitting at a red light did not make me happy. A miscarriage, a house fire, flooding after our never-ending winter. These and a myriad of other circumstances can make us unhappy, stressed, angry, frustrated, and depressed. If we let them.

Joy is a choice purposefully made. No matter what unhappy times I have experienced, and I have gone through a lot, I have worked hard to choose joy. To know that nothing lasts forever and that I am wonderfully made to make a difference in my family, my community, my world. Once I figured out that I could choose joy in the midst of unhappiness life was better.

Now that I have my dog joy is even easier to choose. When I have a level 10 headache, or I discover that I owe the IRS the equivalent of over five months of house payments it’s easy to choose unhappiness over joy. But that’s a futile response because I still have a headache and the IRS will still collect their due.

John Tesh has a radio show called Intelligence for Your Life. I stumbled on these statistics recently. I have no idea if they are exactly right, I’m hoping I’ll lose more than 14 pounds with all the walking we’re going to do this year, but they make sense.

Adopting a dog:

Reduces stress by 20%.

Increases happiness: 70% of people report an increase in happiness after adopting a dog.

Helps you get fit: Walking a dog for 20 minutes a day can help people lose up to 14 pounds a year.

The one he didn’t mention is the most important to me. Since adopting my dog, I am more joyful. He helps me get over the unhappy bits of life much more quickly and just looking at him fills me with joy.

Great reasons to adopt a dog, right? Fun fact. We have dogs! If adopting a dog is so amazing, imagine how much better adopting a rescue dog has to be!

Come and choose your joy-bringer today.