There are two paths to experiencing happiness and both paths are valuable. The easier of the two is the "outer path." We can seek happiness by walking through the park on a beautiful spring day or looking into the eyes of a loved one or working in our garden. These are worthy pursuits that lift our spirits and remind us of the beauty in the world.

The second path is more challenging and that is to look within. It is a challenge when life is difficult to remember that we have the potential to change our emotional responses through the conversations we have with ourselves. Many of us are very self-critical and judge ourselves for our mistakes and our perceived flaws. It is wise to be aware of those aspects that need correcting, but the harshness is not required and it can be painful, preventing rather than inspiring efforts to improve.

How do you know if you are being too hard on yourself? The test is simple. As you listen to your inner conversations, ask yourself, "Would I talk to someone I loved this way?" If the answer is no, it is time to reprogram that inner voice. There are two simple ways to do this. One is, two or three times a day, ask yourself silently or out loud, "What am I grateful for?" Just asking the question primes the brain to seek answers. And two, rehearse out loud, two or three times a day, what you would say to someone you love if they were facing your challenges.

So, while enjoying the beauty of the outdoors during this wonderful time of year, don't forget that there is an opportunity to create the same beauty within.

Robert Maurer is a Spokane psychologist, consultant and author of several books, including One Small Step Can Change Your Life.

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