The Resolution of Happiness

Melissa Cook & Sampson 2010 – I LOVED this dog who made me happy

Given the time of year, someone no doubt has asked you, “What’s your New Year’s resolution?” I don’t make New Year’s resolutions; I believe in life changes. What do I mean by life changes? Here are a few examples of changes I have made in my life; none were determined on January 1st, by the way.

Choosing Happiness In 2009, the writing was on the wall; medical disability loomed in the future, and all my career goals were slipping through my fingers. Devastated by the progression of my MS and the consequences, I hit a lifetime low. Then it occurred to me – happiness is a choice – a choice I made every day, hour, and sometimes by the minute. It didn’t matter what life threw at me; how I chose to react was entirely up to me. With that realization, I decided to be happy. Life didn’t stop throwing curveballs my way, and sometimes, I need reminding that happiness is a choice, but not very often.

Once I decided to be happy, did that mean I was suddenly delighted all the time? No. In the beginning, I reminded myself – sometimes out loud – that I needed to find the silver lining, the positives in my situations, and to correct my attitude. On medical retirement, I was lonely, which made me unhappy. Determined to choose happiness, I made new friends, took an EMT class, volunteered for the ambulance in my remote Alaska community, and got back on track.

Panic Attack by First Aid for free!

Panic Attacks Laughing and having a good time, I suddenly felt fear though I continued to smile to cover it up. Panic attacks came out of nowhere. Some people live with panic attacks as a way of life, and I was one until I decided to take control because panic attacks made me unhappy. Here’s how I did it:

Step 1 – Determine the Cause – When a panic attack struck, which was one right after another at times in my life, I determined the root cause by asking myself, “What am I afraid of?”

Step 2 – Worst Case Scenario  I determined the worst-case scenario should my fear come true by asking myself, “What is the worst thing that could happen?”

Step 3 – Brainstorm Three Action Plans – I brainstormed three plans of action for the worst-case scenario of my current fear.

I conquered the panic attacks over several months as my mind worked through my worst fears. Each month I suffered fewer attacks until they all but disappeared, and in their place, I felt peace and happiness.

Antelope Meets Vehicle – A small car fast approached as we drove along the lonely highway between Shoshone and Casper, Wyoming. When the car passed us, we hit an antelope – BAM!!!! It had jumped up from the barrow pit and crossed the road right behind the car, so we had no idea what we hit, but the collision was unmistakable by the sound, the crunched front end, and the steam spewing from under our new truck’s hood. The car drove on without knowing of their near-miss. My husband was immediately upset, but I was grateful for our good fortune. He was confused by my response, so I explained.

“If the antelope had jumped in front of the car, it would have gone through their windshield and possibly killed them, or they may have swerved into us, causing a head-on collision. We are SO LUCKY it jumped up behind them!” He thought I was an idiot for a moment, but a few minutes later, he realized everything would be fine. We called the tow truck, waited four hours on the side of the road, rented a car, and went on with our vacation. Only the antelope died. And that, my friends, is how you choose happiness. Count your blessings even when things look bad; they could be worse.


A Forbes article, “How To Change Your Life in 7 Steps,” states, “1. Stop Making Excuses; 2. Set Goals; 3. Create A Routine; 4. Hold Yourself Accountable; 5. Track Your Progress; 6. Failure Is Integral to Success; and, 7. Exercise.”

Forbes also put out the video, “12 Reasons You’re Not As Happy As You Should Be.” Here are there 12 reasons: 1. Hanging around negative people; 2. Comparing your own life to the lives people portray on social media; 3. Immunity to awe; 4. Isolating; 5. Blaming; 6. Controlling; 7. Complaining; 8. Impressing; 9. Negativity; 10. Neglecting to set goals; 11. Giving in to fear; 12. Leaving the present.”

Melissa & Elgin Cook near Jackson Hole, Wyoming around 1998

You can see photos of my husband Elgin and me in the years leading up to my medical disability (1986-2007) on “Elgin & Melissa Cook – The Early Years” on my YouTube channel at:

BOOK OF THE MONTH – January 2022

Book Recommendation – I’ve decided to recommend a book a month. As an avid reader and author, I enjoy a great read. If you know of an excellent book that can help someone with a chronic illness, contact me. The books I choose are based on my recommendation and not paid advertisements.

Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage, and Survival (affiliate link to Amazon) by Velma Wallis is an excellent book for chronically ill people to read because I believe everyone still has something to contribute. Even though I read it years ago, I can tell you the story because it made an impression. Everyone has something to offer, and attitude is half the battle. In this story, a starving tribe leaves behind two old Athabaskan women, and the lessons they learn apply to all of us.


Bridges, Frances. “How To Change Your Life In 7 Steps.” Forbes. October 27, 2016.

Panic attack image – First Aid for free! 1/4/22.

Steppinstars. Antelope image. 1/4/22

About the Author

Melissa Cook
Melissa Cook is the author of As a retired high school teacher and school district administrator, she chooses to share her MS story in hopes of benefiting others.