Your choices can add to your happiness if it’s not in your genes

NIAGARA, Wis. — I recently read an interesting article that was based upon a Harvard Medical School study done in 2017, which stated that some people are genetically predisposed to be happier than others. That same study also explained that nearly half of our happiness comes from the choices we make for ourselves. This is good news, really, because for those of us who have not been blessed by that happiness gene, we can take solace in knowing that happiness is still within our grasp and, better yet, under our control.

As I have mentioned in many previous columns, my husband and I are opposites in most things. The tendency toward a positive attitude is yet another area in which we differ; this was especially true in the early years of our marriage. No matter how difficult the challenge or how insurmountable the obstacle seemed, he always chose to see it as a hurdle that was never too big to climb. His attitude, without fail, was that certainly other people had been faced with similar challenges and found ways to deal with them so we could also. With that mindset, his next step was always to convince me that we most certainly could tackle the problem.

I was so thankful he was so positive, and I relied on his strength in so many situations. Where I saw a problem, he saw potential. I was a classic worry wart. My initial focus was always on the immensity of the problem, which kept me sleepless and unable to see solutions. I did not view myself as a pessimist, but as a realist. And, because of my lack of life experience, I had no track record that told me I could handle much of what life threw at us back in those very early years. As I worried and said, “Tell me we can do this,” his response was always, “Of course, we can. We will figure this out and take it one day at a time.”

We were not without positive role models along the way. Both of our maternal grandmothers were models of perseverance through challenging times, although their challenges and lifestyles were very different. My grandmother was a hard-working farmer’s wife. Together she and my grandfather scratched out a life through the Great Depression. She never expected much from life, and had tremendous faith that God would provide what was best for her and her family. I can still hear her saying, “What shall be, will be.” My husband’s grandmother helped her husband run a dairy, handling all of the accounting while he managed the customers and the employees. They had dreams and worked hard together to achieve them, but certainly not without challenges along the way. I can still hear her saying, “Life is a series of peaks and valleys. So, whenever you find yourself in a valley, know that a peak is on its way.”

With those role models of perseverance and positivity, my husband and I have made our way in this world with probably no more troubles than most families. We have managed to find our way through finishing college, finding and losing and finding jobs again, relocations, having and raising kids, renovating an old house, celebrating grandchildren, and now caring for the parents who cared for us. As we have worked our way through almost 50 years of marriage, his attitude has won me over to taking a more optimistic approach to life, but it still does not come as easily to me as it does to him. Whenever he sees me obviously mulling over something or stewing about a problem, he asks his age-old question, “Is there anything you can do about it tonight?” And when I respond, “no,” he says again as he always has, “Then we will deal with it tomorrow.”

While the choice to surround ourselves with upbeat people who have positive outlooks can certainly increase our chances for happiness and a can-do approach to life, we are still who we are deep down in our core. That Type A personality is hard to change. We stew about things, obsess over details, rewind conversations in our minds, and are driven to perfectionism. We have to realize first, that we may be wound up a bit too tight and second, that we have to consciously find ways to help bring happiness into our lives. For us, no matter how experienced we become at life and how many successes we have enjoyed, we will always need a little boost over the “happiness hurdle.”

I found a “Happiness Guide” — a simple ten step approach — that was designed to help those of us who are not genetically pre-disposed to getting up on the right side of the bed every morning. Use it as needed to give yourself a boost!

1 — Laughter. What tickles your funny bone? A favorite joke? A humorous memory from when you were a kid or were raising yours? A scene from a comedy movie? Jot down three things that make you laugh and refer to them when you are having a gray day.

2 — Simple pleasures. List five little things that make you feel good – from that first morning cup of coffee to enjoying a camp fire in the evening.

3 — Letting go. Are you holding on to old grievances that are bringing you down? Choose one and jot down a farewell note to it – freeing yourself from its negative power over you.

4 — Eating well. It has been proven that healthy food choices have mental health benefits. List three nutritional changes you can make to boost your positive outlook.

5 — Self esteem. Positive thoughts encourage happiness so be kind to yourself. List five positive words to describe yourself.

6 — Gratitude. Think of three people important to your life and how they have inspired you. Jot down two things you admire most about each of them and remember how lucky you are to have them in your life.

7 — Moving. Physical activity is strongly linked to happiness. Being active just a couple of times each week can help raise your spirits. List three ways you enjoy being physically active and commit to engaging in them on a regular basis.

8 — Giving and supporting. We feel good when we do good. Reflect on your life experiences with helping others through philanthropy and volunteering. Decide on two things you most enjoyed doing and make a plan to implement them into your current life.

9 — Active mind. Mental achievement, from finishing a book to completing a crossword puzzle, provides a great sense of accomplishment. Are you exercising your brain enough? Think of four new ways to push your brain’s potential.

10 — Connecting. The experience of relating to others goes a long way in helping us to survive and thrive. Assess your current relationships. Are you engaging with other people enough, and do you find it fulfilling? Write down three ways to make your current relationships stronger or three ways you can expand your relationships.

As we age and face the loss of loved ones and the many physical changes that occur, along with the adjustments they require, it is not as easy to keep our spirits up. However, happiness is still possible even if we need to work a little harder at finding it. We are not all blessed with those “happiness genes,” but we can still make happy choices that will help us keep a sunny disposition when the gray days set in. Take a minute to complete the guide above, and keep it where you can access it easily as a daily inspiration to make those happy choices.






Scenes and sounds, 11:30 a.m. Sunday through Saturday.

Sunday: Ring toss, 1 p.m.; dunking donuts, 2 p.m.; church, 2:15 p.m.

Monday: Room visits, 10 a.m.; brouhaha, 11 a.m.; library cart, 1:30 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; ice cream social, 3 p.m.

Tuesday: Crafts and gardening, 10:30 a.m.; reminisce, 1:15 p.m.; Kentucky Derby, 2 p.m.; evening visitor, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday: Room visits, 10 a.m.; rosary, 10:30 a.m.; room visits, 1 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; movie and popcorn, 3 p.m.

Thursday: Reading buddy,11 a.m.; bible study, 1:30 p.m.; Crystal Hogan, 2 p.m.; laundry day, 3:30 p.m.; Lawrence Welk, 5 p.m.

Friday: What’s cooking? 11 a.m.; bunko, 1:15 p.m..; Golden K bingo, 2 p.m.; happy hour, 3 p.m.

Saturday: Meet and greet, 10:30 a.m.; daily newspaper, 11 a.m.; oldies but goodies, 1 pm; bingo, 2 p.m.

Iron County 

Medical Facility

Crystal Falls

Sunday: One-to-one church visitors, 8:30 to 11 a.m.; room visits, 9 to 11 a.m.; how do you feel? 10 a.m.; bingorama, 2 p.m.; Church of Christ, 3 p.m.

Monday: Memory books, 9 to 10:30 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; room visits, 1 p.m.; VFW bingo, 2 p.m.; Sunshine Club, 2:30 p.m.; bonfire, 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday: CF library 9:30 a.m.; book club, 10 a.m.; Mass, 10 a.m.; travel film, 1 p.m.; memorial service, 2 p.m.; current events, 2 p.m.; western movie, 6 p.m.

Wednesday: Senior days at Batawagama, 9:30 a.m.; smart shoppers, 10 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; garden club, 1 p.m.; senior bball, 2 p.m.; night bingo, 6 p.m.

Thursday: Puzzler, 9:30 a.m.; bowling, 10 a.m..; wild life film, 1:30 p.m.; Christ United, 2 p.m.; happy hour, 2:30 p.m.

Friday: Crafts, 9 to 10:30 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; room visits 1 p.m.; ’70s party with Jan and Geno, 2 p.m.; romance movie, 6 p.m.

Saturday: Puzzler/reminisce, 10 a.m.; geri-gym, 11 a.m.; intergenerational social hour, 2 p.m.



Wet your whistle: 9:30 a.m. Sunday through Saturday.

Exercise: 10 a.m. Sunday through Saturday.

Movie: 10:45 a.m. daily, and 3:15 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Popcorn Day: every Friday

Sunday: Just jokes 10:15 a.m.; company’s coming room visits, 1:30 p.m.; Protestant church, 3 p.m.

Monday: Did you know? 10:15 am.; Soundz of Time, 2 p.m.; pokeno on the patio, 5:45 p.m.

Tuesday: Trivia, 10:15 a.m.; Lutheran church, 2 p.m.; movie and manicure, 5:45 p.m.

Wednesday: Sharpen your senses, 10:15 a.m.; Golden Throats music/Father’s Day party, 2 p.m.; flip five, 5:45 p.m.

Thursday: Crosswords, 10:15 a.m.; K bingo, 2 p.m.; Magic Moments, 5:45 p.m.

Friday: ABC game, 10:15 a.m.; Catholic Mass, 2 p.m.; chips and chatter, 2:30 p.m.

Saturday: Current events, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.

Maryhill Manor

Niagara, Wis.

Rosary, 8:30 a.m. Sunday through Friday.

Sunday: Catholic Mass, 9 a.m.; help your neighbor, 10:15 a.m.; music bingo, 1:30 p.m.; Protestant service, 2:30 p.m.

Monday: Dessert with Lulu, 10:15 a.m.; courtyard iced tea social, 2 p.m.

Tuesday: Derby day, 10:15 a.m.; resident council, 2 p.m.; bingo, 2:30 p.m.; concert in the courtyard with Jan and Gino, 6:15 p.m.

Wednesday: Protestant service, 9 a.m.; baseball trivia, 10:15 a.m.: courtyard tee ball, 2 p.m.; chaplet of divine mercy, 3 p.m.; concert in the courtyard with Crystal Hogan, 6:30 p.m.

Thursday: Catholic Mass, 9 a.m.; Scattegories, 10:15 a.m.; animal kingdom, 2 p.m.; help your neighbor, 6:15 p.m.

Friday: Flag day celebration, 10:15 a.m.; happy hour with Ron W., 2 p.m.

Saturday: Baking, 10:15 a.m.; pamper and polish, 2 p.m.; bingo, 5:45 p.m.

Victorian Pines

Iron Mountain

Juice time, 10 a.m. Sunday through Saturday

Exercise, 11 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Shopping days: 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, must sign up.

Sunday: Bible study, 1:30 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Monday: Bingo, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Tuesday: Trivia, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Wednesday: Catholic Mass, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m. 

Thursday: Wheel of Fortune, 2 p.m.; rosary, 3 p.m.

Friday: Bingo, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Saturday: Movie and popcorn, 2 p.m.

Florence Health Services

Florence, Wis.

Morning news, 6 a.m. daily.

Beauty shop open on Tuesday and Thursday.

Sunday: Bingo 10 a.m.; manicures, 2 p.m.; kings’ corners, 6 p.m.

Monday: Bingo, 10 a.m.; reminisce, 6 p.m.

Tuesday: Chair exercise, 10 a.m.; social hour, 3 p.m.

Wednesday: Manicures, 10 a.m.; music with Tom Palmer, 2 p.m.; room visits, 3 p.m.

Thursday: Pastor Jason, 10 a.m.; music with Jan and Gino, 2 p.m.; trivia, 6 p.m.

Friday: Catholic Mass, 10 a.m.; road trip and ice cream, 1 p.m.; flippo, 6 p.m.

Saturday: Bingo, 10 a.m.; Movie with popcorn, 2 p.m.; reading, 6 p.m.

Pinecrest Medical Care Facility


Sunday: Grace church, 10:15 a.m.; ball toss, 10:30 a.m.; Lutheran service, 2 p.m.; life stories, 3:30 p.m.

Monday: Life connections, 9:45 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; worship and communion service, 1:30 p.m.; rosary, 2:30 p.m.; bean bag toss, 3:30 p.m.; checkers, 6 p.m.

Tuesday: Decorating for prom, 10:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; bingo, 1:45 p.m.; Pictionary, 3:30 p.m.; book cart, 6 p.m.

Wednesday: Paul Mitchell school, 9:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; prom with Jim Clements, 2 p.m.; one-to-one visits, 6 p.m.

Thursday: DeYoung Zoo, 10:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; cards, 3:30 p.m.; Trouble board game, 6 p.m.

Friday: Catholic Mass, 10:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 a.m.; outside social, 2 p.m.; social circle, 3:30 p.m.; one-to-one visits, 6 p.m.

Saturday: Karaoke, 10:15 a.m.; cards, 10:30 a.m.; ice cream social, 2 p.m.; reminiscing, 3:30 p.m.


Note: All centers ask for 24-hour advanced reservations for lunch. If you have meals delivered and will not be home, notify the Center.

Alpha-Mastodon Center


Meal at noon every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Amasa Center


Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Lunch at noon.

Bingo on Tuesdays.

Free meal drawing on Thursdays.

Breen Center


Meals Monday through Friday.

Pasty sale every third Saturday of the month — except on holidays.  

Cards and games available 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 2 p.m. 

Hostess on duty Monday through Friday.   

Treats and coffee, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Center retail store is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday; volunteers and donations are welcome.

Birthdays acknowledged every day.

Evening meals are on the first and third Thursday of the month. Salad bar opens at 4 p.m., with dinner at 5 p.m. Donations are $4 for those 60 and older and $5 for 60 and younger.

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen


Suggested meal donations: $5 older than 60; $6 younger than 60; $1 extra for take-out. Call Center by 1 p.m. with name and number of people to reserve meals.

Open: Monday through Wednesday, 4:30 p.m., soup and salad bar and 5 p.m., dinner.

Menu for the week of June 10 was unavailable:

Mondays: Basket weaving after dinner — all are welcome for dinner and/or class. Beginners can make their first basket with materials provided.

Crystal Lake Center


The center is closed on weekends.

Monday: Woodcarvers, 10 a.m.; mahjong in dining hall, noon; Les Artistes Art Club, noon; Bridge Club, 12:15 p.m.

Tuesday and Thursday: Pinochle, 12:30 p.m.

Thursdays: Two-person team cribbage from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: Billiards, 9:30 a.m.

Wednesday: Spinning Spools Quilters Guild, 1 p.m., crafters, scrapbookers and others also welcome; knitting and crocheting class, 1 to 3 p.m.

Friday: Smear, 12:30 p.m.

Last Saturday of the month: Music jam starting at 1 p.m. Admission is free. 

Dances take place from 7 to 10 p.m. on the second and fourth Fridays of the month. Admission is $6; coffee is free. 

The Photo Club meets 1 to 3 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month.  

The kitchen is currently closed due to plumbing issues, and meals are being served at the Breen Center. Christine McMahon has information for all meals and can be reached at 906-774-2256, ext. 235. For transportation, call Buzzin’ Around Town at 906-282-0492. Rides are $3 for age 60 and older, and $3.50 for younger than 60. 

Transportation is available from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Felch Center


Meals served at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Wednesday.

Bingo after lunch on the first and third Wednesday of each month.

A congregate jigsaw puzzle is done daily.

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.


Director: Tiffany White

Suggested donation for seniors older than 60 is $4 per meal. Residents younger than 60 must pay $7. Reservations and cancellations needed 48-hours in advance.

The ADRC can assist area seniors and those with disabilities with transportation Monday through Friday. Transportation reservation should be made with meal reservation.

Fence Center/Town Hall


Meal at noon Wednesdays only. Reservations are requested. Cribbage and cards are available.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall


Home-delivered meals are available as always. Meal is served at 11:30 a.m. at the center on Friday only. 

The meal site is temporarily closed Monday through Thursday due to a staffing shortage. 

Tipler Town Hall


Serving lunch at noon on the second Thursday of the month.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora


Meal is served at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday. Transportation arrangements can be made to and from the meal site.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska


Meal is at noon Monday through Friday. Suggested donation is $3 for age 60 and older and $7 for those younger than 60. Morning coffee is available daily.

Fifteen games of “fun bingo” are played each Tuesday and Friday, along with a 50-50 drawing.

Tuesday: Bingo, 12:45 p.m.

Wednesday: Cards played in the afternoon. Call ahead to see if a game will be going on.

Friday: Bingo, 12:45 p.m.

Monday through Friday: Walking in the gym, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. A treadmill also is available.

Enjoy friendly interaction with other crafters.

Iron River Center


Meals served 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; a $4 donation is encouraged from those 60 and older, and a $5 payment is required from those younger than 60. Thursday meal, 3:30 p.m. soup, 4 p.m. salad bar, with dinner at 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Home-delivered meals are available — call 906-774-2256 ext. 235 or ext. 230.

Menu for the week of June 10 follows:

Monday: Tuna-noodle casserole, mixed vegetables, fruit and milk.

Tuesday: Turkey wrap, cottage cheese, chips, fruit and milk.

Wednesday: Chicken breast sandwich, spaghetti salad, fruit and milk.

Thursday: Pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, fruit and milk.

Pancake Breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday, June 15. Cost is $5.

Niagara Northwoods Senior Cafe and Center

Meal site manager: Corrie Maule, 715-251-1603

Senior center director: Jill Anderson, 715-251- 4154

Noon meals served Monday through Thursday. Transportation is available to the meal site for those living in the Niagara, Wis., area. We welcome any senior groups who would like to use the meal site as a meeting place — join us for lunch and then stay for a meeting or social time. Wii games, cards, puzzles and board games are available to play. 

Other activities are in the works — suggestions are always welcome. 

Those who have not been at the meal site/senior center are invited to give it a try. Those who haven’t been here in a while are encouraged to come back.

Norway Center

Director: Susie Slining


Monday through Thursday: Meals served at noon, with salad bar. Soup also is available at 11 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Milk, juice, bread, fruit, tea and coffee served daily. Meal donation is $5. Reservation for the meal should be made in advance.

Two special-themed meals take place each month on Tuesday, with bingo, prizes and a 50-50 drawing.

Two evening meals offered at 5 p.m. on the first Monday and third Wednesday of the month, with bingo, prizes and a 50-50 drawing.

If Norway-Vulcan area schools are closed due to bad weather days, so is the senior center. If the schools are on a two-hour delay, the center remains open.  

Cards are played daily after the noon meal.

Craft and exercise classes: Mondays and Thursdays.

Ceramic and art classes: Wednesdays.

Puzzles always in the works.

A senior coloring class meets daily. All are welcome. Some materials will be provided.

Note: File of Life packets available at the center.

Sagola Center


Meals: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 11:45 a.m. Cards: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Commodities every other month and quarterly commodities are every three months. A puzzle table is available to enjoy. Volunteers are always welcome.