I RECENTLY had the pleasure of participating in the fifth annual Tea and Conversation event hosted by the Daily News and Inquirer. More than 100 African-American women attended. The event explored what happiness means to us. I believe it is inextricably linked to our health and well-being. Science backs me up on this, too. According to the writings of Martin Seligman, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Positive Psychology Center, happiness leads to better health, resilience and good performance. There's even evidence suggesting that happy people live longer than depressed people.

In one study, the difference was a whopping nine years of additional life between the happiest and the unhappiest people. (For more information on Seligman's theories, check out www.

authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu.)

Like most people I have had my share of trials and tribulations, ups and downs, good and bad times. I've lost loved ones whom I miss dearly, suffered a few broken hearts, lost a few jobs and suffered other personal tragedies as well.

But through it all, I believe these events are part of the divine plan to teach me about life. Happiness is an inside job. You are responsible for it, nobody else. It is a decision you make.

Happiness isn't found in lottery winnings, a man, the perfect body, the best boobs or the best booty, material gains, high IQ, nor advanced degrees or any other external source. These external stimuli bring temporary happiness, at best, which dissipates shortly after acquisition.

I've had the extraordinary opportunity to work with people from every walk of life and every economic status, and discovered that being rich does not make people happy or happier. That's why I believe happiness is an inside job and that it's possible, despite the economy and challenging circumstances, to find meaning and maintain hope every day.

Here are 10 things that will raise your Gross Domestic Happiness and Health quotient:

1. Smile genuinely and often. Make your smile your best asset.

2. Don't sweat the small stuff and laugh out loud.

3. Keep a song in your heart like, "This Little Light of Mine."

4. Dance every day. The 10-minute version of "Freak of the Week" is one of my faves.

5. Remember failure is temporary. Keep your perspective and your faith, too.

6. Find the beauty in every person and every thing. Focus on the positive.

7. Surround yourself with loving family and friends. It's believed that friendship can ward off germs and disease.

8. Get married. According to the research, marriage adds seven years to a man's life and about four for women.

9. Get spiritually rooted. Believe in something bigger than yourself.

10. Do work that you love and love the work that you do.

Kimberly Garrison is a certified personal trainer and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia (www.1on1ultimate fitness.com). E-mail her at kimberly@ 1on1ultimatefitness. com.