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Are you happy -- really?

  • Story Highlights
  • Expert: Many looking for happiness don't realize they already have it
  • Funeral director finds happiness in job by helping grieving people
  • Lachelle claims happiness even in a bad situation
  • Expert: Good friends can remind you that you're a good person
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Oprah

(Oprah.com) -- Are you truly happy? If you were presented with a group of people you've never met, could you determine who was really satisfied with their life? A panel of five people took a test to see how happy they really are. Based on this picture and a brief description, see if you can tell who is the happiest!

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From left to right: Peggy, Noreen, Lachelle, David and Lorrie.

Peggy (pictured on far left) is a 44-year-old married mother of two teenage boys who works as the bookkeeper of the family business. Last year, both her father and her sister died, and her mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Noreen (second from the left) is a 52-year-old divorced mother of two college kids. She's an avid swimmer and works in the operations department of a major airline.

Lachelle (middle) is 27 years old, married and has no children. She works two jobs and has two dogs. Last year, four of her friends and two of her family members died within six months of each other.

David (second from the right) is 53 years old, and he's been a funeral director for 30 years. He is married and has two sons.

Lorrie (pictured on far right) has been married for 15 years and has six children. She works in retail and also serves as the vice president of her PTA.

Peggy, David and Lachelle scored the highest on the satisfaction scale, while Noreen and Lorrie scored the lowest.

Satisfaction for Peggy is achieved by surrounding herself with happiness. The most important thing? Her husband. "He is there for me. He doesn't only love me, he appreciates me and makes me feel good," Peggy says. Happiness doesn't depend on money, she says. It's about enjoying the simple things. "Every morning I have a ritual. After the boys have left, [my husband and I] get in the hot tub, and it's our time. We talk about what is going on for the rest of the day. It is just our quality time just to stay connected."

David, the funeral director, says he's developed phrases that help him keep a positive outlook. "I will say, 'It's a marvelous Monday. It's a terrific Tuesday,'" he says. Although he deals with death daily, David says his job is anything but depressing. "Most people look upon funeral service as a sad profession. I look upon it as a profession where I'm helping people at a very difficult time in their lives," he says. "Being successful in life is not what really matters. Being significant in life is really the core root of what matters."

Lachelle says she lives by the philosophy, "Negative out, positive in." She says she believes happiness is a conscious effort. "It's about claiming what's yours. If you want a positive life, you need to think positively and act positively," she says. "I do my best not to compare myself with others. I've always felt that what one person has may not be destined for me."

Dr. Robert Holden has dedicated his life to studying the pursuit of happiness. The psychologist is the founder of the Happiness Project in England and the author of 10 best-selling books, including "Happiness Now!"

Dr. Holden says those looking for happiness often don't realize they already have it. It's a lesson that he says he was lucky to learn at age 18 from a spiritual teacher. "He said, 'Look, actually, Robert, you're already happy.' And I said, 'Well, that's great, but I don't feel it. So tell me, what do I have to do?'" Dr. Holden recalls. "And he said, 'You have to understand that the pursuit of happiness is a mistake. It's like, you don't chase happiness out there. You learn that you're happy inside you, and then you go running. Then you go into the world.'"

When looking at the guests who scored the highest on the happiness scale, Dr. Holden says he instantly recognizes the keys to their satisfaction. For David, it's his job. "Your job just helps you to have a great perspective on life, which is, 'We're just here for a short spell, and it's really important to make the most of it,'" Dr. Holden says.

Lachelle uses the law of attraction to stay happy, Dr. Holden says. "Lachelle, basically what I see is that you've chosen to be an optimist. You have had some difficult times in your life, and you've had bad circumstances, but you've made great choices. And this is how the law of attraction works," he says. "What I found is that basically we have beliefs about life, and our perception gathers evidence to prove that our beliefs are right. So an optimist believes that good things can come from bad situations."

After taking the happiness test, Noreen found that she received the lowest score possible -- a 5 out of 35. So how can Noreen find fulfillment? Dr. Holden says to look within her heart. "What really occurs to me is ... you are such a good person. ... But I realized that you've not made some of the best choices in your life in the past," Dr. Holden says. "Those choices, I think, are being motivated really by a lack of what I call self-acceptance, which is where we somehow don't believe we deserve any more than we have."

The law of attraction could make a big difference for Noreen, Dr. Holden says. "The way the law of attraction works is that as we increase our self-acceptance, we attract more happiness," he says.

Dr. Holden says Noreen needs to realize she is, indeed, a great person. One way she can do that is to surround herself with people who already know that. "I think it's also great to have some friends around you who can remind you, because we do forget," Dr. Holden says.

Noreen says she feels like she's taking her first step on the road to happiness. "I feel like I'm starting. I can feel it," she says.

Lorrie scored in the middle range of the satisfaction test and says people often mistake her for being happy because she puts on a false front, whether she's being a room mom for one of her six children or attending a PTA meeting.

Dr. Holden gets to the root of her dissatisfaction. "You're so good at helping everybody else, I think you're in danger of leaving yourself out of your own life," Dr. Holden says. "What we have here is a classic what I call a martyr ethic, which is where we're putting everybody else first instead of ourselves."

In fact, Dr. Holden says Lorrie can help herself and give an important gift to her family -- her own happiness. "I know you ... want your children to be happy, and I tell you this: You can't just tell them to be happy. You show them with your example. And that's the big key," Dr. Holden says.

Lorrie can start today by simply asking for help. "I think the big mistake here, and it's a common one, is that we try to do our lives by ourselves," Dr. Holden says. "It's time to stop being a super mom and start being a real mom."

From "The Oprah Winfrey Show" "How Happy Are You?" E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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