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Sunday, December 6, 1998

Secret Society asks: Are you happier than you admit you are?


Associated Press

DALLAS -- If you're happy and you know it -- shhh!

There's a spot for you in the Secret Society of Happy People.

"If you're happy but don't admit it because other people don't want to hear it, then we're the society for you," says founder Pam Johnson.

The society, founded in August in the Dallas suburb of Irving, promotes the idea that it's OK to be happy, despite the lack of positive response from others.

That's especially true at Christmas, Johnson says, challenging advice columnist Ann Landers on the subject of family news letters enclosed with holiday cards.

"Spare us the details of the Ivy League schools your children are attending and the honors and awards they have received during the year ... Just let us know in a handwritten note that your family is well and doing something useful," said a recent letter signed "Your Cousins in Illinois."

Ann Landers responded: "Dear Cousins: Thank you for expressing sentiments that are sure to be shared (and appreciated) by millions of readers. Including me."

In a letter to Landers, Johnson demanded an apology "to the millions of people you made feel bad for wanting to share their happy news."

Happiness is about recognizing the happy moments of your life, not about competing with others, Johnson wrote.

"Happy moments are good things that need to be shared more -- not less," she said.

Landers' editor in Los Angeles, Katherine Searcy, said she would pass along Johnson's letter and request a reply from the columnist.

Americans waste a lot of time discussing topics like: "My girlfriend/boyfriend is a jerk," "I don't like my job," "I need to lose 30 pounds," "If I only had more money," and "I need to buy something," Johnson said.

The society does not suggest that people should pretend they are content or ignore real problems, but urges people to stop grousing and answer the question: "Are you happier than you admit you are?"

"Most people think about it for a moment and they reply, 'You know, I am,' " Johnson said.

According to Johnson, the society has about 60-plus secretly happy members and recruits mainly through its Internet site: www.sohp.com.

A member who signed herself "Beth," posted a personal testimonial to happiness.

"I work with people with disabilities who have suffered injuries from car accidents, falls, etc. They constantly inspire me by showing up at therapy in the morning with a smile on their face and a kind greeting for everyone -- perhaps because they recognize how lucky they are to be alive!" she wrote.

"When things get crazy and busy, we forget about how lucky we are and how good our lives really are! Think about the many things and people in your life that bring happiness to you, and don't forget to tell loved ones how happy you are that they are in your life!" Beth wrote.


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