Off the Path Summer 2014

Because I'm Happy ...

A hobby and way of life for staff member

by Dottie Barnes

“Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth. Because I’m happy.” Recognize these lyrics? They are from the popular song, “Happy,” by Pharrell, from the movie soundtrack for “Despicable Me 2.”

When the song first flooded the airwaves, Linda Yuhas, director of Compensation and Employment Services in Human Resources, had her inbox flooded with emails about it. That’s because Yuhas has been described by many as a symbol of happiness.

Yuhas is known around campus, and elsewhere for that matter, for being cheery and quick to smile and laugh. While she said she has always been a positive person, Yuhas puts time and effort into being happy and having a positive demeanor and outlook.

“People need to be happier,” said Yuhas. “Not ‘ha, ha’ happy, but having a positive attitude, joy, gratitude and serenity.”

Linda Yuhas

Linda Yuhas, pictured in the Arboretum, established the Happiness Club
at Grand Valley to promote the benefits of being happy.

photo by Bernadine Carey-Tucker

What makes Yuhas happy

  • Her first cup of coffee in the morning
  • Spending time with family and close friends
  • Exercising and walking outside
  • Enjoying all four seasons
  • Quiet time for reading and writing in her gratitude journal

In 2013, Yuhas started the Happiness Club through Health and Wellness at Grand Valley, a quarterly lunch-hour meeting on campus where faculty and staff members can meet and network with others who are committed to improving their lives by injecting happiness into daily living. “It isn’t meant to serve as a therapy session, but rather a place to go to be uplifted,” said Yuhas. “We bring in guest speakers who share their experiences and encourage others on how to be positive.”

She got the idea for the club after reading the book Happy for No Reason, by Marci Shimoff.

“The book is about how to be happy from the inside, no matter what your circumstances are,” said Yuhas. “The information was so good, I started presenting it at seminars and workshops at Grand Valley and off-campus. I wanted the theme to continue past a one-time workshop, and got the idea for the Happiness Club.”

Yuhas said she and her husband, Mike, a professor of accounting and taxation at Grand Valley, made some changes years ago to help keep a more positive attitude and outlook. “Words we say and hear impact our health. Research shows people who are happy and positive and expect the best are healthier, live longer and are more
successful,” she said.

The pair rarely watch television or read negative articles. Yuhas said she made another big change that helps her overall happiness. “Being very busy and stressed out can be looked at as a status symbol. I let go of that,” she said.

“I’m also a very physical person. The last thing I want to do is sit around and mope. Walking or working out helps. I stay very active.”

Growing up, Yuhas said some thought she was naive, called her Pollyanna or made fun of her for always looking for the good in people. “It’s just who I am,” she said.

“I’ve tried to be more serious to fit in, but it just doesn’t feel right. I’m just letting myself be me. There’s enough negativity in the world.”

Suggested reading from the Happiness Club

  • "Gateway to Happiness" by Zelig Pliskin
  • "What Happy People Know" by Dan Baker
  • "The Feeling Good Handbook" by David D. Burns
  • "How We Choose to be Happy" by Rick Foster & Greg Hicks

Life doesn’t come without hardship.

Yuhas, known for making the most out of what comes her way, faced a tragedy that would play a significant role in deepening her faith and her commitment to overall happiness. Her son, Ryan, died in a car accident in 1995 after his vehicle was struck by a drunken driver. He was 19.

“I never thought I could live through something like that,” she said. “When it happened, it was truly like the Footprints in the Sand poem. I felt God’s presence very strongly, more than I ever dreamed. And, I also had no doubt that Ryan was in a better place. I really believe Ryan lived his purpose and now he’s doing other things. My faith and attitude helped me through.”

Yuhas finds it helpful to keep a gratitude journal. Every morning she makes a list of everything she is grateful for and a list of hopes for the day. She also looks at the list from the day before — the great things that happened, the blessings she experienced and the people she interacted with. She said the journal is a way of training her mind to be open and more aware of the wonderful people and circumstances in her life.

Yuhas said her naturally positive attitude is a gift, a sort of inherited “happy gene” that her Aunt Mazo also had. Yuhas said her aunt never spoke a negative word about anyone, didn’t complain or judge. Her Aunt Mazo lived to be 105 and drove, volunteered and played piano at a nursing home until she was 103.

“Aunt Mazo was my role model,” said Yuhas. “She wrote an autobiography in her late 80s and I read it after she died. She finished her autobiography with the Optimist Creed (rules to live by written by Christian D. Larson). It made me smile because I happen to have that creed on my desk.

“Aunt Mazo was always very grateful and I think that plays an enormous role in how you feel. Always looking for the good makes you feel good.”

Yuhas said she often reflects on what her aunt said on her deathbed, as a reminder of how to live each day. “My aunt was heard saying, ‘Lord, let me be a blessing to someone today.’ Even at that point in time, my aunt’s focus was on being useful to others,” she said.

Next Happiness Club meeting

September 25 with guest speaker Jerry Conrad

Register at

Page last modified May 10, 2017