1. KNOW WHAT HAPPINESS IS
In chick flicks, there's always a rival out to steal the heroine's joy, but in real life, you're more likely to sabotage your own happiness simply by having unrealistic expectations of what it should look and feel like. Researchers have found that when people put pressure on themselves to feel blissful, they end up disappointed. Rather than viewing happiness as a goal you barrel toward, think of it as a by-product of feeling that your life is meaningful.
2. ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE
People who focus on good past experiences and reinterpret negative ones in a more pleasant light tend to be happier. "Counting blessings doesn't mean you have to be naive," says Chris Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan. The world can be cruel and you shouldn't deny the terrible things that may have happened, but the world can also be wondrous. It's up to you to decide on which truth to dwell.
3. GET MORE FOR YOUR MONEY
Studies have shown that once basic needs are met, the amount of cash we have doesn't affect how content we feel. But there's a difference between spending money buying "things" versus spending money on people or activities. Cornell University researchers found that shelling out for an experience, such as a vacation, improved well-being.
Researchers coined the phrase "helper's high" after surveying more than 3,000 volunteers and finding that 95 percent felt healthier after charity work. And while giving money boosts happiness, too, face-to-face interactions have a greater impact because they allow individuals to engage more fully.
5. BE A JOINER
Belonging to something, whether it's your church, a sorority or a club, helps lift the spirits. This even holds true for race consciousness: A recent survey found that those who were most satisfied with their lives also identified most strongly with being Black.
6. SPEND LESS TIME ON SOCIAL NETWORKING
It's one thing to use Twitter to connect with friends around the world, but using it to stay in touch with pals around the way is a problem. Interacting online doesn't give the brain the input it thrives on, like facial expression. "Being deprived of human interaction is as bad as being deprived of food or sleep," says Dan Baker, Ph.D., coauthor of What Happy Women Know (St. Martin's Griffin).