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When researchers at the University of Chicago measured the bliss of Americans, they found that about half the people in their late 80s feel jubilant, while barely a third of 18-year-olds do. Maintaining a favorable outlook provides big health benefits: protection against heart disease, better resistance against other illnesses, and a longer life. Boost your contentment quotient today:  

THE SECRET TO REAL HAPPINESS? You don’t have to wait until your 80s. Go after it now, and there’s a good chance you’ll get it. Between 40% and 50% of your capacity for happiness is genetic, meaning YOU control the lion’s share of how you feel about life. Keeping your mood meter on a favorable outlook is possible. Remember, few people are jerks on purpose. For instance, that guy who cut you off may have needed to get to the hospital because his pregnant wife was in labor.

1. Get a grip on your wallet. Money is a health issue. With a raging recession, financial worries are driving up stress faster than oil companies are piling up profits. Forty percent of all serious stresses are due to money. Get back in control by creating a budget, consolidating credit-card debt onto a low-interest card (vow to buy on credit only what you can pay off on your next bill), and setting aside some dough (aim for 10%) every month to build your nest egg. This 10% is in addition to your retirement fund, and it’s there in case you need to change jobs (a morally repugnant new boss) or you get laid off (a company collapse). It gives you independence, control, and a safety net. So start living below your means today. Yes, it’s tough, but there’s no better way to achieve long-term happiness, and you won’t have to find storage space for all that stuff you bought but didn’t need.

2. Go take a hike in the park -- or just around the block or your office building. Getting physical activity for a sustained period of time (30 minutes will do it) saturates the mood-controlling regions of your brain with endorphins. These are the pleasure-boosting chemicals responsible for the famed “runner’s high” (and that giddy glow you get after a yoga class or great sex). We can’t say it enough: A brisk half-hour walk every day will boost your spirits AND your health.

3. Go social. Friendship is powerful mental medicine. Folks with strong people-skills rank in the highest levels of happiness, while social isolation torpedoes well-being.  Hooking up for a game of poker, a round of golf, or a girlfriend spa day isn’t a luxury; it’s an investment in joy.

4. Stack the deck. Stress is easier to handle when your mind and body are in tip-top shape. Start by pampering your health with a balanced diet, regular checkups, and 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night (less sleep increases stress hormones and diminishes growth hormone). When you find yourself tensing up over things you can’t control, try this simple antidote: Switch your focus to the things you usually ignore: Breathe! Stay “in the moment!” This one tip can help you regain your perspective and ease anxiety.

5. Do what you love. If you made a pie chart of how much of your time goes to what, would the things that give your life meaning have a fair share of the pie, or would they be crowded out? How you rate your own well-being is based on how much fulfillment you get from everyday things, whether it’s raising kids, working on a project you love, or volunteering. Make time for what you truly value.

6. Know what happiness is. It isn’t wearing designer clothes or living out a hot-tub fantasy or having dinner with George Clooney and Angelina Jolie. These just give you a fun, momentary thrill (yes, really). True happiness is using your strengths to grow and meet your potential. And it’s being grateful for what and who is around you. Writing thank-you notes from the heart or apologizing to someone has amazing positive actions. One favorite: Writing a love note every now and then (not just on anniversaries or birthdays) to the person you’ve shared your bed with for 32 years (or even 32 days). It brings joy to you both. 


Adapted from an article “Happiness Can’t Wait,” EverydayHealth.com



True Happiness

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