13 Fool-Proof Ways to Get Happier

You can learn to be happy—even in the worst of times—with these research-based strategies.

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11. Meditate. Research suggests that meditation promotes brain changes that may boost happiness, reduce stress, and make you nicer to others. In one study published in 2011 in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, researchers analyzed the brain scans of 16 people before and after they embarked on eight weeks of meditation. After completing the course, brain regions associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, while areas associated with stress shrank. Spending half an hour meditating or breathing deeply by yourself each morning could prove helpful.

12. Have in-depth conversations. Skip the small talk and engage in deeper, more meaningful conversations. A study published in 2010 in Psychological Science found that compared to unhappy folks, happy people have about twice as many substantive conversations and only about a third as many trivial ones. In fact, the study's happiest participants said that 46 percent of their total conversations were meaningful.

13. Turn up the tunes. Music activates brain regions that release the feel-good chemical dopamine, research suggests. It also relaxes the body. In one study, for example, patients who listened to music while undergoing a colonoscopy had reduced anxiety levels and needed a smaller dosage of sedatives than those who went music-free.

Updated on 3/8/2012: This story was originally published on April 22, 2009. It has been updated.

mental health