7 Ways to Feel Happier

CosmopolitanCosmopolitanHealthy lifestyle choices-exercising, eating well, going outside, pretty much all the things mami told you do-really can make you feel happier.

By Sandy M. Fernandez

1. Get some sun
New Milford, Connecticut, nanny Melissa Nercessian often works indoors during the day. "I grew up in Puerto Rico," she says, "and in San Juan, I practically lived at the beach." After her doctor diagnosed her with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Nercessian started taking a daily walk outside at lunchtime. Since a lack of sun has been linked to depression, "Try to get sun on your face every day before noon," suggests Dr. Belisa Vranich, coauthor of The Seven Beliefs .

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2. Keep a gratitude journal, or pay it forward
Abuelita was right: You should count your blessings. Recent research suggests that doing so once a day can have a long-term effect on keeping depression away. How? It focuses you away from what's wrong in your life and toward what's right. Helping somebody out is also effective. "It reminds you that lots of other people are worse off than you are-and that you have the power to make things better," says Araceli Sanchez, a tax preparer who volunteers as a counselor at her Florida City church at least once a week.

3. See your friends regularly - How to Be Happier
A new study shows that people who see a wide circle of friends once a month or more have a stronger sense of well being. Yvonne Condes, a Los Angeles mother who blogs about lifestyle and health at MomsLA.com, makes sure to hold a potluck with friends every single month. "Recently, my family was going on a long car trip, and my husband thought I was crazy for still attending the potluck the night before," she says. "But I know how important it is to me."

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4. Workout
Running, doing Pilates, or dancing up a storm on Friday night-any and all of these exercises will elevate your endorphins, leading to a better mood. "The key is to do it until you sweat," says Dr. Vranich. "That usually means you've gotten your heart rate up high enough. A slow, gentle walk won't do it." The reward for all that exertion could become an obsession that's actually good for you. "Checking in with my doctor, I was able to wean myself off my medication. I use it once in a while when I think I need it."

5. Get messy with your man
No, your boyfriend didn't make this up: A study from the State University of New York at Albany suggested that semen contained chemicals that boosted women's moods. Researchers found that college-age women who used condoms were more likely to be depressed than those who didn't-and for those who didn't, depression increased the longer they went without sex. Of course, unprotected sex can have plenty of life altering side effects-like STIs and unplanned pregnancy. Still, safe orgasms, which cause the brain to produce chemicals that have calming effects similar to those of some antidepressants, are better than no orgasms.

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6. Meditate
Recent studies say that practices like Zen meditation relieve depression and anxiety. Best bet: Choose an activity that keeps you focused on the present moment (like on your breathing).

7. Get a massage
Next time you need to justify the expense of getting Sven to work your muscles, try this: A 2004 study in Psychological Bulletin reported that people who got regular massages experienced a whopping 73% less depression. A massage reduces cortisol, a stress hormone, while lifting levels of dopamine and serotonin. In other studies, subjects felt better after laying on the table just once-but research suggests the more the better.

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