7 Habits of Happy, Healthy Women

Be happy all year long

Do these every day - or whenever you'd like - for an instant lift.

1. Give Your Sweetie a Stealth Hug
Tiny acts of love - a favorite meal, a mushy text-message, or an unexpected touch - make us see ourselves as kind and supportive partners. In fact, we get the bounce in self-image even if we do something nice our spouses don't notice, a Swiss study of 102 couples found.

2. Include the Barista in Your Thank-Yous
In case you missed the news that reflecting on your blessings is like Miracle-Gro for your mental health, a new English study reports that keeping a daily gratitude list reduces anxiety as well as therapy does. Be specific: "To say, 'I am grateful to the coffee barista' is less effective than consciously thinking about the fact that she remembers that you like a tall latte with low-fat milk," says Robert Emmons, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis.

Related: 15 Easy Ways to De-Stress

3. Take a Grace Break
Psychologists at George Mason University found that on days when people perceive their spiritual link to be stronger - whether through deep breathing, admiring the snow, or reaching out to someone - they are happier and feel better about themselves.

4. Pop An Anti-Anxiety Piece Of Chocolate
The trick is to pick the right bonbon: After feeding 90 lucky Dutch volunteers different types of snacks, researchers found that if you're high-strung, you'll get the best results if you nibble a milk chocolate wafer. If you fall lower on the anxiety scale, dark chocolate is a better worry chaser.

5. Set a Bedtime For Mr. Blackberry
The clearer the line you draw between the office and home, the more you'll be able to detach from work and focus on your real life, like watching Modern Family. You don't have to unplug entirely, but make rules: no checking work e-mail after 8 P.M., for example.

Related: Get a Better Night's Sleep

6. Befriend Yourself
Self-compassionate people have taught themselves skills that help them find comfort and joy. Two key ones: They are as nice to themselves as they would be to their best friend. It's OK I haven't started Christmas shopping yet, they might think. I've been busy at work. Also, they recognize that their flubs make them part of the human race: Lots of people get behind at the holidays.

7. Get Fitter in Just 40 Sweaty Seconds
For those of us who want to know how little exercise we can get away with, a new Scottish study provides the happy answer. Just 10 minutes of leisurely cycling with two 20-second bursts of hard pedaling, done three times a week, equals a quality workout. After three weeks, the formerly sedentary women in the study saw a 12% gain in aerobic capacity.

How do you stay happy and healthy? Let me know in the comments!

-By Sarah Mahoney

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