9 Simple Steps to Happiness

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Getty ImagesA few years ago, Debbie Jankowski went hunting for a way to bring her life new joy. She found the solution in her bank account. "I had always been thrifty, but I decided it was time to spend money on things that would broaden my world," says Jankowski, who's based in Philadelphia.

She splurged on sightseeing in Ireland and jungle-roaming in Costa Rica with her husband, along with a yoga retreat closer to home. "These outings have refreshed me and given me perspective," she says.

New research confirms what Jankowski discovered: Money can buy happiness—if you spend wisely. We asked experts to explain this and other glee strategies, none of which require rose-colored glasses or doing anything with life's lemons.

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happiness-skill happiness-skill ). Developed by psychologists, it takes about 15 minutes to fill out, then provides a ranked list of your 24 strongest qualities—anything from creativity to perseverance.

"Think about how you might use your top five strengths in your relationship, at the office and in your free time," says Ruch. People who consistently apply "signature strengths" experience less depression and more happiness.

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tough-happiness tough-happiness found that the majority experienced numerous positive emotional changes, including new life priorities and more self-confidence—catalysts for happiness. "Not that we wish cancer on anyone, but it's often negative experiences that help us grow and learn, which is vital for being happy," says Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of California in Riverside and author of The Myths of Happiness. When upheaval strikes, she says, consider how you have improved as a result.

"I had postpartum depression, and while I'm angry that I missed out on my daughter's first weeks of life, I can say that I'm a happier, less-anxious person as a result," says Stephanie Lutz, 35, of Colts Neck, N.J. "I no longer have that perfectionist streak of 'if I can't do it right, I don't want it done at all.' I've learned to go with the flow."

Next Page: Spend 21 minutes focusing on your relationship [ pagebreak ]

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happiness-smile happiness-smile during stress and chills you out. And if you can't bear to smile? Sadness and the occasional bad mood are natural, too. No human can be happy 24/7, and maybe that's the happiest news of all.