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Practice healthy habits.

The practices that are good for your body can also set the stage for happiness. Namely, Carter suggests getting enough sleep and exercise. Studies support this advice.

An August 2013 study found that people who slept more on some nights than others had less sense of well-being than those who got good sleep on a regular basis.

Research has also found that exercise can:

  • Boost your happiness right away
  • Help you feel happier in general if you exercise on a regular basis

Consider going for a walk or bike ride with a friend – or group of friends -- so you can connect with others while you get active.

Work on feeling grateful.

"Practicing gratitude is one of my favorite instant happiness-boosters," Carter says. Research supports the idea that regularly feeling grateful can raise your happiness level. Ways to practice gratitude include:

  • Keep a gratitude journal. Write down the people, events, and things you're grateful to have in your life, and add to the list and review it on a regular basis.
  • Take a moment of silence at dinner. Reflect on the food you're about to eat and the other ways that your needs are being met.
  • Make an effort to feel grateful. Think of a variety of things, rather than just the same one over and over.

Help others.

Studies have shown that people around the world say they feel happy when they spend money on other people or give to charity. Research has found that even toddlers act happier when they help others.

Helping others doesn't require giving lots of your time or money. Even small gifts can make you feel happier, Carter says. For instance:

  • Pay a bridge or highway toll for yourself and the person behind you.
  • Smile at people and ask how they're doing.

These gestures can give others a sense that people are kind and the world is a better place, she says. And you come away happy that you're a force of good in the world.