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10 ways to get happy

Katia Hetter | 3/23/2015, 6:25 a.m.
Happy people don't sit around waiting for good vibes to happen to them.

— Happy people don't sit around waiting for good vibes to happen to them.

Whatever makes them happy, they go for it, said Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside and author of "The Myth of Happiness."

"Happy people don't sit around," Lyubomirsky said. "They strive for something personally meaningful, whether it's learning a new language, retraining in their careers or raising good kids. Find a happy person, and you will find a project."

Lyubomirsky estimates that half of people's happiness is determined by their genes, about 10% can be attributed to differences in life circumstances or situations, and about 40 percent of our happiness is up to us -- although it varies by person.

That's a lot of happiness under our control.

That's why we launched "Project Happy" on March 20, the United Nations' International Day of Happiness. Over the next three months, we will explore what happiness means today, dive deep into the different ways we pursue it and offer up some tools to help make your life happier.

So put on the Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars hit "Uptown Funk," Pharrell Williams' "Happy," anything by the Blind Boys of Alabama or Mozart's "Clarinet Concerto in A Major," and check out our 10 ways to get happy.

Why not pick one and try?

Practice kindness. Do something nice for someone else, whether it's someone you know or a stranger. It can be spur of the moment or planned out. You can do the good deed anonymously or help the beneficiary directly, said Lyubomirsky.

Keep a gratitude journal. People who kept a weekly gratitude journal actually did more exercise, had fewer physical problems and felt more optimistic about the coming week and life in general, according to gratitude researcher Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis.

Get spiritual. There's plenty of research showing that people who participate in their local church, synagogue, mosque or other preferred spiritual community are happier. Even reading spiritual literature can be helpful. Not religious? There are ethical societies and movements that get people thinking beyond themselves.

Buy experiences, not stuff. A vacation with loved ones or buying tickets to a show or concert will make you happier than buying another gadget. Those gifts help you feel closer to others, said San Francisco State University psychology professor Ryan Howell. "Instead of buying the jersey of your favorite baseball player, for example, buy a pair of tickets to a game, which will allow you to spend time with a friend or a loved one."

Buy stuff that creates experiences. So you still want to buy something? How about gear that allows you to have experiences in your areas of interest, such as games or music? "Experiential products such as sporting equipment or musical instruments are a special class of material items that allow you an opportunity to engage with people you care about," Howell said. Even board games count, since you can play them with a friend.