10 moves to feel happier

Positive personality traits to improve you overall sense of well-being
© Prevention // © Prevention

Just as you strengthen muscles by using them, you can tone your positive personality traits, such as optimism. Adults who spent time exercising character strengths improved them -- and their overall sense of well-being -- better than a control group, according to a new study from the University of Zurich. Try these moves, no sneakers required!

1 of 12 Women laughing (© Digital Vision/Getty Images)

The Reach-Out

IMPROVES GRATITUDE

Write a letter or an e-mail to someone who has supported you or gone out of her way for you recently, and let her know that it mattered. Expressing gratitude can elicit positive emotions, which play a key role in boosting your mood, researchers say.

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2 of 12 Woman writing (© Justin Pumfrey/Getty Images)

The Joint Effort

IMPROVES ENTHUSIASM

Lacking motivation to do the things you really want to do? Surround yourself with an energetic crowd--at a sporting event, an uplifting seminar, or even an aerobics class. Enthusiasm can be contagious and habit forming.

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3 of 12 People watching a baseball game (© John P Kelly/Getty Images)

The Door Opener

IMPROVES OPTIMISM

Think about a situation in which you lost out on something, whether the cause was bad luck or bad timing. Write it down, then identify a door that opened because of that closed one. This move helps you look on the bright side.

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4 of 12 Open door with key in lock (© Dave King/Getty Images)

The Deeper Dig

IMPROVES CURIOSITY

Rather than simply wondering about a topic of interest (oysters? art?), probe further. Read an article or go to an exhibit. Journal about your experience or recap it on Facebook. Learning -- and sharing knowledge -- foster curiosity.

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5 of 12 Museum of Modern Art (© Izzet Keribar/Getty Images)

The Reminiscence

IMPROVES JOY

Flipping through family photos gives you a sweet mood boost of 11%, researchers found. That even beats eating chocolate, drinking alcohol, and watching TV. Set a few photos as your computer background for around-the-clock mood spikes.

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6 of 12 Women Looking at Photo Album (© LWA/Getty Images)

The Good-Mood Munchies

IMPROVES OUTLOOK

Talk about mood food: walnuts are packed with omega-3 fats, which ward off depression, say researchers from the University of Pittsburgh. Other great sources include salmon, flaxseed, and spinach.

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The Sunshine Factor

IMPROVES ENERGY

Letting a little light shine goes a long way, especially when you first wake up. Women who absorbed the most morning light reported better moods and sleep, found one study. For a bonus boost, pair early sunshine with exercise and amplify light's effects.

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The Laugh Track

IMPROVES CHEER

Chuckling actually changes your brain, found Stanford University researchers. MRI scans showed the release of feel-good dopamine, a natural opiate, when subjects laughed. Next time you're stressed, watch a funny video clip and let out a guffaw -- it's good for you!

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The Sniff Test

IMPROVES CALM

Smell your way to serenity with fragrant candles or essential oils. Your nose knows best: an Austrian study found that the scents of orange and lavender made participants more positive, less anxious, and calmer than those who went fragrance free.

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10 of 12 Lit candle on table (© Keith Levit Photography/Getty Images)