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This might come as a surprise, but it probably shouldn't: Science is now PROVING that happiness is a choice. You can teach yourself to think in certain ways to stay happy . . . no matter what else goes on around you.

Studies show that some of the most effective ways to stay happy are also the simplest things to do. They have nothing to do with changing your lifestyle or being more successful. Here's a list of seven easy things you can do to make yourself happier.

1. Just TRY. A recent study asked two groups of people to listen to happy music. One group was told to make an effort to be happier, and the other was told not to do anything. And the first group ended up feeling better at the end of the study.

2. Make happiness your number-one goal. If happiness is more important to you than anything else, you'll get rid of things that make you unhappy. And you'll do more things that lead to happiness, like being around happy people.

3. Linger on the positive moments. Our brains tend to emphasize negative experiences more, and react more strongly to them. So you have to put extra effort into getting the most out of the GOOD things that happen.

4. Meditate. It's relaxing, and it makes you calmer and more aware. Just about every study shows that regular meditation has big psychological benefits.

5. Give yourself reasons to smile. People who smile after thinking positive thoughts can put themselves into a better mood. But phony smiles, without any positive thoughts behind them, cause worse moods and social withdrawal.

6. Be grateful. If you make an effort to show gratitude to people around you, you'll also tend to appreciate simple pleasures, and stay happier overall.

7. LET yourself be happy. A lot of older people regret that they didn't "let" themselves be happy in life. You have to ALLOW yourself to laugh and be silly sometimes. If you get used to being unhappy, you forget that laughter should come naturally

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