To a certain extent, happiness is genetic. Scientists say each of us is born with our own personal happiness set point.
Some may register at a seven on a scale of one to 10 (cheerful most of the time), others at a four (often moody). But no matter where you fall, there are ways to bump up your happiness level. Here's how to boost your set point:
1. Have an attitude of gratitude. Take a few minutes out of your day to think about everything that has happened recently to make you smile. Yeah, it sounds a bit self-helpy, but according to Lyubomirsky, it works: "When you have to keep coming up with answers to the question 'What am I thankful for?' it forces you to see how the little things you might have overlooked or taken for granted play a role in your happiness."
2. Banish the comparisons. Happy people take pleasure in the successes of other people rather than using those successes as a yardstick to measure their own lives. "You can't feel good about what you have if you're constantly calculating how you stack up to others," says Lyubomirsky. The irony is that in order to become less competitive (and a lot happier), you need to drop out of the race. That's not to say you should abandon your goals—it just means you need to start running at your own pace.
3. Find meaning in your work. A study of a hospital's cleaning staff found that those who described their jobs as bettering the lives of others were more satisfied than those who considered their jobs less worthwhile. Experts also say that those of us who believe we're doing what we're destined to do feel more immediate and long-term happiness. Even if you're not jazzed about your current job, consider how your actions contribute to the common good. Or relish how it gives you the means to participate in pleasurable activities outside of work.
4. Hang with happy people. A study done by the University of California at San Diego and Harvard Medical School revealed that "happiness can spread from person to person to person in a chain reaction, through social circles." On average, every happy friend you have increases your chance of being happy by 9 percent. Now if happiness is contagious, don't you want to put yourself in a position to catch it?