Trick #6: "I hang out with friends."

The Science:: Numerous studies have documented the benefits of social support, while others have shown that isolation can lead to depression. According to a study at the University of Michigan, even more important than social support is a sense of belonging: Connecting with and confiding in close friends can allay despair.

Trick #7: "I snuggle the dog."

The Science: Two studies published in 1999 showed that both AIDS patients and senior citizens benefit from having pets; those with animals were less likely to suffer from depression than those without. An earlier study showed that pet owners were also at decreased risk of heart disease.

Trick #8: "I make like a cat—I find a patch of sunlight streaming through the window, curl up, and fall asleep in the warmth."

The Science: A common cause of depression is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), in which lack of sunlight increases the production of melatonin, a hormone that affects sleep patterns and mood. Some therapists believe that even people not affected by SAD can reap the rewards of sunshine—one study of depressed pregnant women showed that a daily dose of bright light for three weeks had a beneficial effect.

Trick #9: "I change the landscape."

The Science: Perhaps it's the calming properties of the ocean or a starry sky, or the way a new setting can take you out of yourself and provide a sense of perspective. Although scientific research is scarce, a good number of people mentioned that a change of scenery, especially one that gets you back to nature, is an instant head clearer.

How to teach your brain to be happy (yes, it's possible!)


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