Give a Gift
Generosity can stop gloom in its tracks, according to a study out of Canada — but few people realize it. Researchers asked 109 university students if they would be happier spending money on themselves and others. The vast majority of students believed spending on themselves would make them happier. But the researchers knew better. They had already given 46 other students small amount of money, instructing some to spend it on rent, bills and personal gifts, and others to buy someone else a gift or donate it. The givers emerged as far happier than those who had used the money for themselves. The team also surveyed 632 Americans, asking each subject to rate his or her general happiness. The team then compiled information on the subjects' incomes and spending habits. The findings: Those who spent more on others — whether it was in the form of gifts to their loved ones or charitable donations — were happier than those who spent it on themselves. This was true for people of all income levels. "The rule here is that you have to mean it," says Gore. "If you do something and think, 'I give and give,' you can become a really grumpy martyr. But genuine generosity is beautiful and powerful."
Embrace Your Identity
Kids who embrace their ethnic identity are happier and more resistant to stress than those who do not. Researchers from Wake Forest University learned the importance of ethnic pride when they studied 415 ninth graders of Mexican or Chinese heritage. The adolescents first answered questions about their relationship with their ethnic identity. They then spent two weeks detailing their daily stresses and emotional states on worksheets. Those who were proud of their ethnicity were happier and more emotionally resilient than those who were not. Gore believes ethnic pride is an important part of self-esteem, which makes people happy. "Basic self-esteem is almost a foundation," she says. "It won't guarantee that you're happy, but without it, you're sunk." In part, self esteem allows people to feel that they deserve happiness. "We can't change our immediate financial circumstances, and there are a lot of things in our lives that we don't have control over, but we can work on our self esteem," says Gore.