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Tips on how to train yourself to be happy

March 13, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Believe it or not, the U.S. is one of the most depressed nations in the world. There are many factors at play, from the economy and obesity to your genetic makeup.

Whatever it is, when it comes to happiness, we can learn a little something from grandma and grandpa. A massive Gallup-Healthways poll found people over 65 are happier than any other age group. So what's the secret?

"You have to look for the good and see the good and don't worry about the bad," said one woman.

Clinical psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo says happiness is a skill and can be learned.

"Happiness is a state of mind. It's how we interpret our world," said Lombardo.

Shift the focus from you to others. Most seniors give back. McKenzie Bearup, 17, is starting early. Four years ago, she started collecting books for abused and homeless children. She has collected nearly 50,000.

"It just makes me really happy to know that I can hopefully help change their lives," said Bearup.

Next, surround yourself with positive people. A study found that knowing another happy person increases your own happiness by 15 percent.

Also, take a lesson from kids and play. Dr. Stuart Brown, CEO of the National Institute for Play, calls play exercise for our brains.

"The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression," said Brown.

Research by Duke University found exercise can be just as effective as anti-depressants for people with clinical depression.

"When you are happier, you are going to be a better worker, you can be a better parent, you can be a better spouse and a better friend," said Lombardo.

Another Gallup survey found that the happiest days of the year happen during the holidays and the most stressful days fall during tax season.

See tips on how to be happy.