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5
Ways to Maximize Happiness

Just like you can train your muscles, you can train your brain for happiness.

©iStockphoto.com/aldra

Since 1937, a pool of 268 males who graduated from Harvard University have been analyzed, scrutinized, summoned and surveyed by a collection of doctors, psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, psychiatrists and physiologists. The goal of the project: to track these men throughout their lives in an effort to determine the magical formula for happiness and success. The Grant Study, as it became known, continues today after 72 years. Reams of data about the study participants are like unabridged biographies, charting overseas combat, marriages, divorces, hirings and firings. Their personality traits, whims and neuroses are diligently recorded, giving intimate glances into the innermost corners of these men's lives.

For all of the painstaking research, one of the chief things the Grant Study has proven is that you can't boil down happiness to a fixed equation. There are certain constants threaded among the profiles of the best and the brightest, such as healthy relationships and emotional buoyancy, but life simply tosses in too many variables to derive a specific algorithm for lasting happiness [source: Shenk].

Fortunately, humans are also wired for learning and growing. Just as we can physically train muscles to become tighter and stronger, we can mentally train ourselves to draw more pleasure from the mundane. This is why positive psychologists often refer to people's innate "resilience." Despite personal background and circumstances, the human spirit is surprisingly durable and malleable. Research has found that to get happier, you must tap into this potential by activating your mind and body for joy.

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