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7 Secrets to happiness

Pure bliss

True joy - not quickie mood boosts but that totally stoked mental state - boils down to these surprising essentials. Behold, your ticket to bliss.

1. You Need a Solid Core Group of Friends

Look at Carrie from Sex and the City. Through everything from Post-it Note breakups to snapped stilettos, she is generally one happy camper. Why? She has her posse. "Friendship is one of life's main joys," says David Niven, PhD, author of The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People. "Spending time with people who really know you affords you the freedom to be yourself, which increases contentment."

But you don't need to be the founding member of your own fab four to be happy. "You can have a small close-knit gang or various friends that factor into different areas of your life but aren't necessarily part of the same group," says Niven. "What matters most is that you feel open with them and they can be open with you."

Of course, establishing openness doesn't just happen. Friendships need nurturing. "In order for the relationship to grow, you have to share bits of your more private thoughts," says Niven.Maybe that means spilling your secret desire to, say, audition for American Idol. "Once you reveal more of yourself and see that these friends accept you for who you really are, you'll feel connected and therefore happier," adds Niven.

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