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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.

4. A Balance of Busy and Dead Time Is Key

Always zipping around in spaz mode without a second to spare for even a pee break is bound to take a toll on your mood. But so is idling the day away on the couch. "Overextending yourself induces stress, yet it also makes you feel productive, like you're contributing something, which is very important to happiness," says Niven. "Similarly, inactivity breeds boredom, which inspires feelings of uselessness and discontent, but lulls are vital." Essentially, all go-go-go will wipe you out, as will a solid diet of nada, but a mix of both? Bingo!

Okay, so how do you strike the perfect balance? Fill your days with stuff you love (your Tuesday-night step class) and stuff you have to do (balancing your checkbook). Just keep in mind that at the end of the day, you want to feel like "you've accomplished something but that you've also relaxed," says Niven. Of course, the toughest part for most of us is learning to let go. For you, it might be enough to vow not to dwell on work after-hours or to schedule regular vacations. Others find meditation helpful. No, you don't need to lie in the dark, chanting om for 10 hours. A quick eight minutes is all it takes, according to Victor Davich, author of 8 Minute Meditation.

To do: Start by sitting upright with your hands on your thighs, palms up. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Hold it for a two-second count, then release, letting your breath ease into its natural rhythm. Focus on keeping this concentration for the eight-minute span and you'll feel lighter instantly. Really.

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