A woman with a pretty smile(Photo: Courtesy of Essence)

What if we told you that you have more control over your state of mind than you think -- and that while joy may come in the morning, it could also come in this very moment? If you're like many people, you've tied your happiness to the ifs and whens of the future: When the economy picks up. When I lose a few pounds. When I find love. When Barack Obama gets reelected. Here are ten steps to help you achieve happiness right now.


In chick flicks, there's always a rival out to steal the heroine's joy, but in real life, you're more likely to sabotage your own happiness simply by having unrealistic expectations of what it should look and feel like. Researchers have found that when people put pressure on themselves to feel blissful, they end up disappointed. Rather than viewing happiness as a goal you barrel toward, think of it as a by-product of feeling that your life is meaningful.


People who focus on good past experiences and reinterpret negative ones in a more pleasant light tend to be happier. "Counting blessings doesn't mean you have to be naive," says Chris Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan. The world can be cruel and you shouldn't deny the terrible things that may have happened, but the world can also be wondrous. It's up to you to decide on which truth to dwell.


Studies have shown that once basic needs are met, the amount of cash we have doesn't affect how content we feel. But there's a difference between spending money buying "things" versus spending money on people or activities. Cornell University researchers found that shelling out for an experience, such as a vacation, improved well-being.


Researchers coined the phrase "helper's high" after surveying more than 3,000 volunteers and finding that 95 percent felt healthier after charity work. And while giving money boosts happiness, too, face-to-face interactions have a greater impact because they allow individuals to engage more fully.