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Acts of Kindness Can Make You Happier
Date:1/24/2013

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Performing small acts of kindness and gratitude can make people happier, researchers believe, but how this occurs is more of a puzzle.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, has studied happiness for more than 20 years. She and others know that positive activities boost positive emotions, thoughts and behavior, in turn improving well-being.

Now, how people can deliberately change their thinking and practices to bliss out to the max is her focus.

"I have evidence that the dosage of an activity is important," she said.

Reviewing past studies on happiness, including some of her own research, Lyubomirsky concluded there is no single prescription for happiness-boosting acts of kindness.

Variety, frequency and motivation all play a role, she said.

How often you perform the behaviors influences happiness, Lyubomirsky found, but not always in the way you may think. Studying the effect of counting your blessings on happiness, for instance, she found doing so once a week was ideal for making people happier.

"Doing it three times a week gave no extra benefit," she said.

Her research, presented at the recent annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in New Orleans, found that performing other positive acts once a week led to the most happiness. That could be because many routines, such as worshipping and even TV, occur weekly, she said.

Performing a variety of kind and grateful behaviors helps maximize happiness, too, whereas repeatedly doing the same act of kindness may lose its ability to boost happiness, she said.

"We did one study where we had people do acts of kindness over 10 weeks," she said. The acts could be similar or varied. For instance, someone who usually refused to take out the trash might offer to do so. That made th
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