Picking your own positive behavior, such as performing an act of kindness, promises to make you more likely to vary the activity, she also found.
Feeling you have social support for your actions also influences how much positive behaviors, such as expressing gratitude, will boost your happiness, she said. And gaining support through social media works as well as face-to-face "hurrahs," she added.
Commenting on the study, James Maddux, university professor emeritus of psychology at George Mason University, said he thinks "the message is, for these kinds of activities, it's not a matter of one-size-fits-all."
"You start with these general strategies," he said of behaviors such as performing kind acts. "X seems to work for most of the people most of the time."
The next focus, he agreed, is to tease out which differences in people affect the degree of happiness produced, as Lyubomirsky is doing.
Once people figure that out on an individual level, the research suggests they can expect their positive acts to repay them with even more happiness, he said.
Experts note that data and conclusions presented at meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
For more about happiness, visit the Social Psychology Network.
SOURCES: Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., professor, psychology, University of California, Riverside; James Maddux, Ph.D., university professor emeritus, department of psychology, George Mason University, Fairfax, Va.; Jan. 18, 2013, presentation, Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual meeting, New Orleans
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