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If these tough times are getting you down, take heart. Finding more joy and meaning in life—even when faced with difficult challenges—may be easier than you think. Brighten your outlook with these 10 simple tips.
1 of 10. 
 Find Instant Calm at Work
Frazzled at work but too busy to do anything about it?  Think again. Just four "mini-relaxation" stress management sessions (1 1/2 to 2 minutes) over the course of the day reduced work-related stress as effectively as 15-minute blocks of progressive muscle relaxation, according to a University of Connecticut study.
Try this: Find a comfortable seating position. Next, focus on your breathing, each inhalation and exhalation. Count 1 to yourself as you exhale, then 2 on your next exhale breath, and so on until you reach 5. Then start over again at 1.
2 of 10. 
Make the Most of Your Bad Mood
Complaining can be catharticas long as you go about it the right way. 
Be strategic. Direct your complaint to someone who's really interested in hearing it. Make sure it's not always to the same personshe could come to think of you as an inveterate grouser.
  • Be clear. Need to vent? Say so up front ("I just need to get this off my chestbear with me"). If your goal is to change the status quo, be sure to follow through with a new idea.
  • Be constructive. Use facts and be diplomatic. "Your mom isn't being flexible about your birthday" is better than "Your mom is always so difficult."
  • Be moderate. Choose your battles wisely; no matter how justified your complaint, too much kvetching is simply annoying.
3 of 10.
Go Ahead … Smile
Staying happy can have as powerful an impact on your physical health as avoiding cigarettes, says Dutch social scientist Ruut Veenhoven, Ph.D. He analyzed 30 past studies and found that happiness helps bolster the immune system, prevents healthy people from falling ill, and tacks on extra years of life as a result.
Try this: Feel your mood turning sour? Find quick distractions. Try activities that demand your full attention: Go to a yoga class (or a kickboxing or aerobics class, where you have to commit fully to avoid falling on your face). At the office, try calling a friend or switching on some absorbing music.
4 of 10.
Laugh: It Does a Body Good
Laughter is indeed the best medicine. Studies show that a hearty chuckle doesn’t just feels good, it can also help:
  • Boost your immunity. "T-cell antibodies, which fight infection, appear to increase with laughter, the physical response to humor,” says Steven Sultanoff, Ph.D, past president of the Association of Applied and Therapeutic Humor.
  • Improve your mood. "Wit and distressing emotions can't occupy the same mental spacelaughter can actually block out bad feelings."
  • Ease aches. "Researchers have repeatedly found that humor may increase pain tolerance."
  • Relieve stress. "Several studies show that levels of cortisol [aka the stress hormone] drop substantially in response to laughter."
  • Change your outlook. "Humor relieves negative thoughts associated with physical and emotional health problems."
 5 of 10.

Give Long-Term Depression the One-Two Punch
If you're prescribed antidepressants to combat an episode of depression, staying on them for years after symptoms ease may not be worthwhile, according to a new study. A better way to keep depression away: If symptoms have been relieved by meds, then switch to cognitive therapy, suggest the researchers. Among patients who stopped meds and tried CT, only 8 percent suffered depression again within two years. Also, consider using both tactics simultaneously; past studies have shown success with a combo regimen. However, don't stop any antidepressant drug without asking your doctor first.
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Squeeze In 20 Minutes of Exercise Once a Week
We already know that regular workouts can fight depression. Now, new research shows a single 20-minute exercise session per week is enough to reduce stress, ease anxiety, and boost happiness and energy levels, reports a new Scottish study of about 20,000 adults. Even better, the researchers discovered that almost any type of physical activityincluding house or yard work, or even a brisk walkhelped lower levels of mental distress.
7 of 10.
Speed Up Your Thoughts to Cure the Blues
Think as fast as you canracing thoughts lift the blues in minutes, says Princeton University psychologist Emily Pronin, Ph.D.
For example, when your mother-in-law is making you crazy, give yourself 30 seconds to make a list of all the ways she's been helpful to you in the pastyou'll feel better fast. (If nothing nice comes to mind, quickly jot down other ways she bugs you; speed thinking negative thoughts can still improve your mood, Pronin found.)
Researchers say rapid thinking may release feel-good neurotransmitters, or it could just be a helpful distraction.
8 of 10.
Need to Boost Your Mood? Knock Next Door
Socializing with a cheerful person in your neighborhood increases the likelihood that you'll be happymuch more so, in fact, than spending time with an upbeat sibling, found a new study.
How often you get together matters most, say the researchers: People who live within half a mile of buoyant friends increase their odds of being happy by 42 percent. If your friends live farther away (within a 2-mile radius), the chances drop to 22 percentprobably due to fewer get-togethers.
9 of 10.
Go Fishing!
Fish and foods rich in B vitamins are nutritional pick-me-ups, whether you've been diagnosed with depression or just feel down once in a while. Seafood supplies the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet; several studies have found that the more fish you eat, the less likely you are to be depressed, which is a leading cause of fatigue.
10 of 10.
Let There Be Light
Light encourages production of serotonin, the mood-regulating neurotransmitter. Insufficient exposure to light, particularly on the short days of the winter months, can lead to mild depression. Consider using a light box made especially for combating seasonal affective disorder, a condition that affects some people during the darkest days of winter. Look for one featuring blue light-emitting diodes with a peak wavelength of 470 nm, which are more effective for the circadian system and produce less glare than white-light boxes.