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IMPROVING COMMUNICATION SKILLS IN BUSINESS AND RELATIONSHIPS


Effective communication helps us better understand a person or situation, enables us to resolve differences, build trust and respect, and create environments where creative ideas, problem solving, 
affection, and caring can flourish. As simple as communication seems, many of us experience difficulties connecting successfully with others. Much of what we try to communicate—and others try to communicate to us—gets overlooked or misunderstood, which can cause conflict and frustration in both personal and professional relationships.
Fortunately, effective communication skills can be learned. Whether you’re trying to improve communication with your spouse, kids, boss, or coworkers, it’s important to listen well, recognize nonverbal communication signals, manage stress, and stay connected to your emotions.

How to reduce the most stress in the least amount of time.
The following twelve strategies are designed to help you eliminate the most stress in the least time.
Stop passing judgment. When you honk at bad drivers, get annoyed at the people who talk in the movies, or feel frustrated when a coworker impolitely interrupts, YOU are the one who suffers - NOT the person who has committed the infraction. So whenever you hear yourself thinking like a judge and jury - banish these negative thoughts from the courtroom of your mind - and you'll banish an enormous amount of stress too.Allow extra time. Time pressure is a major source of stress. Next time you snap at the kids, feel stressed in a traffic jam or get chewed out by your boss, look below the surface. Time pressure is often the culprit. To counteract this stressor, build in extra time for kids who will dawdle, for traffic that will become congested and assignments that will take longer than you think. When you take this simple advice you'll be amazed how much stress you'll circumvent.
Create a comfortable morning routine. When you start your day feeling rushed and frazzled, knowing you have more than you can possibly do in the time allotted, your stress levels will skyrocket. To avoid this unpleasant scene, make your lunch, choose your outfit and get organized the night before. Go to bed a little earlier and set your alarm a little earlier too. (30 minutes should do the trick.) Now wake up, stretch, enjoy your coffee and don't rush. But plan on getting to work at least 10 minutes early. Wait till you see how this simple strategy changes your whole day.
Take a shower at the end of the day instead of the beginning. It feels great, it helps you relax (only cuts into TV time which is not relaxing), you won't have to rush and (we promise) you won't get dirty over night. When you flip flop this activity around it will free up an extra 20-30 minutes in the morning when you need it most.
Practice genuine forgiveness. When you hold a grudge, you also hold a toxic dose of anger. You carry this anger everywhere you go, and it radiates out and affects loved ones and others for which the anger is not intended. It's a well known fact that anger can raise your blood pressure, clog your arteries and lead to heart disease. But when you really forgive people (beside cleansing your system of toxic anger) you'll be eliminating an enormous burden of stress, too. As author, Dr. Dean Ornish says: "Just about the most selfish thing you can do is to forgive other people."
Get organized. Disorganization is stressful. Clean your desk, tidy your car, organize your closets. You won't believe how much less stressed you'll be.
Only worry with a writing instrument. Take comfort in the fact that most worries never come to pass and things worth worrying about usually hit you by surprise. So force needless worries out of your mind, and only allow yourself to worry when you can make a list of what's troubling you or talk over your worries with a trusted friend.
Living in the moment. When you first wake up in the morning, do you lie there and enjoy the warmth of your bed (living in the moment) or do you worry about the day ahead? When you take a shower, do you enjoy how good the hot water feels (living in the moment) or do you think about something your boss might have said to you the day before? When you stand in a long line at the bank do you make a point to talk to person next to you (living in the moment) or do you just stand there feeling frustrated? When you go places with your children are you really there with them - talking and interacting (living in the moment) - or are you somewhere else, reliving some unpleasant interaction you had with someone else that you can never change. When we detach ourselves from our lives in this way, not only are we missing out on moments that will never come again, the places we go to in our minds are often filled with pain and suffering. We criticize ourselves. (Why can't I afford a car like that?) We nit pick. (My spouse didn't put the milk away again!) We feel guilty. (I should have spent more time at the office this week!) We worry. (What if the economy never recovers?) We get angry. (My co-worker is so rude.) And we feel resentful. (That little weasel didn't deserve a promotion.) This insane voice is the source of more stress than you can calculate. But you can turn this voice off simply by tuning into the moment (In the ways we have described in the first paragraph). Another way to turn this voice off is by engaging in activities that produce flow. Flow comes about during activities that are so gratifying and satisfying that, when you're done, you say to yourself, where did the time go? Whether it's a job you love, a hobby you really enjoy, dancing, listening to great music, or reading a great book, during periods of flow the voice in your head goes away and you fully immerse yourself in what you are doing. In a sense, living in the moment occurs automatically during these times. So whether you consciously try to live in the moment, or find activities that produce flow, either way, you will quiet the mind and eliminate an extraordinary amount of stress.
Call a friend. Your network of friends may be the most powerful stress management tool you have at your disposal. Cultivate friendships with people who can make you laugh and/or listen attentively and call them whenever you feel low.
Learn to say no. Too many volunteer activities will make you crazy. Write down five different ways to say no and practice saying them until the words roll off your tongue. Start with: Let me check my calendar and I'll get back to you.
​​Skipthe 11 O'clock news. Most news programs over-emphasize death and disaster to get you hooked. You don't need this in your head the last thing before you go to bed at night. Turn off the TV at ten and read something interesting or inspirational before you go to bed instead.
Be grateful. Make a mental list of all the things you have to be grateful for and say them to yourself before you got to bed at night. You'll be amazed at how relaxing and reassuring this little exercise can be.
HearthMath™ research gives practical stress and anger controls. Book: HearthMath™ Solutions. Experience Appreciation, Caring, Compassion and Love while concentrating on the heart and breathing through the heart.
Most people believe that stress is the result of events and circumstances they can't control, like a flat tire, a traffic jam or a missed deadline. But to a large extent it's your thinking about these that is the true source of your distress. You may not be able to control what happens to you, but you CAN control your reaction to it. Knowing this simple fact, and using some of the techniques described above will put you in the driver's seat of your life.


5 Ways to Teach Your Child Anger Management Skills

Help your child learn healthy ways to deal with angry feelings
By Amy Morin
Discipline Expert
Many child behavior problems center around kids struggling to manage their anger. Oppositional behavior, disrespect, conflict and aggression can often be decreased by helping kids learn how to handle their anger better. If you teach your child anger management skills, it will improve behavior and give your child one of the six most important life skills.
1. Differentiate Between Feelings and Behavior
Kids often have difficulty understanding the difference between angry feelings and aggressive behavior. Teach kids about feelings so they can learn to verbalize feelings of anger, frustration and disappointment. Often, feelings like sadness and hurt are masked by aggressive behavior. Teach your child how to identify and verbalize feelings instead of acting.
Also, give the message that feeling angry is okay. Anger is like any other emotion and there are times that it is appropriate to feel angry. This can help kids learn that feeling and talking about angry feelings aren’t bad.
2. Model Appropriate Anger Management Skills
It’s essential that you role model appropriate behavior to teach kids how to manage their anger. If your kids see you lose your cool, they’ll be much more likely to have trouble managing their own anger or understanding what’s appropriate and what isn’t.
Sometimes parents hide their feelings and frustrations from their kids. Although it’s good to shield kids from adult problems, they also need to see how you handle your angry feelings. Create opportunities to talk about feelings and share appropriate ways to deal with them.
Pointing out times when you feel frustrated teaches kids how to talk about feelings. When you are riding in the car, say out loud, “Wow, that makes me angry that the car in front of us didn’t stop to let those kids cross the street. But, I’m going to stop so they can cross.
Take responsibility for your behavior when you lose your cool in front of your kids. Apologize and discuss what you should have done instead. Say, “I am sorry that you had to see me yelling today when I was mad. I should have gone for a walk to cool off when I was angry instead of raising my voice.”
3. Establish Anger Rules
Most families have unofficial family rules about what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to anger. Some families don’t mind doors being slammed and voices being raised while other families may have less tolerance for such behaviors. Create written household rules that make it clear to kids what they can do when they feel angry and what sorts of behavior will result in a consequence.
Anger rules should center around behaving respectfully toward others. Kids need to learn that just because they feel angry it doesn’t give them a right to hurt anyone. Address areas such as physical aggression, name calling and destruction of property so that kids know they can’t throw things, break things or lash out verbally or physically when they’re mad.
4. Teach Healthy Ways to Manage Anger
Kids need to know appropriate ways to deal with their anger. Instead of just being told, “Don’t hit your brother,” tell them what to do when they feel frustrated. When time out is used as discipline instead of punishment kids learn to take a break on their own to help them calm down.
Kids can also benefit from learning coping skills. Teach them to take a break when they are becoming frustrated. Show them how to relax by doing something enjoyable. Also, teach problem-solving skills and help them learn how to resolve conflict peacefully. Most importantly, teach them to walk away when they are angry before they become aggressive.
5. Offer Consequences When Necessary
Kids need positive consequences when they follow the anger rules and negative consequences when they break the rules. Positive consequences are especially important for kids who usually have difficulty managing their anger. A reward system or token economy system can provide extra incentive to help them remain calm and use their skills to manage their angry feelings safely.
There needs to be immediate consequences for any aggressive behavior. Depending on your child’s age, consequences may include time out, loss of privileges, or even paying restitution by doing extra chores or loaning a toy to the victim.
It’s normal for kids to struggle to manage their anger at times but difficulty with anger can cause serious problems for some kids. If you grow concerned about your child’s behavior or anger management problems, seek professional help. A trained professional can rule out any underlying mental health problems and can offer assistance in creating a behavior management plan.



9 ways to live longer
Live healthy, live longer
Making just a few changes in your lifestyle can help you live longer.
Making just a few changes in your lifestyle can help you live longer.
A recent study found that four bad behaviors—smoking, drinking too much alcohol, not exercising, and not eating enough fruits and veggies—can hustle you into an early grave, and, in effect, age you by as many as 12 years. Fortunately, you can do something to correct these and other unhealthy behaviors. Adopt the following nine habits to keep your body looking and feeling young.
Copyright © 2014 Health Media Ventures, Inc. All rights reserved.
Don't overeat
If you want to live to 100, leaving a little bit of food on your plate may be a good idea. Author Dan Buettner, who studies longevity around the world, found that the oldest Japanese people stop eating when they are feeling only about 80% full.
St. Louis University researchers have confirmed that eating less helps you age slower; in a 2008 study they found that limiting calories lowered production of T3, a thyroid hormone that slows metabolism—and speeds up the aging process.
Get busy
Having satisfying sex two to three times per week can add as many as three years to your life. Getting busy can burn an impressive amount of calories—sometimes as much as running for 30 minutes. (Which would you rather do?)
Regular sex may also lower your blood pressure, improve your sleep, boost your immunity, and protect your heart.
Turn off the TV
Too much time in front of the boob tube can take a serious toll on your health. In fact, a 2010 study found that people who watched four or more hours a day were 46% more likely to die from any cause than people who watched less than two hours a day.
Even cutting back a little can help; each additional hour you watch increases your overall risk of dying by 11% and dying from heart disease by 18%.
Stay out of the sun
Avoiding too much sun can head off skin cancer, and it can also keep you looking young by preventing wrinkles, fine lines, and saggy skin.
It’s never too early—or too late—to add sunscreen to your daily skin-care regimen (look for an SPF of 30 or higher). And don’t focus only on your face. Sun damage spots and splotches on your chest and neck will also make you appear older.
Reach out
Research shows that you’re at greater risk of heart disease without a strong network of friends and family. Loneliness can cause inflammation, and in otherwise healthy people it can be just as dangerous as having high cholesterol or even smoking.
Loneliness seems to pose the greatest risk for elderly people, who are also prone to depression.
Drink in moderation
Women who have two or more drinks a day and men who have three or more may run into detrimental effects ranging from weight gain to relationship problems. But in smaller quantities, alcohol can actually be good for you.
A 2010 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology linked light drinking (defined as one drink a day for women and two for men) to significant heart benefits.
Eat fruits and vegetables
Getting fewer than three servings of fruits and vegetables a day can eat away at your health. Nutritional powerhouses filled with fiber and vitamins, fruits and veggies can lower your risk of heart disease by 76% and may even play a role in decreasing your risk of breast cancer.
As an added bonus, the inflammation-fighting and circulation-boosting powers of the antioxidants in fruits and veggies can banish wrinkles.
Focus on fitness
Daily exercise may be the closest thing we have to a fountain of youth. A 2008 study found that regular high-intensity exercise (such as running) can add up to four years to your life, which isn’t surprising given the positive effects working out has on your heart, mind, and metabolism.
Even moderate exercise—a quick, 30-minute walk each day, for example—can lower your risk of heart problems.
Don't smoke
Quitting smoking is perhaps the single most important thing you can do for your health—and your life span. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that women who quit smoking by age 35 add roughly six to eight years to their lives.
It’s never too late to kick the habit. Quitting can slow disease and increase survival odds even in smokers who have already caused significant damage to their lungs, like those with early lung cancer or COPD.

Playful Communication in Relationships
The Power of Laughter, Humor, and Play
Laughter has a powerful effect on your health and well-being. A good laugh relieves tension and stress, elevates mood, enhances creativity and problem-solving ability, and provides a quick energy boost. But even more importantly, laughter brings people together. Mutual laughter and play are an essential component of strong, healthy relationships. By making a conscious effort to incorporate more humor and play into your daily interactions, you can improve the quality of your love relationships—as well as your connections with co-workers, family members, and friends.
The power of laughter and play
Playful communication is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships exciting, fresh, and vital. Laughter and play enrich your interactions and give your relationships that extra zing that keeps them interesting, light, and enjoyable. This shared pleasure creates a sense of intimacy and connection—qualities that define solid, lasting relationships.
People are attracted to happy, funny individuals. Laughter draws others to you and keeps them by your side. When you laugh with one another, a positive bond is created. This bond acts as a strong buffer against stress, disagreements, and disappointment. And laughter really is contagious—just hearing laughter primes your brain to smile and join in on the fun.
Playful communication helps you:
Connect to others. Your health and happiness depend, to a large degree, on the quality of your relationships—and laughter binds people together.Smooth over differences. Using gentle humor often helps you broach sensitive subjects, resolve disagreements, and reframe problems.Feel relaxed and energized at the same time. Laughter relieves fatigue and relaxes your body, while also recharging your batteries and helping you accomplish more.Overcome problems and setbacks. A sense of humor is the key to resilience. It helps you take hardships in stride, weather disappointment, and bounce back from adversity and loss.Put things into perspective. Most situations are not as bleak as they appear to be when looked at from a playful and humorous point of view.Be more creative. Humor and playfulness loosen you up, energizing thinking and inspiring creative problem solving.

The Health Benefits of Laughter
Laughter and playfulness also come with numerous physical and mental health benefits. Laughter triggers a host of healthy changes in your brain and body.
Laughter helps you stay healthy by:
Boosting your moodDecreasing stress hormonesImproving oxygen flow to the brainReducing physical painLowering blood pressureStrengthening the immune systemProtecting the heartRelaxing your body
Mental health benefits of laughter and humor
Better Health Through Humor, Laughter, and Play
Laughter is strong medicine for both the body and the mind. It helps you stay balanced, energetic, joyful, and healthy.
The mental health benefits of laughter are tied to the physical benefits. When your body is relaxed and energized, you are better able to think and communicate clearly. This helps you keep your own emotions in check, relate in a positive way to others, and resolve conflict.
Laughter is a particularly powerful antidote to depression and anxiety. Having a sense of humor offsets depression and anxiety by:
Releasing endorphins. When you laugh, your brain releases endorphins, powerful chemicals that boost mood and override sadness and negative thoughts.Putting things into perspective. Most situations are not as bleak as they appear to be when looked at from a playful and humorous point of view.Connecting us to others. Our mental health depends, to a large degree, on the quality of our relationships—and laughter binds people together.

​USEFUL LI​NKS
Gwinnett County Courts: www.gwinnettcourts.com
Gwinnett County Sheriff: www.gwinnettcountysheriff.com
Sex Offender Registry: services.georgia.gov/gbi/gbisor/disclaim.html
State Bar of Georgia: www.gabar.org
Georgia Courts: www.georgiacourts.org


Myths and Facts about Anger
Myth: I shouldn’t “hold in” my anger. It’s healthy to vent and let it out.
Fact: While it’s true that suppressing and ignoring anger is unhealthy, venting is no better. Anger is not something you have to “let out” in an aggressive way in order to avoid blowing up. In fact, outbursts and tirades only fuel the fire and reinforce your anger problem.
Myth: Anger, aggression, and intimidation help me earn respect and get what I want.
Fact: True power doesn’t come from bullying others. People may be afraid of you, but they won’t respect you if you can’t control yourself or handle opposing viewpoints. Others will be more willing to listen to you and accommodate your needs if you communicate in a respectful way.
Myth: I can’t help myself. Anger isn’t something you can control.
Fact: You can’t always control the situation you’re in or how it makes you feel, but you can control how you express your anger. And you can express your anger without being verbally or physically abusive. Even if someone is pushing your buttons, you always have a choice about how to respond.
Myth: Anger management is about learning to suppress your anger.
Fact: Never getting angry is not a good goal. Anger is normal, and it will come out regardless of how hard you try to suppress it. Anger management is all about becoming aware of your underlying feelings and needs and developing healthier ways to manage upset. Rather than trying to suppress your anger, the goal is to express it in constructive ways.
Why learning to control your anger is important
You might think that venting your anger is healthy, that the people around you are too sensitive, that your anger is justified, or that you need to show your fury to get respect. But the truth is that anger is much more likely to damage your relationships, impair your judgment, get in the way of success, and have a negative impact on the way people see you.
Out-of-control anger hurts your physical health. Constantly operating at high levels of stress and tension is bad for your health. Chronic anger makes you more susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, a weakened immune system, insomnia, and high blood pressure.Out-of-control anger hurts your mental health. Chronic anger consumes huge amounts of mental energy and clouds your thinking, making it harder to concentrate, see the bigger picture, and enjoy life. It can also lead to stress, depression, and other mental health problems.Out-of-control anger hurts your career. Constructive criticism, creative differences, and heated debate can be healthy. But lashing out only alienates your colleagues, supervisors, or clients and erodes their respect. What’s more, a bad reputation can follow you wherever you go, making it harder and harder to get ahead.Out-of-control anger hurts your relationships with others. It causes lasting scars in the people you love most and gets in the way of your friendships and work relationships. Chronic, intense anger makes it hard for others to trust you, speak honestly, or feel comfortable—they never know what is going to set you off or what you will do. Explosive anger is especially damaging to children.

Happiness and Your Health
Find a happier and healthier you with a few simple strategies.
It's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and lose sight of what makes you happy. Really happy. But making sure your happiness meter is giving optimal readings can provide many health benefits.
Happy people have younger hearts, younger arteries, and a younger RealAge. Happy people recover more quickly from surgery, cope better with pain, have lower blood pressure, and have longer life expectancy than unhappy people.
Studies also suggest that happy people may have stronger immune systems -- they're less likely to get colds and flu viruses. And when they do, their symptoms tend to be mild.
Not surprisingly, happy people are better at looking after their health, too. When people's happiness levels improve, so do their health behaviors. They exercise more, wear sunscreen, and go for regular checkups.
How to Get There
Everyone wants to be happy, and the benefits are clearly plentiful. But the fact is that people aren't always great at predicting what will make them happy. If it's long-term happiness you're after, you may need to learn a few new tricks.
What Is Happiness?
We all know when we're happy and when we're not. But ask a roomful of people what makes them happy and you're likely to get a wide range of responses, from "watching the sunset" or "spending time with good friends" to "finding a great shoe sale" or "winning the office football pool."
Defining happiness is no simple feat.
In an effort to narrow the definition, researchers have devised a series of questionnaires to measure life satisfaction, positive mood, and subjective well-being. Some scientists are even beginning to use brain imaging to better understand the physiology of happiness. And economists have jumped on the happiness bandwagon, too, hoping to calculate the value of happiness within a sociopolitical context.
So what have they discovered? What makes for a happy life?
It's Partly Your Genes
Your level of happiness is not entirely predetermined by your genes, but genes do play a part, just as they play a part in your general health. Some researchers estimate that as much as 40% to 50% of a person's capacity for happiness may be genetically predetermined. And although that means some lucky people may start off with a greater propensity for happiness, it's no guarantee they'll lead a charmed life. Fortunately, evidence suggests that even the gloomiest of us can learn to be happier.
And learn we must. Left to our own devices, we tend to focus our energies on things that will give us the greatest instant pleasure. Even when we know better.
Test Your Happiness Know-How
Think you know the secret to happiness? Check the happiness accuracy of some of these common answers. You might be surprised.
A Massage and Pamper Day at the Spa
Aahhh,yes. A day at the spa is not only pleasurable, it's also a great de-stressor. And keeping your stress levels under control will have a positive effect on your physical and emotional well-being.
Winning a Million Dollars
Winning a million bucks will make you instantly wealthy, that's for sure. But happy? Not so much. Read on to find out why money won't buy you bliss.
Renting a Beach House for a Week with Your Closest Friends
Spending quality time with good friends is one of the key components of a happy life. And taking time off to relax will also keep your stress levels low. But don't wait for rare opportunities like this to get together with your friends.
Losing 10 Pounds
It's important to your health and happiness to maintain a healthy weight. But yo-yo dieting and lose-weight-quick scams are likely to starve you of the happiness you're after.
World Peace
A noble aspiration, but you might want to start small—setting unrealistic goals may be a happiness deterrent. Do your part for peace by getting involved with an organization that promotes nonviolent conflict resolution or another peace-promoting issue you feel strongly about. Helping others and feeling a sense of purpose in life is linked to greater happiness.
Finally Getting the Garage Organized
It may not be glamorous but it certainly is gratifying. Cleaning out the clutter and creating a usable space will give you a sense of achievement that's guaranteed to boost your well-being.
Having Superhero Powers
Superhero powers would be super cool, without a doubt. But they might cause more stress than happiness. Plus, it's never going to happen. By focusing on more attainable goals, you'll be more likely to make them come true and that will make you happy.
A Long Walk (or Run) in the Park
Physical activity is a great way to instantly increase your sense of well-being. And by incorporating exercise into your daily routine you'll be both healthier and happier in the long run.
A Sharp Rise in the Value of Your Investments
It's wise to invest in your future but not so wise to link your happiness to the stock market. Contribute emotional capital to your relationships and personal growth and you may see a steady rise in your happiness levels.
Read on to find out more about what makes people happy, what doesn't, and what you can do to live a full and happy life.
Health and Happiness
Studies show that a person's health is one of the strongest predictors of happiness. But the link between health and happiness is complex. Research shows little correlation between a person's objective health -- as defined by medical assessment -- and happiness. It's our subjective health -- how we view our health -- that affects our well-being. So is happiness all in your head?
Not necessarily. For example, adverse changes in health do have a negative impact on happiness levels, at least temporarily. Poor health has the potential to significantly affect almost every aspect of your life: your independence, your self-image, your personal relationships, your ability to work and carry out basic daily activities. So it's no surprise that when your health takes a hit, your happiness does as well.
But people are resilient. We become accustomed to new life circumstances, good or bad. We adapt. Within a month or two of an adverse health event, most people have gravitated back toward the level of happiness they enjoyed before their health took a turn for the worse.
When the change in health status is severe, however -- for example, involving chronic pain or multiple disabilities -- the impact on happiness can be long lasting.
And both physical health and emotional health influence happiness. Mood disorders diminish quality of life even more than chronic physical ailments, such as arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes.
What You Can Do
Do all that you can to maintain a healthy lifestyle and you'll be well on your way to a long life rich in happiness. Taking the RealAge Test and following your RealAge Plan can get you started.
Be your healthiest and happiest by eating a balanced diet with lots of fruit and veggies, keeping stress levels to a minimum, getting regular checkups, wearing sunscreen, laughing often, moderating alcohol intake, getting plenty of exercise, and not smoking. Your RealAge Plan will provide more personalized detail on this.
Exercise not only helps keep you healthy but also keeps you happy. In general, increasing the amount of physical activity in your life increases well-being, whether it's yoga, weight training, or daily walks around the neighborhood. One study of nearly 7,000 men and women revealed that walking, jogging, or running between 11 and 19 miles per week was optimal for improving emotional well-being. But don't overdo it or underdo it. Moderate exercise offers the biggest boost in happiness.
And if you think you may be living with a mood disorder, get it treated. Appropriate treatment can help reduce your symptoms, increase your sense of well-being, and get you back on track to a happy life.
Social Side Up
Developing your social side is crucial for well-being. Studies show that people who are socially active, who are compassionate, and who are emotionally generous have higher levels of happiness and live longer than people who lead a more solitary life.
Research also shows that people who have strong interpersonal skills rank in the highest levels of happiness,  those who are socially isolated have substantially lower levels of well-being.
Social skills are just one part of this happiness factor, though. People who maintain good personal relationships also fare better than people who are socially inactive. Open, trusting, intimate relationships are essential building blocks for a happy life.
And it isn't only receiving support that makes us happy; it's being able to give support to others as well.
Perfect Pairs
Of course, many see marriage as one of the ultimate social relationships. But studies on marriage and happiness are somewhat conflicting, and the causal relationship between the two is unclear. On average, people who are married tend to report higher levels of happiness than people who are not married. Unmarried people in committed relationships also tend to be happier than people in casual relationships.
But it's not clear if this is because people who are predisposed to being happy are more likely to marry, or because marriage itself makes people happier, or if there is still some other yet-to-be-discovered dynamic at play between marriage and happiness. Although observational studies clearly show an association between well-being and relationships, there is no evidence to prove that one causes the other.
One theory for the correlation between happiness and marriage is that, compared with married people, people who aren't married tend to experience lower levels of social approval as well as fewer financial and social benefits. These factors may play a role in the lower levels of personal well-being reported by people who are not married.
What You Can Do
When important personal relationships come to an end, it can have a lasting negative impact on happiness. So use your energies to nurture the relationships that mean the most to you. Not all relationships are meant to be, of course, and getting out of a destructive relationship can do more for your health and happiness than staying in it. But if it is within your power to make a good relationship work, you have every reason to try.
Keep all of your other personal relationships healthy, vibrant, and strong by spending quality time with friends and family. Make a standing date with the people you love -- it'll give you something to look forward to and help relieve stress levels.
And while you're appreciating the people who are already near and dear, don't forget to welcome new friendships into your life.
Happiness and the Meaningful Life
According to the founding father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, a happy life is one that is pleasurable, engaging, and meaningful. And the more engaging and meaningful, the better. Seligman suggests that people who focus their energies on leading an engaged and meaningful life are more successful at achieving lifelong happiness than those who focus on the transitory feel-goods of pleasure.
Research appears to support his theories. A recent study revealed that participants' subjective well-being was directly affected by the fulfillment they derived from the activities they spent most of their energy on, whether that was raising children, working, or volunteering. Research on aging shows that being actively involved in life is linked to increased levels of happiness.
What You Can Do
Spend more time doing what you love. Engaging in activities that are in line with your values and interests can improve your sense of well-being. If you feel as though you've lost touch with what those activities might be, think about what captivates you so entirely that you lose yourself in the moment and forget about your stress.
It's likely to be something you're good at that also provides you with a bit of a challenge or some kind of emotional reward. Some examples might be gardening, writing, painting, surfing, cycling, volunteering, or playing a musical instrument.
If you can make your activities social, all the better. Whereas personal hobbies, such as knitting, have been linked to an increase in happiness, social activities have been associated with an increase in both happiness and life expectancy.
As you focus on bringing meaning to your life, be sure to set realistic, attainable goals. People who do so report being happier than people who focus on grandiose long-term goals. Being able to realize goals that reflect your personal values and interests can help reinforce your sense of autonomy, purpose, and achievement. This has been shown to contribute significantly to overall well-being.
3 More Ways to Get Happy
1. Forget the Joneses
Social comparison is a natural part of human behavior, and it can be a healthy source of both motivation and affirmation. But taken to the extreme, social comparison can become an unhealthy, unhappy competition. Try not to compare your successes to others. Happiness researchers identify this as a key detractor to life satisfaction.
It can be especially harmful if you are making material comparisons. Some studies show that placing too much importance on material wealth can make people very unhappy.
Just as people adapt to bad situations, they also adapt to good ones. With each new pay raise or purchase, aspirations also increase. People get used to the good life. Once the initial thrill of extra income and the latest luxuries wears off, they want more. Another raise, a faster car, a bigger house.
It becomes a never-ending cycle that leaves people feeling perpetually unsatisfied.
2. Share Your Skills
Giving back to the community and helping others is linked to greater levels of happiness, particularly for people who are retired or not employed. Volunteering in your community can provide a valuable social interaction, increase your sense of purpose, and, yes, make you happier.
Check out the Network for Good Web site to search a database of volunteer organizations by zip code and area of interest.
3. Do Your Happiness Homework
Seligman and his happiness colleagues have devised and tested a number of exercises to help boost well-being. Here are several activities that have been found to be most effective:
Take note of what's good in your life. Literally. Studies show that people who spend a few minutes every evening writing down what went well each day show a significant increase in well-being.Tone-up your signature strengths. Signature strengths are the things you're really good at. Discover your signature strengths at www.authentichappiness.com. Once you know what your strengths are, try using one of them in a new way every day for a week.Give gratitude. Write a letter of thanks to someone who has been particularly good to you or has had a profound impact on your life. Once the letter is written, deliver it personally to the recipient. If your gratitude letter has a long distance to travel, call the recipient to make sure it was received and tell the person on the phone how much you appreciate his or her presence in your life.
No More Mystery
There is no mysterious magical formula that you have to follow exactly in order to achieve happiness. Happiness is a personal journey of self-discovery. What makes you happy is not necessarily the same as what makes your friend, your partner, or your son or daughter happy.
Experimenting with key happiness factors will help you find the combination that works for you. Just be sure to take stock now and then to see how your emotional health is doing. It's worth your time and attention. Not only does your health benefit from it, but there's nothing like a contented smile, a look of ease, and a few sexy laugh lines to make you look -- and feel -- years younger.
RealAge Benefit: Taking care of your emotional health and well-being can make your RealAge up to 16 years younger. what to expect from marriage counseling