Can You Really Think Happier?

Your attitude may hold the key to your mood.

Ever wonder why some people manage to smile even when it's raining on their proverbial parade?

What is it that sets them apart and allows them to live that way?

We've been asking people around the world what qualities are important in living a full life, and nearly 30 percent of all those who've responded say that "attitude" is what allows people to live their best lives. It's by far the No. 1 response. In other words, nearly one in three people who took this quiz believe that the key to happiness lies in your own hands.

What is attitude, after all, but the way in which you deal with the things that happen to you, good and bad?

And so we wanted to know: What other aspects of happiness are within our control? Wide-ranging research tells us that we play a much greater role in our own happiness and well-being than you might expect. Read on to learn how.

How Happy Are You? Thank — or Blame — Your Genes

According to a study featured in the book The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky, 50 percent of our happiness is determined by genes and 10 percent by circumstances. That leaves 40 percent within our power to change. According to Lyubomirsky, even naturally content people work at building happiness. So, if unhappiness is in your DNA, don't fret — you can make happiness happen. Try picking up some habits from those who are genuinely happy. For instance, seek out new adventures and experiences.

Want to Lift Your Spirits? Start Counting Your Blessings

A study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that regularly expressing gratitude could increase positive emotions and mood, and even sustain happiness over time. Participants in the study who regularly reflected on what they were grateful for demonstrated more happiness than those who didn't take time to count their blessings.

Tired of Being Stressed Out? Change Your Point of View

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that simply viewing stress as a good thing can reduce its negative effects on your health – and even energize and motivate you. Data from the 29,000 study participants found that those who took stress in stride were healthier.

'Helper's High' is the Gift that Keeps on Giving

American author Mark Twain said, "The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer somebody else up." According to research conducted at the University of Oregon, he may have been on to something. Researchers found that charitable giving activates pleasure centers in the brain — similar to when we receive gifts — producing what is known as a "Helper's High." Try it; helping others may leave you smiling.

Move Your Body — Give Stress the Boot

Numerous studies show the benefits of physical activity on overall well-being. Exercise can reduce stress, improve mood and could help your immune system fight off illnesses. Feeling overwhelmed? Grab your sneakers and leave stress in the dust.

A number of happiness factors are within your control. On your next "rainy day," take a minute to count your blessings. With a change in attitude, you may enhance your own happiness and end up smiling, after all.