We know that being healthy helps make us happier. But a new study has shown that the inverse is also true; being happy makes us healthier and even helps slow aging. The study looked at 3,000 people over the age of 60 and found that those who were happier were less likely to develop physical impairments in their everyday activities, more likely to maintain a brisk walking speed, and more likely to maintain better overall physical function. The researchers made sure to account for confounding factors such age, lifestyle, and economic level.

So the moral of the story is be happy, which is much easier said than done. Fortunately, we do have some control over how we feel. Here are some things you can do to improve your happiness—

  1. Get a Pet

    Studies have shown that pets make us happy. Specifically, they’re good for increasing feelings of belonging, meaning, and self-esteem.

  2. Get Married

    Though marriage can in some instances be a source of grief, the happiness study showed that for most seniors it is a source of joy and wellbeing.

  3. Get Thankful

    By practicing thankfulness, you realize the numerous ways in which you’re blessed. This increases contentment, which is a lasting source of happiness.

  4. Get Altruistic

    Volunteer work has been linked to longer life. Giving to others has been shown to increase happiness more than spending on oneself. Plus, altruistic behavior makes for stronger relationships.

  5. Don’t Worry About Happiness

    Ironically, focusing on happiness makes you less happy. It’s not conclusive why this is the case, but it may be because it’s the inverse of practicing thankfulness—instead of focusing on how you’re blessed, you’re focusing on what you lack, making you less content and less happy. But according to researchers, this doesn’t mean you can’t strive for happiness. You can and probably should. Just focus on the activities that make you happy, rather than on happiness itself.