With the cost of living skyrocketing, the stock market plummeting, and a recession looming, it can be pretty hard to stay optimistic these days.  Yet according to ongoing research, a positive point of view will not only help you cope with adversity, it can also keep you healthier than your pessimistic peers. A study conducted at Carnegie Mellon exposed test subjects to either rhinovirus or influenza and found that those who reported having positive emotions were less likely to succumb to illness. Additional research also suggests that happy people live longer; one long-term study of 678 people has found that those who possess an optimistic outlook are outliving the others in the study by as much as 10 years.

So how can you join the ranks of the well contented? Earlier this year, scientists at the University of Edinburgh and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia reported that happiness has a strong genetic component, but they agreed that there are steps you can take to weed out the gloom and reap some satisfaction from you life. Here are just a few:

1. Live an examined life. Make an inventory of a typical day, rate each activity on a scale of one to 10, then devise a plan to eliminate everything that ranks below at least a four. Granted, there are certain duties you can't completely rule out (ie., cleaning the cat's litter box), but you can improve the working conditions (say, by investing in a self-cleaning litter box).

2. Be who you want to be. Use that inventory to ensure that you're living the life you want to live. If every one of your daily activities rates a two or lower, you may want to consider a major overhaul of your life. A University of Wisconsin study found that women who were satisfactorily absorbed in their lives had fewer stress hormones and less markers for heart disease.

3. Engage in new activities. Once you've made room in your life for the things you've always wanted to try, seek them out. Enroll in a class at the local university, take up yoga, or do both. Numerous studies have shown that adults who constantly challenge their brains and remain physically active are less prone to dementia in their twilight years.

4. Fake it. If history has shown us anything, it's that we can delude ourselves into believing just about anything.  The next time you're overcome with frustration, anger, or anxiety, try to force yourself to laugh-and keep at it until you feel your bad mood lift. A brisk 15-minute walk or listening to a favorite song on the radio can also serve as mood boosters, according to researchers at California State University.