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Mark Berber, a Toronto psychiatrist, uses happiness therapy in his 30-year practice to rally patients with often debilitating mental-health disorders ranging from anxiety to severe depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

March 20 is the United Nations' second-annual International Day of Happiness, established to promote the theory that cheerfulness improves mental and physical wellness and also fosters economic prosperity.

Berber, who is based at Ontario's Markham Stouffville Hospital, says happiness comes down to nurturing a subjective sense of well-being.

Here are his tips to happiness:

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Nurture healthy relationships

"Married men and women are happiest,” asserts Berber. “If you’re in an unhappy marriage you shouldn’t stay in it. People in unhappy marriages have a much higher risk of depression, increased risk of high blood pressure, and women in particular have a greater probability of heart disease.”
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Pet-owners are generally happier, less lonely

“Support from a pet is equivalent to support you get from parents and siblings. The one-year mortality rate following a heart attack is 1 per cent with a pet, and 7 per cent with no pet.”
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Say thank you and be thankful

"Be aware of kind acts from others and don’t take people for granted,” he says.
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Be kind. Be a volunteer

“It links you with people, and nurturing all your relationships makes you happier.”
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Forgive and let go

“A lot of people have bad things happen in their lives.… Let go and move on.”
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Exercise

“Physical activity improves your mood, reduces your anxiety and increases longevity.”

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Find meaning and engagement in your life

“Live in the moment. We’re too focused on what will happen tomorrow. Don’t put off your happiness until tomorrow.”
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