Happiness means different things to different people, but most of us try to fill our lives with this quality as much as possible. Of course, retailers and marketers the world over have used this basic tendency to unmercifully manipulate consumers with a promise of happiness that will come with the purchase of their products. However, everyone knows that while goods and services can certainly improve the quality of our lives, they can't really provide lasting happiness. Here are some ways that you can make yourself happier that don't cost a whole lot of money.

Board Games and Puzzles
In a world of electronic gaming, it's still fun to pull out an old board game and play it with family or friends. Monopoly, checkers, chess, Risk, Twister, Operation, Trivial Pursuit, Life and Battleship are always good for a few hours of fun once in a while. Working on a jigsaw puzzle with your family can provide a welcome break from the daily stress many people experience in life.

Although this may sound trite, numerous studies have shown that people who exercise regularly are generally happier and more relaxed than those who don't. You don't have to pay for a gym membership in order to walk, run, jog or do push ups and sit ups. Even doing heavy household chores such as digging post holes for a fence or repairing the roof can be a good way to get a little exercise.

Although you may need to part with a few cents in order to buy seeds, planting a garden can be a very satisfying endeavor. It also doesn't have to cost a lot because chances are you already have a lot of the tools you need in your shed or garage. Working with the soil can help you to reconnect with nature and decompress from a hard day at work. Of course, if you are able to reap a material harvest from your garden you will also be happy about the free, healthy produce that resulted from your efforts.

Finish Those Projects
It can be depressing at times when we think of all of those little things around the house or yard that we'd like to do that we just don't seem to be able to get around to. You can take some time to map out your family tree, create a scrapbook or frame some family photos. Even mundane tasks like organizing your basement or attic can help you feel like you have your life slightly more in order.

Start a Journal or Diary
Writing down your feelings and events can help you to organize your thinking and make connections about how events in your life affect how you feel and think. It can also allow you to unload unresolved stress and other issues onto paper and perhaps leave it there, if only for a while.

Adopt a Pet
Animal shelters are full of creatures that need a loving home. Of course, having a pet will entail some expenses. Vet bills, pet food, pet toys and other accessories do cost money, but studies have shown that people with pets often live longer and have a greater overall levels of happiness.

Read a Book
Pay a visit to your library and take advantage of the world of literature that it has available to you. Try wading into the works of Shakespeare or Milton if you're up for a challenge, but anything that gets you away from a digital electronic screen for a while can be constructive. Even the smallest library has a wide variety of books to choose from, so you should have no trouble finding something that interests you.

The Bottom Line
There are many fun activities you can partake in that are either completely free or extremely affordable. Many of these things, like adopting a pet, have been proven to increase happiness thanks to research. Some of these activities involve you taking a break by yourself, while others are a great way to spend some time with your family. As the saying goes, "the best things in life are free."

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