10 Ways to Enjoy Today's Spring-Like Weather

It's like this outside, but without the leaves.
As of writing, it is 62 degrees in New York City. Fahrenheit! If you aren't a numbers person, let us translate: It's comically pleasant outside. People are wearing T-shirts, dogs are going doggie jacket-less, and everyone is happy because they don't have to deal with the bleak frigidness of yet another day of harrowing winter. Things are going to cool down when the sun sets, but you still have some time to enjoy this unseasonable warmth. Here are 10 things to do outside this afternoon.

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11 Things to Be Happy About on the Most Depressing Day of the Year

Cute, sad kitten makes us happy.
If you're feeling a bit out of sorts right now, you're in good company. According to the Daily Mail, today is one of the most depressing days of the year. All sorts of things are getting us down, including the fact that many of us are back at work after a bunch of days off, plus, the economy, crime, politics, and the three-day hangover you may still be experiencing. Note: This overall glumness was confirmed by a survey of more than 13,000 British people. (American people, we suspect, are too full of ennui to take such surveys.) However, there is good news. We've compiled a list of things to make you feel better!

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Happiness Is on the Decline, at Least According to What We Tweet

Scientists from the University of Vermont have undertaken an in-depth, extremely thorough examination of the emotions of the Twitterverse, and they've found that happiness is...decreasing. In the journal PLoS ONE, they write that "a gradual downward trend" is evident over the first half of 2011, following a gradual upward trend in 2009. What does this mean? "It appears that happiness is going down," said Peter Dodds, lead author on the study. Ouch. That's a bummer. However, the researchers' methodology and learnings are fascinating.

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How Happy Is Your Subway Stop?

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The L train = happy by day, happier at night.
Making us happy today is a project called HappyStance, recent winner of Hack Day and "a mashup of Twitter geo-location API data and sentiment analysis research," reports the New York Times. Essentially, it's an app, created by Jeff Larson, Al Shaw, and Julian Burgess, with the help of Heena Ko and Erik Hinton of the New York Times, that measures the emotional mood of people riding New York City's subways day and night.

The idea behind HappyStance came from a 2009 Stanford research paper that looked at emoticons to provide "sentiment analysis" using a Bayesian Classifier. Larson thought he'd use that system to classify neighborhood blocks in New York City. Given the timing of Hack Day, Shaw suggested they do it by subway stop.

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Happy People Look Younger

Ageless, really. Sexless, too.
According to new scientific research, "happy faces" are the hardest to read for an accurate age estimate, reports MSNBC. Not only can smiles and laughs cover up (or camouflage) age wrinkles with happiness-wrinkles, smiling faces have "a halo effect," which means we think that a happy person is more attractive, younger, and more fun to hang out with. Which they pretty much are, honestly (unless they have a really annoying laugh).

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Bongo, Wayward Monkey Doll, Returns Home

In a story we have been following all too closely (thank you for your industrious reporting, New York Post!), we have learned, despite the world around us seeming to sink and wither under its own weight, that there is hope yet! And what we mean is that Bongo, the Beanie Baby monkey that sent a couple into a tailspin when they discovered him "disappeared" upon their arrival to a restaurant in Park Slope on August 1 -- leading to frighteningly global media attention for the loss -- has been reunited with owners Bonni Marcus, 47, and Jack Zinzi, 58.

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Woman's One Happiness Is Her 1,200 Pairs of Shoes

Here is something we hate at Runnin' Scared: Stereotypes. Particularly when people embody stereotypes in some desperate, transparent search for self-fulfillment, when really, they could, like, volunteer in a soup kitchen or just go get drunk and cry in their ice cream or something. Anyway! Beth Shak is an attractive 40-something who has a successful career on the professional poker circuit (and she was also on Millionaire Matchmaker, so she a) has enough money/reality TV-mojo to be on that show and b) doesn't mind the limelight.) Today she's in the New York Post talking about her ginormous shoe collection, which is described as "enough to put Carrie Bradshaw to shame."

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Fourth of July Fireworks in Time-Lapse

Fireworks in Five Seconds--NYC from John Huntington on Vimeo.

Already feeling nostalgic for the Fourth of July as you reach the end of your first day back to work? Watch this 20-second time lapse made of the sunset and Macy's fireworks over the Hudson River. It will make you long for a hamburger and a piece of pie. If you are feeling especially patriotic, we also suggest Beyoncé's version of "God Bless the USA." [Pat's Papers]

Money Can't Buy Happiness, Says Science. Except When It Can.

According to a new scientific study, the old adage bandied about by poor people -- you know, that money can't buy happiness or whatever -- is true. Freedom and personal autonomy are way more important to people feeling happy, reports the American Psychological Association, which based this finding on a sample of 420,599 people in 63 countries. Of course, how do you get freedom and personal autonomy? Well...money doesn't hurt. But, the researchers insist, "Providing individuals with more autonomy appears to be important for reducing negative psychological symptoms, relatively independent of wealth" and that "money leads to autonomy but it does not add to well-being or happiness." Doesn't that make you feel grand when you look at your paltry little bank account? [EurekAlert]

Facebook Feelings Are Contagious

Of the many powers of Facebook, one you might not have guessed is that if your friends are feeling sad or happy or cranky or whatever on Facebook, you will probably feel that way too. This is an argument for only having awesome, happy friends on Facebook, so that you can catch only awesomeness and happiness. But not too awesome or happy, because that's annoying, and makes us look bad. Anyway, a "Facebook data scientist" (obviously, there are such people) analyzed a million Facebook postings, which is likely to have had an impact upon his own mood, and found that people who used words like "happy," "hug," "sick," and "vile" (vile!) in their status updates "sparked similar emotions in later Facebook postings by their friends."

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