11/09/2007 09:13 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Looking for a Way to be Happier AND Smarter?

Try idle chit-chat. It's as effective as crossword puzzles.

One of the key points about happiness is that having strong social bonds is a critical - probably THE critical - element of a happy life.

Over and over, studies show that relationships with other people make us happy. The more friends we have, the more likely we are to be happy. Even short interactions with other people boost mood--and this is true, surprisingly, even for introverts. It's really important to work on your connections with other people.

Now it turns out that talking to other people not only makes you happier, it improves your memory and intellectual performance, as shown by a recent study.

So if you ever feel guilty spending ten minutes in idle conversation with a colleague or for talking on the phone with a friend, now you can chalk it up to brain exercise. It will make you happier AND smarter.

If you'd like to read more about happiness, check out Gretchen's daily blog, The Happiness Project, and join the Happiness Project group on Facebook to swap ideas.