QUICK STEPS FOR BEING HAPPIER
- Choose happiness
- Turn off the negative self-talk.
- Surround yourself with positive people. If you can't avoid negative people in your life, treat them with compassion.
- Practice gratitude. Keep a gratitude journal and write down things you're thankful for.
- Move around. Exercise just a little bit each day for more happiness.
Finding happiness is easier said than done. We all want to be happy, but how do we do it?
Hilton Head Island resident and self-titled "happyologist" Jackie Ruka wants to show people that it might not be a cinch, but finding happiness is doable.
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The psychologist-turned-author's first book, "Get Happy and Create a Kick-Butt Life: A Creative Toolbox to Rapidly Activate the Life You Desire," is a mix of theories and steps toward becoming a happier person.
Ruka wasn't always happy. Before moving to Hilton Head in 2012, she was a West Coast workaholic cruising toward a personal meltdown. She eventually realized she had to quit her six-figure job. She began focusing on positive psychology, also known as the study of happiness.
Ruka points out in her book that happiness is a combination of ideas and action.
Mentally, we can "choose the happy road over the crappy road." Actively, we can smile instead of frown, something that actually changes the body's "vibrational energy," and we can surround ourselves with positive people.
"True happiness is contagious," Ruka said. "One happy person can affect as many as 1,000 other people."
A 2008 study from Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Diego showed that happiness spreads through social networks, "sort of like a virus," meaning that your happiness could influence the happiness of someone you've never even met.
Negativity is contagious, too, but on a much smaller scale.
As for the negative people in your life, Ruka advised compassion over avoidance.
"Most people tend to repel from negativity in order to protect themselves, and that's fine, but it doesn't mean the negativity is going to go away. Practicing compassion will generate change."
Ultimately, happiness is about finding what works for you, Ruka said. And if you have a happy place -- like sunny Hilton Head is for Ruka -- "you need to go there."
Follow reporter Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.