The Secrets to Being Happy

- This is Terra McVoy's 10th year working The Little Shop of Stories on the Decatur Square.And even in the holiday retail hustle, she's smiling, glad to be here, believing you get what you give.

She projects happiness.  It’s good for business.  But, it’s also ingrained in McVoy’s personality.

"No matter how, if I have been here all day.  No matter how stressed I am, every person who comes in here, it could be their first time here.” McVoy says.  “And we want to make sure they feel positive and happy while they're here at the bookstore."

Because McVoy sees happiness as a choice.  Her choice.

"If you focus mainly on the negative of your life, that's what you're going to see,” she says. “And everybody has both positives and negatives in their life."

Research shows her “choose your attitude” approach works.  The Harvard Grant Study looked at the traits happy people share.   It followed more than 250 male graduates for 75 years.   One key finding?  Happy people are happy because, like McVoy, they choose happiness.

"What is really interesting is I think happiness is a choice, optimism is a choice, being positive is a choice,” says Emory internist Dr. Sharon Bergquist.  “It can be learned."

Meaning, Bergquist says, that we can all be happier.  But it takes a little work.

Bergquist says the Harvard study shows he clearest path to happiness is to love the one you're with.  Happy people focus their energy on building strong relationships with their spouses, partners, friends and siblings.

"It has to be quality relationships,” Bergquist says. “So, it has to be people you enjoy being with, people you care about. People you trust."

And there’s one more trait happy people share.  Researchers say they take care of themselves, intheir careers, their finances and savings, and in paying attention to their health as the get older.

"So they're the ones that are going to get their mammogram, get their colonoscopy,” says Dr. Bergquist. “They're the ones that are going to exercise, they're going to eat better."

Terra McVoy knows life is not perfect.  But, to her, it's pretty sweet.

"It really is a choice of whether or not you want to see your life as a gift, one that you want to meet with open arms and a smile every day, or one that you want to see as a curse." she says.

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