Gill South meets a woman who specialises in being happy and helping others spread the joy.

Today, joyologist Pat Armitstead has come to my house. Feeling a bit ignorant because you've never heard of a joyologist before? Never fear, Pat invented the word. Her argument was there's a lot of "ologists" in the world, so why not a joyologist?

This former nurse and former ad agency owner is now a radio show host and works with individuals and businesses, helping people to maintain "high states": positive states, rather than ones that deplete them.

Before we meet, Pat asks me to sit the VIA survey of Character Strengths - on the website. This takes a long time, so if you are tempted to do it set aside a good 20 minutes. You have to go through 240 questions asking your natural liking and dislike of certain things. I come out of it thinking, I know what I don't like: questionnaires.

I emerge with five key strengths. My top strength is curiosity and an interest in the world - handy for a journalist, I would have thought. Woo hoo! Chose the right occupation. Big tick. Then after that comes a love of learning and new things, again handy for a journo. There is a reason we work on different stories every week, us hacks. We have rather short attention spans ... I also have good social intelligence, it emerges, in other words I am aware of the motives and feelings of other people. And I know how to put others at ease. Oh yeah, I'm a regular ice-breaker.


Pat thinks I am already using my first three strengths pretty well in my daily life but would like to see more of my fourth strength, which, apparently, is humour and playfulness. This column is my only outlet, folks. I naturally try to see the light side of all situations, it seems. I would have been handy rallying the troops in World War II.

And my fifth strength is creativity, ingenuity and originality. Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who I am; I am never content with doing something the conventional way. Good thing I don't attempt DIY with this kind of attitude. But as it happens, I have been toying with doing some creative writing and this might be a good time to start.

A wise piece of advice from Pat, is to do what I am truly gifted at, at my best time of the day. I peak at 10am so I'll try it around then. Writing for fun may seem like an indulgence but if it's something I truly love, it is when my whole physiological body comes alive, she says.

Another useful pointer from the joyologist is that our first thought is often our best, though often we make decisions with our second or third thoughts.

Pat brings out a pack of Virtue Reflection cards. I think, "Ooh, it's just like tarot cards."

The card I pick is openness. She says I should try being more open for the week. A couple of days later I'm asked if I would like a trip to Queenstown, which involves me jumping out of a plane. I'm sorely tempted, but I am informed by my family in no uncertain terms that I'm not allowed. Well I was open to the idea, shame no one else in the family picked the openness card.

Next week:

It probably wasn't an accident I married into an Irish family. Tea is a big part of my life. But I'm going to see tea master Matt Greenwood to learn the health benefits of my favourite non-alcoholic beverage.