The Science of Happiness part 4: the twenty minute rule

Sitting infographic

I firmly believe the greatest risk to my physical and mental health right now is the amount I sit.

The negative health effects of sitting have been known for some time, but stole headlines a few years ago when James Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic coined the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” and said “the chair is out to kill us” in an interview with the LA Times.

It’s estimated that in North America, half of our waking hours are spent sitting down. “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death,” says Levine.

The harmful physical effects of sitting are well known. Sitting or lying down for too long increases your risk of obesity, chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers and can shorten your life span.

What was even more startling as I researched this was learning that getting the recommended 30-60 minutes of exercise a day won’t help. You can’t offset 10 hours of stillness with one hour of exercise.

Here’s the science behind it. Metabolism slows down 90 percent after 30 minutes of sitting. The enzymes that move the bad fat from your arteries to your muscles, where it can get burned off, slow down. The muscles in your lower body are turned off. After two hours, good cholesterol drops 20 percent.

And that’s only half of it. Sitting too much also has an impact on your mental health.

Dr. Alan Schlechter, a professor on the science of happiness at New York University says the way we tell our brain to grow is to move. We are meant to move, and when we sit down for more than 20 minutes, our body and brains shut down.

There is one simple solution to fighting the chair. Get up and move every twenty minutes.

As one expert said, “Just getting up for five minutes is going to get things going again. These things are so simple they’re almost stupid.”

This week, I’m taking up my armrests and fighting the chair in the interests of my own physical and mental health. I’m going to start booking walking meetings at work, move around more, take the stairs, watch less TV at night and get up and move every 20 minutes. Who’s with me?

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What will matter

Author's mother in her wedding dress
It’s Mother’s Day, so this week I’m going to give myself the morning off and share words of wisdom that have resonated with me over the years about life and happiness. It’s a poem from Michael Josephson called What will matter.

What will matter
Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.
There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten
will pass to someone else.

Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations
and jealousies will finally disappear.

So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won’t matter where you came from
or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end.

It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.
Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.
So what will matter?
How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought
but what you built, not what you got but what you gave.

What will matter is not your success
but your significance.

What will matter is not what you learned
but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity,
compassion, courage, or sacrifice
that enriched, empowered or encouraged others
to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence
but your character.

What will matter is not how many people you knew,
but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.

What will matter is not your memories
but the memories that live in those who loved you.

What will matter is how long you will be remembered,
by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident.
It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.

Choose to live a life that matters.

This week’s #HappyAct is to choose a life that matters. For the photo for this week’s blog, I chose a photo of my Mom who has been gone for 35 years now. She led a small life, but definitely a life that mattered.

Happy trails

Girl at trailhead

Eastern Ontario is a hiker’s and biker’s paradise thanks to the miles of abandoned rail beds that have been converted into trails.

A couple of weeks ago, Clare and I hiked a new portion of the trail. We started in Harrowsmith, which is the junction of the K&P Trail and Cataraqui Trail. It was a windy spring day, and the fur of our great Pyrenees Bella shimmered and rippled in the breeze like the rushes in the neighbouring wetlands. It was a great day to get out, enjoy the spring sunshine, clear our heads and get some exercise.

Dog in breeze

The Kingston and Pembroke trail was an old railway that ran from Kingston Renfrew. It was abandoned by Canadian Pacific Railway between 1962 and 1986 before being taken over by the City of Kingston and Township of South Frontenac. Most of the trail is now complete up to Sharbot Lake, except for a small stretch near Tichborne.

The Cataraqui Trail is 104 kms long and was the rail line operated by Canadian National. The 78.2 km section from Smiths Falls to Harrowsmith is part of the Trans Canada Trail. Harrowsmith is an excellent starting point since the two trails connect there with four different routes to hike.

We watched ducks and geese in the marshes, saw baby cows in the farmer’s fields and ate lunch overlooking a beautiful vista.

I’m always surprised how many people in Kingston don’t venture north of the city. This week’s #HappyAct is to get out and discover the beautiful trails north of the city. And best of all, it’s free!

Signpost on the K&P Trail

Happiness comes in waves

Sign about happiness

I came upon this sign last week on Broadway on the Beach in Myrtle. It said happiness comes in waves.

It was for some surf shop, but I thought it was very true. Happiness comes in waves. Some days the surf is calm, and you wade easily through the still waters. Other days moments of sadness or happiness wash over you like crests of a wave, all part of the normal ebb and flow of life.

When this happens, you just need to ride the wave.

My #HappyAct this week was literally riding the waves. The kids bought mini surf boards in Myrtle, so we spent the week body surfing—so much fun!

 

Just don’t call me late for dinner

Family eating at potluckCall it a potluck, call it a smorgasborg, call it what you will, just don’t call me late for dinner.

Last weekend, our Frontenac Fury Girls Hockey Association held our annual hockey banquet and potluck.

It’s always a nice way to mark the end of the hockey season, recognize the girls’ achievements and share some laughs before all the hockey families hang up our sticks for the season.

But just like our girls would have going into any big game, it’s important to have a strategy when the pot drops at a potluck. Here are a few tips from a seasoned veteran in the line-up.

  • Always get in line before the biggest guy in the room
  • Scan the venue and your competition to scope out the best grub
  • Don’t fill your plate with too many salads or bread—save room for the main event
  • Enjoy the small talk during the intermissions between refills
  • Never take the last meatball or you may wind up in the penalty box
  • Unlike hockey, icing is a good thing at a potluck
  • When it comes to dessert, go for a hat trick
  • And make sure you give thanks for the big, warm extended family you’re breaking bread with

This week’s #HappyAct is to plan a potluck or smorgasborg and enjoy! And congratulations and thanks to all the Frontenac Fury teams and families for another fun, successful year. We’ll see you in the fall!Plate full of food

Potluck kitchen

Hockey families at banquet

It’s time to jump in the lake—the Leafs are in the playoffs

We live in great white north eh, where we sip syrup and play hockey. Before we learn to walk we learn to cross check properly.

Hey B.Rich, got a newsflash for you bud, it’s time to break out your swimming trunks. The Leafs are in the playoffs.

For the next eight weeks, it will be all hockey, all the time, and while we’re polite and live in a land where there’s ice six months of the year, eh, we’re not as nice on the ice.

This week’s #HappyAct is to cheer on our Canadian teams during round one. Let’s show the fellers down south a cross check or two. G’day eh.

For inspiration, make sure you watch B.Rich’s TSN Sports Centre video.

Special shout out to Mike Smith on his shutout in game 1 for Calgary. On Coaches’ Corner last night Don Cherry said he was from Kingston, but he’s actually a good ol’ Verona boy. I saw his Mom out for a rip the other night walking the dog. And B.Rich is a good ol’ Tamworth boy. Guess all the best things come from north of Kingston in the great white north.

Carolina on my mind

Palm trees at sunset

When the snow finally melts, my thoughts turn to the warm breezes of the Carolinas and just like James Taylor, I’m gone to Carolina in my mind.

For the past several years, the Carolinas have been our “go to” vacation destination in April. We’ve explored Kure and Carolina Beach, Kill Devil Hills, the Outer Banks, Beaufort and Savannah.

The Carolinas have a way of luring you into their rhythm. At first, it’s the palm trees, warm air and soft, sandy beaches that entrance you. But as each day passes, you succumb further to the beauty and relaxed vibe of beach life until you have officially become a beach bum. You pass the days watching dolphins and pelicans dart in the waves, letting the ocean sand and waters tickle your feet and eating fresh seafood al fresco at places with names like Bonzer Shack with surfboards on the wall.

Can’t you see the sunshine. Can’t you just feel the moonshine? I think I may have heard the highway call. Yes, I’m gone to Carolina in my mind. Here are pictures from some of our last vacations.

Ed. Note. James Taylor, a native of North Carolina wrote Carolina on my mind more than 50 years ago in 1968 when he was overseas recording for the Beatles’ label Apple Records in London, England and was homesick. It has become the unofficial anthem of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is played at athletic events and pep rallies and sung by the graduating class at every university commencement.

Father and daughter on patio

Storm over North Carolina beach

 

Family at Kitty Hawk Memorial
Kitty Hawk Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina