Look for a silver lining

light in a dark cloudy sky

I’m into week six of living life indoors with a broken ankle.

Aside from the chronic nerve pain, I’ve been surprised that I’ve been able to keep my spirits up for the most part. And in a strange way, there have been some silver linings.

I’ve started on some writing projects I never seemed to have time for.

I’ve been able to spend days home with Bentley, although he mainly just looks at me with sad, accusing eyes.

I’ve spent time on the phone catching up with friends.

For the first time ever, I’m caught up with my bills, correspondence and filing.

I’ve learned that as long as you have the right system, you can be self-sufficient and do things on your own (although I still say you can’t drink a proper cup of tea from a Yeti).

And finally, I’ve learned that even if someday I am limited in my mobility, I’ll be OK. I used to think that if I didn’t get outside every day, I would literally wither away. I now understand how some seniors choose to stay indoors where it is warm and safe during the winter months.

As I gaze out my sunroom windows on this snowy morning, I’m looking forward to my first walk in the fresh snow, but I also know now that if someday, that walk isn’t possible, I can still be happy.

This week’s #HappyAct is to look for the silver lining.

Take this simple positivity test and remember the magic number

three smiling boxes and one frowning box

What if I told you the secret to happiness and success is a line and a number?

The line is called the Losada line and the number is 2.9013 which is the ratio of positive to negative interactions you need to have to be happy and successful. Simply put, you need to have at least three positive interactions to every negative one to be happy.

The Losada line and ratio came out of a study done in 2005 by two psychologists, Marcial Losada and Barbara Fredrickson who analyzed the interactions of management teams and how successful they were. The mathematical formula they used was subsequently challenged and discredited by some experts, but many psychologists still cite their work and adopt the principles of the Losada line in sport, business, and to help individuals achieve positive mental health.

They found if teams generate more than 2.9013 positive feelings, emotions or interactions to every 1 negative feeling, emotion or interaction, the team has positive energy needed to feel good about themselves and flourish. A 5:1 ratio is a culture everyone wants to be part of. Teams below the Losada line of 2.9013 have a deteriorating culture, and at 0.73 to 1, the team culture destructs.

In another study, Dr. John Gottman looked at similar research in marriages. Gottman claims he can predict divorce with 90% accuracy by counting the number of positive versus negative interactions a couple has.

In marriage, the magic ratio is 5:1 (why the ratio is higher in marriage is an interesting question, presumably because marriage is hard and there are two individuals’ happiness at stake!)

Happy couple have at least 5 positive interactions for every negative one. You can read more about Gottman’s study and the types of positive interactions between happy couples here.

This week’s #HappyAct is to take the personal positivity test and strive to increase your personal to negative interactions to 3:1 or higher. Gottman also has a quiz on his website called “How Well Do You Know Your Partner” (note you have to provide your email address to get the results emailed to you but a summary pops up on the screen as soon as you provide your email).

And don’t worry if you score low initially on the personal positivity test. I expected to because I’m at home nursing a broken ankle right now. Think of it more as a check in with how you’re feeling, then start working towards improving your positive interactions and on a path to better mental health and happiness.

11 Best Happy Acts of 2022

Cabin on a lake

What better way to kick off a new year than a top ten list? This year I’ve I’ve chosen 11 posts for all you Spinal Tap fans out there that will hopefully inspire you to make a positive change in the year ahead, with a few fun posts thrown in “for shits and giggles”.

Happy reading and may 2023 bring joy, health and happiness.

Thoughts to live by:

#11: The end or the beginning by my President’s Choice of Husbands

#10: See past your thoughts

Great yarns and just for laughs

#9: The legend of the jacket

#8: Down east sayings to make you giggle

#7: OGs of our day

Happiness at work

#6: The key to job satisfaction in a post-pandemic world

#5: Make decisions that make you smile

Connecting with nature

#4: Explore a deserted beach featuring the haunting Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia

#3: Poem Beneath the canopy

Getting involved in your community

#2: As a blogger, you always wonder if your posts resonate with people. In June, after I posted this community success story about the Food Redistribution Warehouse in Kingston, a friend reached out to say they started volunteering there after reading my post.

And finally, before you make your New Year’s Resolutions for 2023, be sure to read

#1: The 75 Easy Challenge

Thanks to all my loyal readers who follow this blog and read my posts on Sunday mornings. If you want to subscribe to receive posts by email, just click on the three dots in the upper right-hand corner and enter your email. Here’s to many #HappyActs in the year ahead.

You’re never too old

Teenager Clare with Santa

You’re never too old to learn something new

You’re never too old to get your picture taken with Santa

You’re never too old to dance when no one is watching

You’re never too old to skinny dip

You’re never too old to snuggle

You’re never too old to listen with your heart

You’re never too old to sing loud and clear for all to hear

You’re never too old to seek out new adventures

You’re never too old to love

You’re never too old to share a smile and a laugh

You’re never too old to play

You’re never too old to believe

This week’s #HappyAct is dedicated to my father-in-law John Swinton who turns 91 tomorrow. Many happy returns.

Kind it forward

Dalai Lama quote: When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner peace and happiness

“Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are.”
– Harold S. Kushner, prominent American rabbi, and author.

Today is World Kindness Day, a day to celebrate and promote good deeds and kindness. Last week I reflected on the state of kindness in the world in “Take the high road”. This week, I’m adjuring all of us to do one #KindAct to spread happiness and kindness in the world. Here are some ideas on how you can kind it forward:

Ways to kind it forward

  1. Reach out to a friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a while.
  2. If there’s been a rift, forgive them. Apologize and be a good listener.
  3. It seems everyone is sick with some kind of cold or flu right now. Take someone who’s feeling under the weather a bowl of soup, magazine or some baked goods.
  4. Many communities right now are holding food drives for their local food bank. I spoke to our local food bank the other day and their shelves are desperately low and they anticipate higher demand with food prices soaring. South Frontenac Township is holding a food drive during the whole month of November. You can drop off items at the arena, 4432 George Street or 2490 Keeley Road.
  5. This one’s my favourite: do a random act of kindness that will make someone’s day, like buy a coffee for the next person in line or the drive-through or leave a beautiful card with an inspirational saying in a neighbour’s mailbox.
  6. Hug your family and tell them you love them.
  7. Be kind to yourself.

Kindness isn’t a day. It isn’t a single act. It defines who we are as individuals and a society and who we aspire to be.

The best way we can make the world more kind is simply engaging, listening and caring for others.

What will your act of kindness be today? More importantly, what will it be tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that? Leave a comment—I’d love to hear about how your day went.

Beneath the canopy

Forest canopy

A trail beckons
Overgrown, almost indiscernible
Leading me away from my thoughts
Between fallen branches and stumps
To the secret waterfall

Silent and barren
Still
Forlorn
Waiting for spring’s rebirth

I gaze up to the canopy above
Soft green leaves
Cradle the sky
Enfolding me in their arms
Protecting me

I stop and listen
And am rewarded
The forest reveals itself
Chattering like two old ladies on a park bench

The jays’ jeers and caws
Echo through the leafy canopy
Overpowering the faint chirps and peeps
Of warblers and songbirds

The rustling leaves dance in the wind
A lone leaf spirals downward
Swaying back and forth
Down, down
Landing gently on the forest floor

I look down
The canopy above is reflected below
A sea of scattered yellow leaves
An early surrender
To fall’s call to arms

This week’s #HappyAct is to spend some time beneath the canopy.

Editor’s note: I wrote this poem in the woods near my house. I’ve always found the woods a very peaceful place and studies show spending time in nature can be directly correlated to a person’s happiness.

I wanted to comment on a recent trend, Forest Therapy Walks. The whole idea of calling a hike in the forest a “therapy walk” makes me cringe, but nomenclature aside, I’d advise against joining a group of people. Group walks are great if you want to learn about the native species or meet new people, but if you truly want to connect with nature, explore on your own.

Forest canopy looking up
Sunlight in a forest

Make decisions that make you smile

Poster on decisions

A few months ago, I made a decision that didn’t make me smile.

The worst part was, I knew it right away. As soon as I made it, I had that sinking feeling in my gut, but I knew I needed a change, and I resolved once I had committed to a course of action, to make the most of it and apply all my energies to making it work.

Of course it was the wrong decision. The serious reservations I had going in transpired, and it took an immediate toll on my happiness.

Luckily, I was able to extricate myself from the situation and am now in a much happier place.

Sometimes the path forward isn’t always clear. But you will always discover the right path if you make decisions that make you smile.

Have a happy week…

What’s your once a day?

Lake and clouds

When life is challenging, it’s important to have an escape, something that helps take your mind off things and help you face what’s to come. For me, it’s always been swimming.

Last Saturday was a particularly difficult day. I was in Westport helping my brother-in-law. I knew it was going to be a long, stressful day. In between chores and calls, I slipped down to Westport Beach for 45-minutes and went for a long swim in Sand Lake.

The minute I splashed into the water, all the stresses and sadness began to wash away. My weary eyes concentrated on the beautiful sunshine sparkling on the water and dreamy white clouds floating up above. With each stroke, I swam away from my troubles, towards what I thought was a white buoy bobbing in the water, but on closer inspection was a very large gull. I felt cleansed, refreshed and at peace with what would come.

For my neighbour Kim, her once a day is her garden. As long as she can spend 30 minutes a day in her garden, she feels happy, balanced, ready to face what life brings.

Dave says his once a day is to look at our beautiful lake and remind himself every day how lucky we are, knowing there are so many people in the world who are not so fortunate.

What’s your once a day? Leave a comment.

The end or the beginning

Special guest blogger in sunlight

Special guest post by Dave Swinton

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the end.  How will it unfold?  How will people remember me? Will people remember me at all?

What will be my most remembered quality? Hardworking, caring, empathetic, or just a latent comedian telling lame jokes to captive family members.

I have also been thinking about some other people near and dear to me who are also thinking about the same subject.

For me it is only about retirement; for others it is a different beginning.

I am always in awe of how my father at 91 views his future as not an end but rather a new beginning. An ascension from his earthly form to something much better.

Always a deeply religious person, he sees a new beginning with my mother and all the benefits of a life deeply rooted in faith.

For me it is much simpler. Puttering around my gardens, cutting firewood with the odd day of fishing sprinkled in. Long walks with our dog and of course spending endless days travelling with my loving partner.

The point is to think less about the end of one chapter and more about the beginning of the next.

Signs of happiness

We were driving to Georgia this spring, and one of the billboard signs on the side of the highway said, “Put your positive pants on”.

I didn’t get a chance to take a picture, but it made me smile and laugh and think about all the wonderful motivational signs on happiness.

Here are some of my favourites. You can buy most of these from etsy.com or Amazon. Have a happy week!

Why limit happy to an hour
Those who say only sunshine brings happiness have never danced in the rain
Be happy sign
John Lennon quote on happiness
Irish blessing
All our visitors bring happiness, some by coming, some by going
The key to happiness is low expectations
If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!
My all-time favourite, a fridge magnet the girls gave me one year for Mother’s Day!