52 Walks in 52 Weeks

Author in front of her office ready to walkThis year, my New Year’s resolution is to take 52 walks in 52 weeks in 2018.

Let me explain.

I have many friends at work, but work is so busy, I often don’t have time to catch up with them. Occasionally, we meet for lunch, but this eats up our lunch hour and budget and adds unwanted pounds.

So here is my plan. Every week this year, I am going to invite one co-worker to walk with me for half an hour one day a week at lunch. It may be a good friend, someone I’ve met I want to get to know better, or maybe even a complete stranger.

My goals are to get in shape, save money, and stay connected with my co-workers and what’s happening in the company, which will benefit my job.

What’s your New Year’s resolution? Leave a comment. Don’t miss next week’s post on the secret to being successful at keeping resolutions.

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Top 10 Happy Acts of 2017

Happy New Year, from our family to yours

Got the post-holiday blues? Tired of winter already? Why not brighten your day by revisiting some of the best happy acts from 2017.

To inspire you in 2018

  1. Be a child genius: see what Aldous Huxley and Ron Howard have in common
  2. Always see with your heart: a tribute to a very special dog
  3. Swimming in a fish bowl: My eyes filled with tears reading this post again.

Happiness at work

  1. The rise of incivility in the workplace: fight stress and the impulse to snap back when the pressure is on at work
  2. How to be happier at work: learn three simple things you can do to up your happiness quotient in the workplace

Life on the home front

  1. Eight tips for achieving family life balance: struggling to keep up with your to do list at home? Read this post or watch Bad Moms Christmas.
  2. The most important decision you’ll ever make: a must read if you have kids.
  3. Make friends with fearsome creatures: I was surprised at the vociferous reaction to this post on snakes.

Just for giggles

9. What if your best friend was a robot? 2018 may be the year machines take over the world. We might as well make friends with them.

10. Check out my top predictions for 2017—hey at least I got one call right—my dogs did manage to get off the couch once this year before 11 a.m.

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to more happy acts and the world being a happier place in 2018.

Spread some kindness this festive season

December calendar of kindness

One of my favourite holiday traditions is the advent calendar. We have four in our house this year (no fights) and I’ve brought them into work too.

A colleague shared a different type of advent calendar at work on Friday: a December kindness calendar. You can download your printable copy at actionforhappiness.org.

Here are some of the “doors of kindness” to open up your heart this advent season:

  1. Forgive someone and look for their good points
  2. Cook an extra meal and surprise someone with it
  3. Make a card or decoration for someone special
  4. Offer hugs to your loved ones and friends
  5. Count how many people you smile at today

This week’s #HappyAct is to spread some kindness in your community by doing a good deed a day. Happy holidays.

Seven things you can do to be a child genius

One of the cool things about social media is you get a glimpse into people’s lives that you would normally never have the chance to meet.

I follow Ron Howard @RealRonHoward on Twitter. Ron recently replaced Phil Lord and Chris Miller as director of the new Hans Solo movie in production and has been posting behind the scenes photos and stories from the set. His posts are always interesting.

Anyone who has worked with Ron says the same thing about him—his childlike enthusiasm and passion for making movies is infectious. It’s almost like little Ritchie Cunningham never grew up.

To be able to retain youthful enthusiasm is a gift. To be able to share that gift with others to inspire and motivate is pure genious.

As we age, our childlike wonder wanes. We become more stuck in our ways, closed off and disillusioned by life’s challenges.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are seven things you can do to keep your childlike wonder alive:

  1. Marvel at a miracle: a snowflake, a firefly, a butterfly. Every day we are surrounded by beautiful things and creatures. Take a moment to marvel at them.
  2. Live in the present
  3. Open up to others. Start conversations. People are amazing. Learn from them.
  4. Do things you are passionate about. If you love flowers, take a course in floral arrangements. If you love to bake, develop a new recipe from scratch.
  5. Ask questions.
  6. Spend time with a child. See the world through their eyes.
  7. Take time to play

Aldous Huxley once said, “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age which means never losing your enthusiasm.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to be a child genious. Have a wonderful week.

Always see with your heart

Facebook this morning is full of images and RIP messages for a very special golden retriever: Smiley.

Smiley was born without eyes, and a rare condition that made him look like he smiled all the time. He worked as a therapy dog bringing joy and happiness to everyone he met. His owners had to put him down yesterday.

His owners posted this yesterday, “The little dog with a big heart and a grand purpose left us today at 12:30pm. In Smiley’s honour, please be kind to one another, give back, and always see with your heart.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to always see with your heart and keep smiling. RIP Smiley.

Recognize and relish the moments when you are at one with the world

famous quote about remembering momentsWe do not remember days. We remember moments.
-Cesare Pavese, Italian poet and novelist

Life is a series of moments. Of all the millions of moments we experience, there are rare sublime moments when you feel pure contentment and at peace with the world.

Two Sundays ago, I had three of these moments.

The first was early in the morning. I was walking through our sunroom to take a load of laundry to our laundry room. Grace was playing this beautiful piece on the piano called Nuvole Bianche. As the gorgeous notes from the piano danced through the air like a debutante floating across a ballroom, I looked out the window to see Bella sleeping peacefully under the almond bush. I stopped with the laundry basket still in my arms and just listened and watched. It was so peaceful and I was overcome with an immense sense of gratitude to have so many blessings in my life.

The second moment happened when I was paddling into our back lake, which by itself is a very special place since there are no cottages on it. As I paddled through the channel, I saw a lone snow goose at the end of the lake gliding peacefully across the sparkling waters. She was magnificent, and I just sat and watched for a long time before we both went our separate ways.

The third moment was after my paddle. I was swimming back towards the dock. Clare was sitting on the dock with her arms extended behind her body, her bronzed face turned upwards towards the sun and sun-kissed hair shining in the sun. Once again, a feeling of overwhelming pride and joy washed over me.

This week’s #HappyAct is to recognize and relish the moments when you feel at one with the world–for they are all too rare and fleeting.

Accept we are not in control

Comic Mind full or mindfulSpecial guest blog by Ray Dorey. You can read more of Ray’s adventures at www.storiesfromdoreyville.wordpress.com.

“The key to a happy life is to accept you are never actually in control.” – Character of Simon Masrani, Jurassic World.

I think I laughed out loud when I first heard this. I’d always believed the polar opposite. But as I’ve come to learn, these words from a fictional movie about a dinosaur park couldn’t ring more true.

I have somewhat of an obsession with “to do” lists – summaries both personal and professional, detailing all of my goals and tasks for a given period of time.

In my job, I have every day of the week planned nearly down to the minute. All meetings and objectives are scheduled to optimize efficiency and ensure completion.

And whether personally or professionally, I had always at least partially measured my success by how many of the items on my list were completed in the time I had prescribed.

But as we all know, life often doesn’t care about our tidy lists. It can be so easy for our plans to fall off the rails, and that can lead quickly to frustration – and possibly anxiety if we allow it.

I’ve learned that what is far more important than measuring ourselves strictly to planned objectives, is how we choose to react to the inevitable surprises and challenges that get interjected without notice or reason.

The past two years have been especially challenging for me personally. I’ve suffered multiple retinal detachments in both of my eyes, requiring surgery and extended recovery periods. In an instant, all of my immediate plans were abruptly pushed to the side, and longer-term plans became a complete blur (pardon the pun).

But my recent health issues have also strangely been among the most positive things to happen to me. Throughout seemingly endless visits to my ophthalmologist, I encountered and empathized with many others fighting their own vision issues, from the very young to the elderly.

My experience has taught me patience, perspective, and what is truly important in life. During recovery, when I couldn’t do much but keep my head down and stare straight at the floor, I would write (using my one good eye of course). I’d often scribe summaries of everything I was grateful for – from my parents, siblings, and faithful canine companion, to the air I breathe. It didn’t take long to fill at least a page and a half every time.

I watched a documentary recently about mindfulness, the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment. Participants at a weekend retreat were first required to purge distractions including leaving their smart phones in their rooms. Two of the exercises stood out. In the first, attendees simply walked across a room. But they did so very slowly, and were encouraged to be mindful of every step, including awareness of the position of their body and the feel of their feet on the floor. In the second exercise, participants ate a quiet meal, chewing slowly and focusing carefully on the taste and texture of every bite. On the surface, both exercises appeared ridiculous, but I understood the lessons they were meant to teach – to concentrate on the here and now and truly savour each precious moment.

I now follow a couple of Twitter feeds to provide daily reminders to slow down and value each moment. Buddha Quotes (@ByBuddha) and Daily Zen (@dailyzen).

As I write, I often glance at my dog, sleeping peacefully on the couch. I envy her, for I doubt she ever worries about the future. If she could write, her daily “to do” list would most likely be limited to four core activities: eat, drink, play and sleep. Not in any particular order, and just responding to needs and wants from one “now” to the next.

At the risk of oversimplifying, we really need to learn to “go with the flow.” There’s no problem in trying to maintain control – we all have responsibilities that we must try and manage. Just be cognizant of the fact that challenge lies around every corner, and we must be mentally prepared – and conditioned – to cope.

This week’s #HappyAct is to focus on the present moment. Every minute you spend worrying about future events robs you of your enjoyment of the here and now. Practiced mindfulness can easily lead to deliberate happiness.