You’ve got a friend

Author and her best friend

There are no words to describe the comfort of a friend. Friends console us when we’re down. They are a sympathetic ear when troubles weigh heavy on your heart and the first person to say I believe in you. You will overcome this.

They share in life’s joys, sorrows and celebrations. They are the person you turn to when you need a hug, or someone to listen without judgement, or just want to share a laugh or what’s on your mind. They love you unconditionally, warts and all. Without them, we’d be lost.  

It’s a scientific fact that having one good friend has a significant impact on happiness. It’s not surprising having a friend increases your happiness in good times, but it’s been proven that having a friend is critical during times of stress when you need help.

In his New York University course The Science of Happiness, Dr. Alan Schlechter lectures about the “tend and befriend” response. The cousin to the fight or flight response, the tend and befriend response is when the hormone oxytocin, induced by stress tells us to reach out for help. When we reach out to a friend, our cortisone level goes down and we feel better.

They say you’re lucky to have at least one true friend in your lifetime. I’ve been fortunate enough to have two, my best friend Leslie and my husband Dave. Thanks for being my rock, guys. I love you both.

This week’s #HappyAct is to tell your best friend how much they mean to you.

Author and her other best friend, her husband

Listen to a happiness podcast

happiness podcasts poster

There’s a not-so-new craze sweeping the nation, and all it takes is a device and twenty minutes of your time.

It seems everybody these days is listening to podcasts. According to buzzsprout, 9 million Canadian adults listen to podcasts every month.

There are literally dozens of podcasts on happiness. This FeedSpot blog lists 80 of the most popular ones or check out Oprah’s top 16 picks.

I’d recommend the Ten Percent Happier podcast with Dan Harris. You may know Harris as the ABC news anchor who had a panic attack live on Good Morning America. He turned to meditation and started his podcast, which discusses the benefits of meditation on happiness and explores happiness in the context of current events.

On his most recent podcast, “The Upside of Apocalypse” Buddhist minister, author and activist Lama Rod Owens talks about the benefits of having an existing practice in times of heightened anxiety, the obstacles to empathy in the world right now and social erosion caused by the pandemic.

This week’s #HappyAct is to listen to a podcast on happiness on this International Day of Happiness. What’s your favourite podcast? Leave a comment.

See past your thoughts

Dog walking in the woods

Have you ever gone for a walk or a drive, and arrived not remembering anything you’ve seen along the way because you were so lost in your thoughts?

It happens to me more than I would like to admit.

I’m conscious of it now, so when it happens, I stop in mid-stride if I’m walking, scold my brain, and start looking at the world around me. I make a conscious effort to be in the moment, listen to the wind in the trees, the birds, see the snow glistening on the pines and just take it all in.

It’s easy to become prisoners of our thoughts. It’s hard work to see past them.

1,000 days

People wearing masks in 1918 in California

Very early on in the pandemic, an older caretaker of a church told Dave, “It will be a 1,000 days, every pandemic takes a 1,000 days.”

The Spanish flu lasted from February 1918 to April 1920. The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic on March 11, 2020. By my count, we are at 675 days which means we have about 10 months left of living with COVID.

For the first time in almost two years, I am quietly optimistic we are beginning to see the light at the end of the COVID tunnel.

Early on, the other catchphrase was herd immunity. The pandemic will subside when a large proportion of the population has either contracted the disease or developed enough antibodies through vaccines to protect themselves from contracting the disease. With the highly contagious Omicron variant, we are now seeing herd immunity in action.

This week’s #HappyAct is to allow yourself to hope. Stay strong during these last few critical weeks and months and let’s all continue doing what we need to do to support our beleaguered healthcare workers who have been the real heroes on the front lines.

I choose to hope the end is near, and I for one, can’t wait to see what’s on the other side.

Ed. Note: This post is not based on any scientific evidence. Please take it as it’s intended, hopeful musings that brighter days lay ahead.

The 75 Easy Challenge

Bentley the dog ready for his 75 Easy Challenge
Bentley ready to take up his 75 Easy Challenge

You may have heard about the 75 Hard challenge that’s taken over TikTok and the internet. Created by fitness guru Andy Frisella, it’s a challenge that is supposed to toughen you up mentally and physically. He calls it “ironman for your brain”. The challenge involves doing five things for 75 days straight:

  1. Drink 3-4 litres of water a day 
  2. Follow a diet with no cheat meals or alcohol
  3. Workout twice a day for 45 minutes, and one of the workouts must be done outdoors 
  4. Read 10 pages of a non-fiction or self-help book each day
  5. Take a progress picture each day

We were talking about the challenge in the car yesterday, and I said, “that’s way too hard and life’s challenging enough right now, I’d rather do a 75-day easy challenge”. Here’s what our 75 Easy challenge would look like:

Laurie’s 75 Easy challenge

  1. Drink two glasses of wine two days a week, one white, one red
  2. Complete one puzzle
  3. Read the newspapers and actually get moving before 10 a.m. on the weekends (shoot, I guess I’ll have to start the challenge tomorrow)
  4. Walk from my home office to the kitchen fridge and back at least twice a day
  5. Wear something other than slippers and leggings at least once a week

Dave’s 75 Easy challenge

  1. Ice fish twice a week
  2. Pet Bentley 10 times a day, including once on the belly
  3. Read 30 pages of either John Sandford, Wilbur Smith or Ken Follett a night
  4. Drink one bottle of Baileys or Cabot Trail maple cream, with or without coffee
  5. Bring his minnows in every night so they don’t freeze on the front porch (to help with #1)

Clare’s 75 Easy challenge

  1. Eat two Mr. Noodles a day, one small bowl and one large bowl
  2. Limit her screen time on her phone to less than four hours per day
  3. Wear an actual winter coat each time she leaves the house
  4. Watch at least one hour of Netflix or DisneyPlus a night
  5. Clean up after herself in the kitchen at least once a week (again, see #1)  

Grace’s 75 Easy challenge

  1. Keep her voice down to under 100 decibels when talking on the phone late at night
  2. Journal every day
  3. Write and re-write her study schedule daily
  4. Pick two items of clothing up off of her floor each day
  5. Learn one new song on the guitar each week

Bentley’s 75 Easy challenge

  1. Chase the squirrels from the bird feeders twice a day
  2. Sleep on one couch at least once every night
  3. Eat two dog treats a day without trying to slobber
  4. Actually come when my humans call, “Come, Bentley”
  5. Bark for only 10 minutes a night on the front porch at absolutely nothing

There you have it. Hey, at least we’ll feel good when we’re all successful at the end of the 75 days. This week’s #HappyAct is to make up your own 75 Hard or Easy Challenge. What will it be? Leave a comment.

Find meaning behind the words this season

Sign with words hope, peace, joy and love

Peace and goodwill. Comfort and joy.

You hear these words everywhere you go this time of year, in holiday cards, in songs, in greetings and on signs.

I noticed a slight variation this week on my favourite church sign. It said, “Wishing you peace, joy, happiness and strength”.

Strength. It was an interesting choice of words. Yes, more than anything right now, we need strength and resilience.

This week’s #HappyAct is to find meaning behind the words this holiday season.

May you experience,

Kindness and generosity of spirit
Love and laughter
The comfort of warm food and fond memories
Precious time to reflect and recharge
Moments of happiness and joy
And strength and acceptance to bring you peace this holiday season

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas.

Don’t miss next week’s special year-end edition of Top 10 Happy Acts, my favourite blog posts to help you get through another COVID winter.

And to the stranger who showed generosity of spirit and bought our hot chocolates at the McDonald’s drive-through in Kingston last Wednesday, thank you for paying it forward! We reciprocated and hope the person behind us enjoyed their McHappy Meal and chocolate shake.

Believe in the illusion

Daughter Grace with a drink

Last weekend, Clare had a hockey tournament in Barrie. It was supposed to be a fun-filled family weekend of shopping, eating out, spending time with her team and celebrating Grace’s birthday since my baby turned 19 last week.

It was probably one of our worst family weekends ever.

Clare woke up the Friday morning with a stuffy nose, claiming it was allergies. After 5-6 hours of driving, it had developed into a full-fledged head cold. She was miserable. Grace was upset because her big birthday weekend was ruined and we spent the next 24 hours in the car or hotel room yelling at each other or sulking before turning around and driving home the next day.

There was one shining moment during that wash of a weekend. After buying drive-through Wendy’s for Clare to eat in the hotel room by herself, Dave and I did take Grace out for a nice birthday dinner at Milestones. We bought her first drink: a bellini.

If you saw any of my posts on Facebook last weekend, you’d never know our weekend was such a bust. You’d see a funny video of the kids acting silly during the car ride, a picture of Grace smiling at the restaurant with her bellini, and the pathetic Santa display in the lobby of our crappy hotel that made us laugh.

That’s the beauty of Facebook, social media and our memories. Ten years from now, we may look back on those posts and only remember those happy moments, not the tears, fighting and miserable parts of the weekend.

Not a bad thing, really.

This week’s #HappyAct is to believe in the illusion. Tis the season of believing, after all, and who knows, someday, at least in our minds and memories, it may become the truth.

I’m an Eeyore and I’m OK with that

Eeyore

When it comes to work, I’m an Eeyore, and I’m OK with that.

When someone proposes a new idea, I immediately begin to think of all the problems or things that would prevent it from succeeding. It’s not that I don’t support the idea, most times I do, but my brain kicks into logistical overload and I think through all the obstacles and challenges that would need to be overcome to make it happen.

It’s a blessing and curse…especially when you’re known as the happy act blogger.

But I’ve come to embrace my Eeyore and I believe it has helped me in my communications work.

It allows me to anticipate problems, think things through, and make better decisions.

It has helped me to develop emotional intelligence and a risk lens, so when the time comes to execute, we’ve done a good job planning and preparing for most contingencies.

It has also helped me to accept the things I cannot change, courage to try to change the things I can, even if I haven’t mastered the wisdom to know the difference.

Dan Rockwell in his Leadership Freak blog says you can be negative and still succeed. Overly optimistic leaders minimize challenges, fail to anticipate problems and are more likely to throw in the towel when success doesn’t happen quickly.

Being optimistic is great, but blind optimism is dangerous.

This week’s #HappyAct is to embrace your Eeyore but never lose the faith.

Serenity prayer

The missing ingredient in remote work

Work desk

The debate on the future of work rages on (you can read about my vision for it here). This fall, many companies announced they would start bringing people back in the office. With a fourth wave of the pandemic underway, many of those same companies have deferred their plans indefinitely, making remote work here to stay.

For those of us toiling away in our bedrooms and basements, we’ve had plenty of time to contemplate what’s missing in remote work.

The prevailing wisdom is what’s missing from remote work is the four C’s: collIaboration, connection, communication and culture. While all of these things have suffered a decline to varying degress, they are not missing from remote work. We’ve still managed to collaborate, communicate and stay connected with work colleagues.

No, the key ingredient missing in remote work is energy.

There is an undeniable energy in being around and working with people. When you meet or bump into people at the office or work together in person, you feel the energy level in the room rise. Ideas are born, connections are made. Energy fuels creativity, learning, innovation and propels action. We are driven to take action and succeed, which drives a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

It has been said for introverts, this pandemic has been a blessing. It has allowed them to work quietly on their own, focus on their passions and be happy. But for extroverts who rely on the energy of others to give them strength, and help them be the best version of themselves, the pandemic has been crippling.

The problem is introverts and extroverts alike need to be re-energized from time to time, and most remote workers are running on dangerously low batteries.

This week’s #HappyAct is to assess your energy level and needs. How are you doing? Share an idea on how to fill the void so we can all recharge.

Four sayings to help you be at peace with your actions

Whenever I make a mistake or am having a rough day, there are some simple phrases I repeat to myself to help keep me going.

  • One day at a time. This is especially helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed. Just focus on one day at a time, and chances are things will get better.
  • This too shall pass. Some people say “Time heals all wounds”. I don’t think that’s the case, but time does have the ability to dull painful memories.
  • Everything happens for a reason. If you believe this, it is far easier to accept things when they don’t go your way.
  • Forgive yourself. This is a new one I’ve adopted during COVID

I hope these sayings help you too. Have a happy week.