Seven habits of highly unhappy people

happy thoughts

In his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey shared how having deliberate and mindful habits can help you be successful in business.

So to with happiness.  Psychologists who study happiness say that genetics and life circumstances only account for about 50% of a person’s happiness. The other 50% is driven from attitudes and habits.

Sometimes it’s easier to recognize what makes you unhappy than happy. Here are seven habits to avoid or to watch for to help you be more happy:

  1. Being pessimistic. Nobody likes a pessimist. What’s worse, pessimism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think the glass is half full, it will be.
  2. Focusing too much on yourself and not on others. If you think you are the only one with problems in the world, think again. Thinking and doing things for others will help you take your mind off your own problems and make you feel good about yourself.
  3. Seeing yourself as a victim. This kind of goes hand in hand with #1. You are in control of your own destiny. Don’t blame others if things go wrong.
  4. Not having goals. If you don’t have goals, you’re at risk of stagnating. Even if it’s just to learn a new recipe or getting more exercise, having a goal will give you purpose and make you feel good when you achieve it
  5. Focusing only on the future and forgetting about today. The happiest people find joy in life’s little moments and the gifts of each day.
  6. Overreacting or stressing out over little things. This is a tough one if you are prone to stress or anxiety, but if you can find ways to roll with life’s challenges, you will be more balanced and happy.
  7. Retreating into yourself. It’s great to spend time alone, but studies show interacting with people and having positive relationships are critical to happiness.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to avoid these seven unhappy habits. Have a happy week.

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Feel your heart fill with pride

Girls with silver medals

Any parent knows there is no greater joy than watching their child excel at something.

This past weekend, Clare competed in the Ontario provincial kayaking championships in Welland, Ontario. She qualified for two races: the K1 1000 metre individual developmental race, and the K2 500 metre competitive final with her kayaking partner, Parker Friendship.

This is only her second year competing with the Sydenham Lake Canoe Club so the fact she made it to the provincials is pretty amazing.

I’m not one of those crazy parents that loses it at sporting events, even though I do yell and cheer loudly at hockey games, much to my kids’ chagrin.  But when that horn blasted and Clare and Parker plunged their paddles into the water and powered their boat in perfect synchrony to the front of the pack, my heart started racing too.

It was the first time I experienced an actual physiological reaction watching my child compete, and my heart didn’t stop racing until they crossed the finish line in second place. Tears filled my eyes and my heart filled with pride. It was a moment to remember.

Congratulations to Clare and Parker on a phenomenal race and their silver medals making them #2 in all of Ontario. We couldn’t be more proud of you! Special thanks to Helen Parfitt and Roger Labbe who pour their heart and soul into making the Sydenham Lake Canoe Club the welcoming, supportive and successful club it is, and Rhiannon Murphy for being such a wonderful coach and mentor to all our kids this summer.

Kayakers on podium

The signature sound of August

cicada

August. Warm days, bugless nights and gentle breezes create a beautiful languor, as you submit to summer’s halcyon days.

The signature sound of August has to be the cicada. It starts as a slow whir and rises in pitch and intensity to a high-pitched buzz that engulfs the air. To me, it’s the signature sound of summer.

Cicadas are fascinating insects. Cicada comes from a latin word meaning tree cricket. The sound you hear is their mating call. Their shrill call can be as loud as 120 decibels, which one website claims is as loud as a rock concert or chainsaw.

Cicadas will actually gravitate to high pitched sounds, like lawnmowers. Apparently  female cicadas mistake them for singing males, and male cicadas will follow in order to continue wooing the females.

They are also quite beautiful when you look at them closely. Clare found one in the house the other day and we had a good look at him before we released him gently outside.

This week’s #HappyAct is to enjoy the sound of the cicadas and summer’s final days. Here’s a video clip of the cicadas at my lake.

Raising chickens

 

Chickens in garden

For the past three years, we’ve heard the pitter patter of little feet in our yard—chickens.

Whenever I tell people we raise chickens, it’s usually followed by a barrage of questions about how many eggs we get a day, how much it costs for feed and how to build a sturdy coop.

The answers, in case you’re wondering or thinking about getting chickens, is one egg per chicken per day (it’s actually slightly lower, so in 7 days, you would get about six eggs per chicken), $20 a month on feed for about 6 chickens, and…google it, but I can give you some design tips.

The thing I’ve been surprised about most is how much we enjoy our chickens. While I wouldn’t go so far as calling them pets, we do call them “our girls” and they have become an extension of our family.

I’ve learned the chicken community is a little crazy. I have one friend with a t-shirt that says “Crazy Chicken Lady” that she wears proudly.

I was at a 4H meeting earlier this year where another Mom plunked her chicken purse down on the table.

Harrowsmith magazine recently ran a story about raising chickens. The author said every evening around 5 p.m., she’d have cocktail hour with her chickens and took a picture of her with her glass of wine with a chicken on her lap.

I hope I’m not on the far end of the crazy chicken lady scale, but I do like my girls and we’ve certainly enjoyed additional benefits of raising chickens other than the beautiful fresh eggs every day.

You may have seen on Facebook a story about how raising chickens have given the residents of a senior’s home joy and purpose. There is something about caring for animals that provide sustenance. I also think they have helped cut down on the tick population in our yard.

This week’s #HappyAct is to go back to the farm—buy local farm fresh produce, produce your own, or if you really want to become a crazy chicken lady, look into raising chickens of your own.

Ed. note: This spring I blogged about the ultimate tacky souvenir. My girlfriend Danette on our recent trip to Vancouver Island, used my money to buy an egg holder for me with “Farm Fresh Butt Nuggets” written on the side. Okay, so maybe I am a crazy chicken lady now.

egg carton that says farm fresh butt nuggets

 

 

Chickens in sun on front porch
My girls sunning themselves on the front porch
chicken purse
My friend’s chicken purse

Happy in Beautiful BC

There’s a reason our westernmost province has “Beautiful BC” on its license plates.

Last week, I vacationed on Vancouver Island with my girlfriends. While this was my third trip West, this was the first time I spent the entire week on the island.

Stunning, spectacular scenery, sunny skies, and cool breezes set the stage for an amazing week. Here were a few of the things I loved about BC.

  • Ocean views around every turn; on our last night, we just sat and watched the sun set at Otter Point on the bottom tip of the island.
  • The wildlife—I saw more baby deer in one week on the island than I have in Ontario in the past ten years; on one hike at Stamp River Provincial Park, we saw ten bald eagles in the trees and soaring up the river—some so close you could hear the air whooshing as they flew overhead.
  • Hiking—my favourite hike was the West Pacific Trail in Ucluelet, an easy 4 km loop with incredible coastal views with a lighthouse. Point of clarification: this is not the West Coast Trail which is further south and one of the most difficult treks in North America—I’m pretty sure some of my Facebook friends thought that was the trail I was doing!
  • Native art and traditions—one of my favourite “town days” was exploring the murals in Chemainus and seeing all the native art in the region

But best of all, I loved the laid back attitude and lifestyle so typical of islanders, and the fact there are NO bugs and NO humidity.

Butchart gardens in Victoria

Travel tips: if you go

  • Charter fishing: the best fishing seemed to be off the coast of Tofino this summer
  • Whale watching: I highly recommend Adventures by H.I.P. in Sooke. It’s a family run business, and Mike takes his high-powered camera on the trip so you can sit back and relax and enjoy the wildlife viewing. They’ll send you pictures after the trip for that million dollar vacation memory. Here’s one shot Mike took of a humpback cresting out of the water, with an ocean freighter in the background.
  • Chemainus: If you’re wondering whether the $20 horse-drawn wagon tour of Chemainus to see and learn about all the murals is worth it, it is—the longer trip takes you into the old part of town which many tourists might miss altogether if they’re just stopping in for the day.
  • Butchart Gardens in Victoria: Did you know there are free concerts every night of the summer at 8 p.m. at the gardens on the lawn?
  • Sooke: Don’t miss Sooke pier and be sure to check out the new microbrewery in town, Sooke Brewing Company.

This week’s #HappyAct is to take a breather this summer, and getaway, or plan a fun staycation. Happy vacationing!

whale with tale out of the water

Sooke brewing companytotem pole

What do you do when you don’t like someone you love?

Hilary Clinton quote: You don't walk away from someone you love

This week’s post isn’t really a post. It’s a question, and I’m hoping all of you reading this will leave a comment to share your insights on this question.

Many of us may have someone in our lives who we love, but we don’t like all the time or approve of their behaviour. What do you do in these cases?

A few weeks ago, I read a Dear Amy column. It was called, “Mother seeks cure for daughter’s affluenza”. It was about a mother who found her daughter’s lack of reciprocity, insensitivity and self-centred attitude appalling.

Amy quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived, and lived well.”

I’m not sure I agree with Emerson’s statement that our purpose in life is not to be happy, but I think there’s some truth in his belief that if you do the things he says should be our purpose, you will have a better chance of being happy.

Amy had some great advice for her reader. She said always make sure the person knows that you love them, even if you don’t like them right now or their behaviour. Loving without expectation, and through disappointment will liberate you from your harsh judgement and should lead to acceptance.

I’ll add one insight. Try to find common ground. In the world of behavioural psychology, there’s even a term for it, “pairing”. Focus on their strengths and what you do like about them.

And finally, never ever give up on them.

So dear readers, it’s your turn. What do you do when you don’t like someone you love?

Imagine a different future

Museum exhibit of the apartment of the future

Imagine it’s the year 2050 and you’re sitting in your apartment. The low hum of fog machines drones in the background as you skim the morning headlines citing worldwide crop failures while munching on your breakfast of mealworms, kale and mushrooms.

This is a new world, a world of empty supermarket shelves where humans have learned to adapt to survive.

This is just one possible future a new hero of mine, futurist Anab Jain challenged us to imagine at the conference I was at last month in Montreal.

Anab works for an organization called Superflux, a UK design studio dedicated to translating future uncertainty into present day choices by imagining and creating different futures. They run experiments, build prototypes and simulate possible versions of the future so companies and governments can make bold decisions today.

Superflux has learned the most powerful way to change human behaviour is to help people directly, tangently and emotionally experience the change.

Anab told us about how the government of the United Arab Emirates commissioned them to shape their energy policy. Superflux created a prototype of a device that emits vapour simulating what the air quality would be like in the year 2050, then invited the UAE delgation to breathe in the air. The next day the government announced they would invest billions of dollars in renewable energy.

One fascinating insight Anab shared is that for every advancement or breakthrough we’ve seen in society, there are always expected and unexpected consequences.

For instance, facial recognition technology is being used by law enforcement agencies, governments, schools and companies under the auspices of keeping our society safe, but for every positive intended consequence, there can be negative, unintended consequences.

A university in China uses facial recognition technology in its classrooms. The technology registers if students are paying attention and assigns an emotional response. Students say they have learned to not register emotion to circumvent the technology.

Anab also shared a scary statistic: 95% of facial recognition software is inaccurate. Not only is big brother here to stay, he is basing his decisions on inaccurate data.

The ethical implications of this are enormous, and exploring both the intended and unintended consequences of possible futures is a key aspect of Superflux’s work.

Another project involved imagining if in the year 2050, we were living in a world of scarcity and there was not enough food to feed the billions of people on the planet. They simulated an urban apartment, which was made into a museum exhibit.

At first glance, the one side of the space looks like a normal kitchen with shelves, a coffee maker, appliances. On closer look, you see signs of the new reality—a newspaper headline that reads, “Worldwide crop failures in 2049”. A book on the bookshelf called “Pets as Protein”.

You notice the other side of the apartment is filled with industrial shelving and fluorescent lighting, where the residents are growing their own food using fog. Oyster mushrooms are being cultivated on the top shelf while smaller plastic containers are full of live mealworms.

Freaked out yet? You should be. The future is looking scary these days. Trump. The resurgence of nationalism and isolationism. Global warming.

We can’t let the future happen to us. We need to imagine and fight for the future we want.

Want to be a futurist? It’s not as far out there as you may think. Google, NASA, even Ikea, have a futures team.