300 Happy Acts

flower petal

Last week, my little blog hit a milestone. I posted my 300th happy act.

Six years ago, when I decided to start this blog, I wasn’t sure where it would take me. The idea was simple: post one insight or one little act of happiness each week, and challenge my readers to join me.

I was inspired by many things, but mainly from watching people I care about struggle with happiness.

Sadly, I think my blog is more relevant today than it was six years ago. I believe mental health issues in young people especially are reaching epidemic proportions in this country. When social platforms like Facebook talk about removing likes to protect people from feelings of envy and negative self-worth, it’s a sign of a major societal problem.

I’ve learned many things from this blog. I’ve learned the importance of living in the moment, and being grateful for what I have. In going back through some of my old drafts, I found this post I had written but never shared for my 100th happy act written on Thanksgiving weekend. I’d like to share it with you now.

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This is my 100th blog post. I’m happy I reached this milestone on Thanksgiving weekend because it reminds me of everything in my life to be thankful for.

It also reminds me the things that make me most happy are life’s everyday moments. So for my one hundredth #HappyAct, I thought I’d recite happy moments from just one day this weekend.

  • Swilling German beer at my friend Karen’s Oktoberfest party
  • Meeting someone new
  • Feeling the breeze and warm sun on my face
  • Watching the sun shimmer on Bella and Clare in the boat
  • Petting my big dopey mutts
  • Making a Halloween scarecrow
  • Curling up and watching a movie with Clare
  • Reading the newspapers
  • Sitting with a glass of wine on the back deck
  • Buying $30 worth of candy at Bulk Barn that will last only a week
  • Eating caramels at 10 o’clock in the morning
  • Biting into a fresh, crunchy apple
  • Having a hot tub
  • Watching a red leaf dance in the air as it gently floats to the ground
  • Picking fresh flowers

This week’s #HappyAct is to celebrate the little moments that make life wonderful and be grateful for each and every day. Thanks for continuing on this journey with me.

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Break up with your smart phone this summer

Smart phone

There’s a legion of research on how smart phones are making us unhappy. The most recent article I read was called “Kind of a sad story: Pessimism increases among millennials and Gen Z”. The article talked about how economic, social and political optimism is at record lows with millennials and the fact that 60% of millennials and 59% of Z-ers say they’d be happier if they spent less time on social media.

The obsession with our phones is not just limited to this age demographic. The average person spends 3 hours and 35 minutes a day on their smart phone.

Let me repeat that in case that staggering statistic slipped past you. THREE HOURS AND THIRTY-FIVE MINUTES a day.

That’s insane!

It’s time to kick the smart phone habit. Here are some things to think about to inspire you:

  1. Ask yourself what better things you could be doing with three full hours a day, or three full days a week? You could learn a new sport, tackle a home reno project, go hiking, or here’s a crazy thought, actually talk to your family members.
  2. Catherine Price, author of “How to Break Up With Your Phone” encourages people to ask the three WWW’s when they pick up their phone: What for? Why now? What else? If you are simply reaching for your phone out of habit, or boredom, it’s probably time to find something else more productive to do
  3. This may be a sacrilege suggestion, but make a point of not bringing your phone with you wherever you go. If it’s not within reach, you won’t spend as much time on it.
  4. Finally, ask yourself is it helping you grow as a person, or is it numbing you or making you feel inferior or disconnected? If it’s the latter, you know what you have to do.

This week’s #HappyAct is to break up with your phone this summer. Get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Thanks to Mark Hurst’s Creative Good blog for some of the ideas in this week’s post.

Live a right life

Saying live a right life

This week’s #HappyAct is courtesy of a colleague who posted this saying on his Instagram account, “Do everything with a good heart and expect nothing in return and you will never be disappointed.”

He said he has made many mistakes in his life (haven’t we all), learned many lessons and changed behaviours. His mantra from now on was going to be “live a right life”.

His words really spoke to me. I’m not sure how many people do things nowadays with a pure heart, expecting nothing in return.

Live a right life is going to be my mantra from now on too. Thanks for the inspiration, Paul.

Conquer the Savage question

HQ trivia screen

On Friday, my most awesome co-worker Jess invited us to a secret meeting at 3 p.m. The meeting was to play HQ Trivia.

HQ Trivia is a live trivia game that broadcasts each night at 9 p.m. and on weekdays at 3 p.m. You play along on your phone and the prize money is split between all the winners. The prize tonight, Sunday, February 18this an epic $25,000, their biggest prize ever.

I played twice on Friday and was hooked immediately.

There were six of us playing at 3…along with 668,000 other people. You read that right. Six hundred and sixty-eight thousand people! At 9 p.m., there was Clare and I….and just under a million other people playing.

Both times, we killed it on the first three or four questions, but here’s the skinny—they make the first questions really easy to hook you in. After each round, the questions get harder and harder. Just when you think you’ve got this, the host lays it on you–the Savage Question–the question that knocks out hundreds of thousands of people.

Not only is HQ Trivia fun and addictive, it’s a social and technological marvel. It boggled my mind to think I was online with hundreds of thousands of other people at the same time doing the same thing and watching the elimination numbers each round: from 998,000, to 924,000 to 762,000 to 682,000 then down to 324,000 (after the Savage Question) until the final round when only a handful of players claim victory to split the $2,500 jackpot.

This week’s #HappyAct is to download the HQ Trivia app and play along tonight. And whatever you do, don’t call our house at 9 p.m. We won’t answer the phone.

Timing is everything

Time's Up poster

There is a new book on my reading list for 2018: best-selling author Daniel Pink’s When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.

Pink’s book focuses on the science of timing to help us make smart decisions in our lives.

Our lives are a never-ending stream of “when” decisions. There are little “when” decisions: when is the best time to study for an exam, when are you most productive at work. And there are the big “when” decisions: when to start a business, start a family or change careers.

Both the Wall Street Journal and Toronto Star have written articles on Pink’s new book. The article in The Star focused on New Year’s resolutions and why “fresh starts” like at the beginning of the year, really work.

To establish a fresh start, people use two types of “temporal landmarks”— social and personal. Social landmarks are those that everyone shares Mondays, the beginning of a new month, national holidays. The personal ones are unique to each person: birthdays, anniversaries, job changes.

These time markers allow us to clear the slate on the past and help us see beyond the minutiae of day to day living to see “the forest beyond the trees” for a fresh start.

I am hopeful that 2018 is a fresh start for all of us and that #TimesUp.

You don’t have to tell Tarana Burke timing is everything.

The founder of the #MeToo movement has been quietly, tenaciously, devoting her life for ten years promoting empowerment through empathy, raising awareness of inequality and sexual harassment against women.

But it wasn’t until actress Alyssa Milano urged women this past fall on social media to speak up using the hashtag #MeToo that we were able to crest the tipping point to create a wave of support and change the dialogue and power imbalance between men and women on sexual harassment.

The wave became a tidal wave this January with the creation of #TimesUp, a legal organization formed to pay for and provide legal support for victims of sexual assault and the platform and voices of powerful women like Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon.

Yes, timing is everything.

I am hopeful it is finally our time—time for women to be truly viewed and treated as equals.

I am hopeful that every organization will look within its own walls with a microscopic lens and make changes to ensure equal pay for equal work, and equal representation of women on boards and in the C-suite.

That every government implements policies to ensure women are protected, can receive an education, and can live freely without fear of retribution or harm.

That every father and grandfather teaches their sons and grandsons to treat women as we deserve.

And that some day soon, every woman will feel finally, it is our time.

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.

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.