My Happiness Project: Stage 4

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This is the final stretch of my Happiness Project – a resolution to explore happiness. I have been attempting  3 new tactics every quarter of 2015, and I invite you to join me!

After much deliberation, the final three happiness tactics are as follows:

  • Audit & Assess your life – Book an hour or two over the next week. Sit down with a notebook, and be realistic about what a current week looks like for you. Track how much time is spent on different activities. Which of these activities do you enjoy? Which ones do you not? Are there activities which you love or find meaningful which you aren’t currently making time for? Would you rather have more time with family and pay a company to upkeep your home? Could you negotiate a swap with a friend (ie. you fix things up in their home, they cook home made meals for you) to do more of what you love and less of what you don’t? Question long held assumptions. Get creative. Implement changes.
  • Meaningful work – Most people spend the vast majority of their time at work, so it is no surprise that there is a direct correlation with overall happiness. Every year staying in a job that doesn’t inspire you is investing 2,000+ hours in a draining experience. If you aren’t currently doing work you love, start taking steps to make a change.
  • Giving to others –  Research has shown that doing things to help others can bring meaning and increase happiness, the magic number is 100 hours/year (or ~2 hours/week). Organize a regular volunteering session at a local food bank, visit an elderly friend who doesn’t have family in the city, or help a family who doesn’t have a car to pickup a heavy item they need. Look ahead, and schedule it in.

Over the past 9 months we have focused on: identifying 5 things we are grateful for (daily), meditating, removing one negative thing from our lives, investing in 5 meaningful relationships, exercising daily, creating a happy music playlist, disconnecting one night a week, making time for what you love, and getting 8 hours of sleep.

As I reflect on the past year, and the initiatives I have attempted, I have come to realize that there is a distinct difference between happiness (feeling based, in the present moment) and meaning (the bigger picture, incorporates our internal narratives around past experience and future projections).

I believe a meaningful life can be achieved through consistent intentional choices – both in terms of personal action as well as (perhaps more importantly) personal perception.  

For those of you who have implemented happiness initiatives – have you felt a change in your perspective? Be sure to share them below! What did you find most rewarding? For those of you who haven’t yet, consider trying your own  Happiness Project as your 2016 New Years resolution! I promise you won’t be disappointed.


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My Happiness Project: Stage 3

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This year, I made a resolution to go on a Happiness Project – a journey to explore if happiness itself can be pursued. My plan is to introduce 3 new tactics every quarter of 2015, and I invite you to join me!

I’m excited to announce the three new happiness tactics are as follows:

  • Disconnect one night a week – Over the past year, it has become more and more apparent to me how fast and furious I live my life at times. The days whiz by without much notice. I can loose myself in the endless forms of contact, and expectations of timely responses on multiple mediums. I’m exhausted! This quarter, I plan to schedule one night a week to disconnect, to put my phone on plane mode, and not step close to a computer. I plan, instead, to curl up with a good book, go for a walk in nature, meditate, scratch my dog, write. I plan to schedule (yes, in my calendar) a reoccurring mini-vacation, a time to unwind and refocus.
  • Make time for something you love (bi-weekly) – For me, this is art – painting, photography, music, poetry.  Something that gets your mind to soar, that awakens dreams, that you feel nothing but bliss when you do. Maybe for you it’s getting massages, baking bread early in the morning, or fixing up old cars – whatever it is that you really love, make time for it. If you live by your calendar, like I do, with almost every hour scheduled – schedule a reoccurring meeting in advance so you don’t get double booked. It’s ok to prioritize your own health and happiness.
  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep – Yes, yes, yes. We all know we should be getting enough shut-eye. It’s all well and good to say you’ll do it – but when life plays out it can be a completely different story. So how do we make changes to increase our likelihood of actually sleeping? I plan to try a few tactics: start getting ready for bed an hour before you need to (put away electronics, clean up, slow down), remove ‘noise’ from your sleeping area (light, clutter, etc), and finally track it (from marking it on a calendar to using a sleep tracking app – being accountable is important).

Over the past 6 months we have focused on: identifying 5 things we are grateful for, meditating, removing one negative thing from our lives, investing in 5 meaningful relationships, exercising daily, and creating a happy music playlist.

For me, meditation (Headspace) and a daily gratitude practice have stood out as the most impactful tactics to date. Both have made me increasingly aware of the power of the mind, and our ability to change the way we perceive the world with dedicated work on rewriting our internal narratives. I would highly suggest you check out one or both of these tactics.

 

For those of you who have implemented happiness initiatives – what have been some of your experiences? Be sure to share them below! What did you find most fulfilling about investing in meaningful relationships? How did you include exercise in your schedule? Join the Happiness Project with me!


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Promise or Pay: Creating social change through individual action

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Promise or Pay is an innovative social platform whose vision is to transform personal promises into wide scale social change. It uses a combination of publicly declared promises and pledges to charities (if promises are not kept) to ensure a win-win outcome with guaranteed impact.

I was absolutely inspired by this concept created by founder Jay Boolkin, an Australian social entrepreneur who used behavioral and motivation research to create this concept. He explains:

Research shows that making a formal declaration of your intentions increases your chance of actually achieving your goal by 33%, and by 72% if money is put on the line.

By using the power of social media sharing as leverage, his aim is to inspire millions of people from around the world to be the best (and happiest) they can be, while encouraging and promoting donations to worthwhile charities.

I recently created my own promise – to exercise 5 days a week (next 3 months) or pay $50 to a mental health charity (Open Minds), inspired by my Happiness Project. Consider sweetening the deal, by becoming one of my supporters, or better yet creating a promise or pay account yourself! You can also check out their free resources (like a 30 day program on how to build a lasting habit).

What goal would you like to accomplish? Did you make a new years resolution that needs refreshed attention? Are you following your own happiness project? Share your ideas below – or links to your own promise or pay pages!


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My Happiness Project: Stage 2

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This year, I made a resolution to explore initiatives to create an atmosphere of positivity and balance in my own life – an initiative I am calling my Happiness Project. My plan is to introduce 3 new tactics every quarter of 2015, and I invite you to join me!

I’m excited to announce the three new happiness tactics (for April to June) are as follows:

  • Invest in 5 meaningful and intentional relationships – It has been said, that we are the company we keep. Surround yourself with positive and uplifting people, and create a significant impact on your own outlook. Additionally, a sense of connection with others has been shown to increase happiness. Take time to really consider the people in your life – your friends and family – and determine 5 key relationships. If you can’t think of 5, it’s time to get out there and meet them! Find ways to invest in these people often: carve time out of your day to ask and listen to them, organize dinner parties, arrange coffee dates, go on nature walks, tell them how much you appreciate sharing moments with them.
  • Exercise daily – Getting our bodies moving, helps keep our emotions in check. Be kind to your body, and get started regardless of your current activity level. Go for a walk around the block (perhaps with one of the people above), check out the 7 minute workout, start a yoga practice (free on youtube), or integrate exercise into your daily commute (like biking).
  • Create a happy music playlist – Find the songs that make you feel peaceful, happy, or joyful. Listen to it often, and specifically when you are feeling down.

From January to March, we focused on: daily identifying 5 things we are grateful for, meditating, and removing one negative thing from our lives. I implemented all three and have noticed a shift in my awareness and level of stress.

One tool I discovered that I cannot say enough positive things about is Headspace, a tool for meditation. I especially liked the metrics (like tracking your meditation day streak), ability to keep track of friends meditation activity, and best of all if you purchase a subscription they provide one free of charge to someone who needs it.

For those of you who implemented happiness initiatives in past 3 months, share your insights below! Which songs make you happy? Do you have tips for including exercise in your daily life? What are things that you are thankful for (list 5 below)? Join the Happiness Project with me!


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My New Years Resolution (2015): To Be Happy

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I was watching a home video of an interview with my Nanny. She was being asked a host of questions, including what she most wanted for her children – and without hesitation, she said confidently and with a great deal of love…

To be happy.

The pursuit of happiness at times gets a bad rap for being fake, selfish, or an ultimately futile goal. However, what could be more important than creating an atmosphere of positivity and balance in your own life, regardless of circumstances? How can you truly support others, or have the ability to make change in the world if you are not at peace yourself?

This past year my Telfer MBA team did a data analysis project on the Happy Planet Index (incredibly, US ranks in the lowest category of HPI, Canada is middle of the pack, while Mexico is  one of the highest). We compared HPI to a large number of factors – including life expectancy rates, war deaths, alcohol consumption, etc – with little correlation.  We came to the surprising conclusion that happiness is not heavily dependent on what is happening to and around you.

So what do happy people do differently than the rest of us? I plan to go on a mission to figure this out – and will be periodically updating you on my findings. I will pursue it, like I do any other goal, with tangible actions. I plan to try 3 different happiness tactics every quarter of 2015, and I invite you to join me! The tactics for January to March are as follows:

  • Find 5 things you are grateful for everyday – This could be a morning reflection you whisper to yourself while rolling out of bed, or a journal entry  on the good things that you remember from the day. The way you choose to recognize the 5 things is completely up to you, but the key thing is that it happens daily.
  • Remove one negative thing from your life – Create some breathing space by letting go of something that is currently toxic. This could be an activity you no longer enjoy, an energy sucking relationship, or a self-destructive habit.
  • Start meditating – I meditate every once in a while, but I want to make this an unshakable part of my daily routine. This can take as little as 5 minutes a day, so it is manageable for even the most packed schedule.

Make happiness a priority this next year with me, and improve not only your own life, but those close to you as well. Keep me updated on your experiences below!


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