The Happiness Connection  

Making your bad day better

Changing your mood

As I was wandering through Costco recently, I was struck yet again by the increasing price of food.

I was bothered by this thought more than usual. Perhaps it’s because I’m still recovering my strength after having had COVID. Whatever the reason, I felt my mood dip noticeably.

My feelings were further disturbed when shortly after returning home, I received an email saying my Christmas flights to England had been canceled. I booked my tickets months ago and have been looking forward to it more than I can explain. My already challenged feelings took another little nosedive.

Fortunately, I recognized that I was standing on a precipice. I could let these events take charge of my mood, or I could choose to view my circumstances with a more positive filter.

“The optimist sees the donut; the pessimist sees the hole.”

Oscar Wilde

Here are a few ways you can make a bad day seem less horrible.

• Limit your social media exposure

Reading posts about the amazing things that are happening in other people’s lives can cause your confidence to slump. Research suggests that the more time you spend on platforms like Facebook, the more likely it is that your self-esteem will drop.

• Share your situation and ask for help

You may feel vulnerable opening up to a friend or family member about the challenges in your life, but a trouble shared really is a trouble halved. Choose someone who’ll listen with sympathy and compassion. They don’t need to have a solution but be willing to accept their advice or an offer of assistance. Acts of kindness are an amazing way to increase happiness. Receiving help from a friend is a win-win situation.

• Be grateful

Studies show that experiencing gratitude boosts feelings of wellbeing. Being thankful for the little things in life is just as important as appreciating the big stuff. It’s easy to lose sight of this fact, especially when you feel like you’re drowning in problems. Think about your cup of coffee, the roof over your head or the people in your life. Spend a few minutes concentrating on the good things. They’re there, even though they may not spring to mind immediately.

• Tomorrow is a new day

Things almost always look brighter after a good night’s sleep. Hold on to that knowledge as you work your way through a bad day.

• Do one thing you have control over

This could be writing an email, making a call you’ve been avoiding or crossing something off your procrastination list. Even choosing to go for a walk or eating more healthily will leave you with a greater sense of empowerment. I can’t control rising prices, or make WestJet reinstate my canceled booking. I can however choose what to spend my money on and contact the airline to see if they can put me on alternative flights.

As the world become less predictable, worry and disappointment can seem to be just a heartbeat away. Don’t let the events that surround you sabotage your day.

Everything in life is a choice. You can wallow in self-pity and feel victimized by the things happening in your day, or you can choose to embrace a positive perspective.

When life gives you lemons, appreciate the brightness of their colour, breath in the sweetness of their peel and then decide whether you want lemonade, lemon meringue pie or margaritas.

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”

Corrie ten Boom

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Live long and be healthy

Secrets to a long life

What do you think of when you read the following headline? “The Power of Love: Why a 96-year-old man sold his Ontario house and moved to rural Newfoundland."

If you’re like me, you probably jumped to the conclusion this man met a new love in the latter stages of his life. But when I clicked on the link, I discovered that wasn’t the case.

Having lost his wife of more than 70 years, Charles Comrie decided to move to a place that reminded him of her. They’d fallen in love with Newfoundland and Labrador and visited many times. He decided the upheaval of relocating was worth it because it would help him deal with his loss.

This story is amazing on many levels. Moving is a challenge at any time but deciding to set out on a new adventure at such an advanced stage of life is more than slightly unusual. Comrie has no family living there. It was a total leap of faith.

Perhaps this story caught my attention because my parents were both in their 90s when they passed last year. I think that made me more conscious of people in this age group and the ways they approach life.

I had a great chance to do some nonagenarian watching when I was invited for lunch by the mom of a friend. Marge Church also invited her sister-in-law, Shirley Knaut. It was hard to believe Church will be 95 in a few months, while Knaut is preparing to turn 97 in a couple of weeks.

These ladies showed me what life can be like when you’re well into your 90s. They kept the laughter flowing with their sharp wit, amazing humour and ready smiles, not to mention their great dress sense.

It wasn’t that long ago that living into your 90s or reaching your centennial birthday was a rare occurrence. But people are living longer these days. The 2021 census showed a record high number of Canadians were 100 or older.

The figure has increased to 9545 in 2021 from 1,065 in 1971, with women accounting for almost 81% of the centenarians in the most recent census. That surge isn’t just because the population of Canada has grown.

In 1971, 4.9 people out of every 100,000 were 100 years of age or older. By 2021, the number per 100,000 was 25.8. That’s a significant increase.

So, what’s the secret to longevity?

Of course, genetic makeup has a significant part to play. So does earlier medical intervention, improved drug therapies and vaccinations. But research shows there are lifestyle factors that also affect your longevity.

According to findings from a longitudinal study called 90+, there are specific factors that contribute to longevity.

• Eat well and exercise regularly—Making healthy choices can go a long way to keeping your body going for longer. Exercising for at least 15 minutes a day will improve your physical wellbeing, but 45 minutes of daily activity is what it takes to increase your lifespan. It doesn’t have to be high intensity. Walking and yard work count.

• Avoid smoking—We’ve known for a long time that this is one of the worst habits you can have when it comes to healthy living. If you choose to do it, be aware that it’s likely to affect the number of years you live.

• Don’t be afraid of carrying a little extra weight—I’m not talking about obesity. That’s a condition that comes with health risks of its own. But research indicates it’s better to be a little overweight than a little underweight if you’re over 50.

• Everything in moderation—A little bit of almost anything won’t hurt you. Some centenarians attribute their long lives to eating a square or two of chocolate every day or having dessert regularly. As long as you don’t consume anything in excess, you’re unlikely to cause your body harm.

• Drink coffee (with no, or only a small amount of sugar)—Sugar should be limited in your diet but drinking between one and three cups of coffee every day, predicts a longer life.

• Drink alcohol—Drinking up to two alcoholic drinks a day also predicts a longer life. That doesn’t mean you should save up your allocation and have fourteen drinks on the weekend. This is about moderation not binging. Scientists aren’t sure whether alcohol in itself benefits you, or whether it’s the fact that people often drink in social situations.

• Socialize—Seniors who socialize for at least an hour a day, live longer. So, maintain your existing friendships, and invite new people into your circle. Join clubs and get involved in regular activities.

• Have romance—Intimacy is also an indicator of living longer. Consider looking for a new partner if you find yourself on your own. Romance is good for you at any age.

• Be a life-long learner—Make a commitment to staying curious and being brave enough to try new things. Taking up a new hobby or trying a new activity will help keep the rust off your brain.

Although the focus of this column is longevity, this advice is applicable to anyone who wants to boost their levels of wellbeing and, I suspect, that’s most people.

After all, what more could you want than to be happy?

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Self-awareness improves relationships

It helps to know yourself

Would you choose to give yourself electric shocks?

The situation would have to be pretty extreme for me to voluntarily inflict that sort of pain on myself. But that’s the choice 40% of the participants in a study about thinking made.

What do you think the alternative activity was? What could be so horrible that you’d go to such levels to avoid it? It might surprise you to know that these people didn’t want to spend time simply thinking.

Research shows people spend as little as 17 minutes a day relaxing and taking time to contemplate life. That’s about .01% of your day. No wonder some people were so daunted by the prospect that they decided they’d rather receive physical pain.

How often are children discouraged from doing nothing? But just because someone is physically still, doesn’t mean they aren’t occupied. Reflection is how adults learn. It’s vital for personal growth and development because it helps you gain a greater understanding of yourself.

The ability to hold a clear, consistent image of yourself is known as self-concept clarity. It means you have a strong sense of who you are and can easily and accurately describe yourself to others. When you lack this type of clarity, the way you see yourself is changeable and you are likely to have conflicting beliefs. For example, you may consider yourself to be both shy and assertive.

Knowing yourself well means you accept both your strengths and your weaknesses. Having a high level of self-concept clarity reduces anxiety and depression and increases life satisfaction and wellbeing. It results in a higher level of self-esteem.

These are all important factors for you as an individual, but it brings with it an additional advantage. Research shows it also improves your relationships.

When you’re clear, confident, and accepting about who you are, it’s easier for others to get to know you. This results in relationships with less conflict, more satisfaction, and a greater degree of commitment.

If you’ve ever been involved with an emotionally unpredictable partner, you’ll know how difficult navigating life can be. Predicting accurately how your partner is likely to feel and act, improves both the quality and longevity of your bond.

That isn’t only true for romantic relationships; it also applies to friendships and family connections. Self-reflection and daydreaming are both valuable activities. In fact, you should build time for them into your regular schedule not just hope a window of spare time will appear.

Keeping a journal is a great way to help you with your pondering.

If you aren’t sure where to start, try some or all of the following prompts.

1. List five words that describe you.

2. List five words your family would use to describe you.

3. List five things you’re good at.

4. List five things you’d like to get better at.

5. How would you describe your physical appearance?

6. What are your top three personal values?

7. List three things about yourself that make you feel proud.

8. List three things that you’d put on a bucket list.

9. List three things that you struggle with.

10. What are three things you enjoy but don’t get enough time to do?

11. Are you more like your mother or father? Explain.

12. What were you like as a child?

13. If you went back to school, what would you study? Why?

14. If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why?

15. What’s been your greatest accomplishment in your life so far? Why?

There are no right or wrong answers to any of these prompts. Be as brutally honest as possible. You don’t have to share your thoughts. Embrace all the facets of yourself, regardless of how flawed they might seem.

This exercise is about clarity, not perfection. You will always be the most perfect version of you there is. Be proud of the wild, the weak and the weird. And remember, there’s nobody else quite like you. Take time to discover what makes you unique.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Boosting happiness through screen time

Nature through the Internet

We might not be experiencing typical summer weather yet, but anyone with younger students living in their household will have no doubt that summer is here.

Having your kids hanging around home more than usual isn’t a bad thing, but it can come with more conversations around screen time, or feelings of loneliness and boredom.

It’s long been established that spending time in nature can boost your level of wellbeing. Not only does it make you feel happier, but the positive emotions that result also tend to last longer than the sense of pleasure that comes from actions like buying something new.

But what if you can’t get outside because you have COVID, your parents are too busy to take you, or nature’s a long way from your door?

BBC Earth is a broadcasting station that airs inspiring stories, documentaries and podcasts about the natural world. They’ve long held the belief that establishing a virtual connection with nature will also provide you with a strong boost of happiness.

In order to prove their theory, they commissioned a global study. With the aid of Professor Dacher Keltner, an expert in the psychology of emotion at the University of California, Berkeley, they set out to prove that watching natural history programs makes you happier.

And they were right. The research showed that positive emotions like joy, contentment, curiosity, awe, amazement, and wonder soared after watching BBC Earth footage, while tiredness, low energy, stress, and anxiety decreased.

So, it turns out that sitting on your sofa watching nature programs is actually good for your health. It boosts your mood and that in turn aids your physical and mental wellbeing.

Although I wanted to share this information with parents who may need a few new tricks up their sleeves while they adjust to having their children at home more during the summer, it’s equally valuable for anyone who’s looking for a boost of happiness.

Using webs, streams, and clouds in the virtual world to reconnect with webs, streams, and clouds in the real world could result in helping you create a happier and more satisfying summer.

The research was carried out with programs from BBC Earth, but any natural history programs will achieve the same end. To make things easier, I’ve included a few links to get you started.

CAUTION: Not all nature programs are suitable for all ages, but there’s suitable natural history content for all ages and levels of sensitivity.

BBC Earth

Scratch your happiness itch

BBC Earth videos

BBC Earth Kids videos

BBC Earth Unplugged videos

“An understanding of the natural world and what’s in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfilment"

David Attenborough

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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