The Happiness Connection  

Hope is not just desire, it can change your life

The power of hope

In the blink of an eye life can change. I was reminded of this fact when I attended a fundraising gala on Tuesday.

When a skiing accident left Mike Shaw paralyzed from the neck down, he didn’t accept the prognosis of his doctors. Rather than agreeing with their verdict that he’d never have the use of his limbs again, he chose to believe in the possibility of healing and recovery.

His story was even more amazing as I watched him move gracefully around the stage. There was absolutely nothing in his movements that indicated the struggle he’d been through.

I’m not suggesting that everyone who suffers a life-altering accident can heal so completely, but it happens. Shaw isn’t the only person I know who has successfully taught himself to walk again. I have a close friend who has done it twice in her adult life.

You may never have endured a catastrophic accident but that doesn’t mean you’ve never been hurt or needed to heal yourself. Sometimes mental or emotional disasters can be just as devastating.

Shaw’s experience was a reminder of how powerful the brain is and just how little we understand its complexity. It’s not only the source of amazing ideas, great literature, art and music, it’s also responsible for violence, racism, war and addiction.

I don’t know why it’s possible for some people to heal themselves and not others. But those who overcome amazing odds seem to share a strong sense of hope and belief.

Shaw stayed open to the possibility he could prove his doctors wrong. This thought offered him hope.

Hope isn’t about simply wishing for something. It brings with it a sense of belief. In turn, belief makes you more likely to look for ways to navigate your way through adversity to achieve your desired goal.

As with happiness, research shows hope brings with it a bevy of benefits. Hopefulness has been linked to improved physical and emotional health. It encourages people to choose new behaviours. When you believe in the possibility of good things ahead, it motivates you to develop new habits to support that brighter future.

Hope won’t erase your past. If you break your neck, you may not fully recover the use of your limbs but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a satisfying and meaningful life.

As long as a person has hope, they can recover from pretty much anything. It champions survivors in the bleakest of times. It stops you from giving up.

Human connection is important if you’re looking for hope. It’s often another person who stirs the feeling within you and can support you if you sense it slipping away.

Hope is the key to survival. It allows you to persevere, realize your dreams of a better future, and achieve what some think is impossible.

In the words of the late South African Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

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

Free yourself from body shame

Accepting your body

As I write this column, it’s summer—at least for today.

Sundresses, shorts, and flip flops are all on display. Traditionally, this is a tricky time of the year for me. I love summer weather but the warmer temperatures mean days at the beach and hanging out in the sunshine.

You may wonder why that would be a potentially difficult thing. If you’re caught up in body shame, then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Warm weather means summer clothes that tend to expose more flesh. In the winter, you can bundle up and keep your body well hidden.

Last time I talked about this topic, I received an email from a man who thought this subject was purely for women. I assured him that was not the case.

Feeling uncomfortable about your looks also does not indicate you’re shallow.

I do, however, agree whole-heartedly that life is better when you shift your perspective away from thinking somehow you aren’t good enough.

Acceptance brings with it a sense of freedom and allows you to love all of you, even your perceived flaws. After all, if you can’t appreciate yourself, why should you expect someone else to?

As I sit in my favorite coffee shop, I’m noticing just how many young women seem to accept their bodies with so much more grace than I did at their age. They seem to understand the human form comes in a vast array of shapes and sizes and all of them are beautiful.

I started about a year ago on a journey to banish body shame. To me that means accepting what I look like. I’m not a spring chicken, so I have sagging skin and certain parts of me are thicker than they used to be.

The ironic thing is when I was in my 20s and had a gorgeous, youthful body, I didn’t appreciate it. I focused on its imperfections. When I look back at photographs of me at that age, I realize just how bizarre my perception was.

Does that mean when I’m 90 I’ll look at photographs of me in my 60s and wonder why I wasn’t able to appreciate what I look like today? That’s a sobering thought.

Having the body of a supermodel doesn’t define you. It isn’t a reflection of your soul. Yes, humans appreciate beauty but there’s so much more to a person than their physical form. Beauty radiates from what’s on the inside.

I want to thank everyone who is further ahead of me on this journey. As I watch you wear clothing that makes you feel good without trying to hide your curves, cellulite or protruding bones, understand you’re modelling the beauty of acceptance.

I know for sure I’m not the only one you’re setting a healthy example for. You’re helping me and countless others to put on shorts and uncover our arms.

It’s time to embrace the freedom that comes with releasing limiting beliefs. And, as with most things in life, comfort comes with practice.

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

The benefits of the 'Happiness Triad'

Happiness is good for you

“Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and the end of human existence.”


As a happiness maven, I agree with this sentiment whole heatedly.

Who doesn’t want to be happy and who doesn’t want the same thing for their loved ones?

I’ve spoken with many parents over the years, and when I ask them what they want most for their children, happiness is by far the most frequently given response.

Aristotle was a philosopher. He understood the importance of being happy for physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Today this idea isn’t just a philosophical notion. There’s scientific evidence to support it.

The benefits of being happy include having an improved immune system, stronger heart, and greater resilience to stress. There are even studies that show it can help reduce pain. That’s just a few of the physical benefits. There’s so much more.

With the knowledge that happiness is beneficial enough to be a game changer in your life, how do you go about becoming happier. That may seem like a daunting prospect.

You don’t have to turn your life upside down on day one of your decision. My suggestion is to begin with what I call, The Happiness Triad. Focus your attention on the following trio of happiness boosters.


Stopping at the end of the day to ponder some of the things you’re grateful for is a good practice, but you can enhance the benefits of gratitude by consciously noticing your feelings of thankfulness as they appear.

If you enjoy a morning cup of coffee or tea, take a minute to notice how the first sip tastes rather than gulping it down unconsciously. Silently thank your tastebuds for being so astute, the circumstances that mean you’re able to make or buy your morning beverage, and anything else that comes to mind. Try to feel that gratitude deep in your body.

Set an intention to notice at least three things you’re thankful for as soon as they happen. This encourages you to live in the moment. If you realize at the end of the day that you’ve forgotten to do this, don’t despair. Take time to think back on your day, but don’t give up trying to shift into in the moment thankfulness.

Set an intention again the next day to notice good things as they happen. This is about creating a habit of awareness.


You may not like everything in your life, but don’t agonize over things you can’t change.

There are many things you can’t control. Accept this fact with compassion and shift your focus away from the areas of your life that you not only don’t like, but also can’t change. Take the time to discern what is and what isn’t within your control.

Accept past decisions that cause shame or regret with as much grace as you can muster. Remind yourself that they seemed like a good idea at the time, even if they turned out differently than you’d hoped. Few people set out to purposely make a bad decision.


Develop the attitude of a life-long learner and view your world through the eyes of curiosity. Learning opportunities are frequently hidden in the guise of challenge and wrong decisions. You learn more from your mistakes than when things work out easily.

Step out of your comfort zone and try something new, often. Start consciously looking for new experiences. Be grateful for all the growth opportunities that come your way and get in the habit of saying yes to them rather than letting fear stop you.

These aren’t the only happiness boosting activities you can add into your life, but this triad is a good place to start.

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

The amazing way your brain works to identify what you need

Your amazing brain

On my recent trip to England, I had the opportunity to see yet again just how amazing the human brain is.

Because I was there for the entire month of May, I bought a prepaid U.K. SIM card to save me from paying roaming fees on my phone. My daughter had a SIM eject tool that I used to swap out my Canadian card, but I knew I needed to source a paper-clip if I wanted to change back to my regular SIM at the airport before I headed back in Canada. I’d meant to bring one with me but forgot.

The situation was in the back of my mind and each time it sprang forward I considered my options. I stayed with close friends in Essex and Northamptonshire and asked each one if they had a paper-clip I could have. They both did. Unfortunately, in both cases I forgot to actually get one.

So, there I was, back in London without a paper-clip. I knew I’d figure something out, but wanting a paper-clip continued to be on my mind.

This is where the power of your amazing brain springs into action.

Your senses take in so much more information than your conscious mind could ever cope with. Rather than letting you become overwhelmed with everything you hear, see, touch, smell, or taste, your brain decides what you should be made aware of. My brain knew I needed a paper-clip, and it obviously wanted to help me.

My daughter and I went to a Stonehenge exhibition at the British Museum on one of my last days in the U.K. As we walked down Museum Street after a lovely pub lunch, I happened to glance down and what did I see lying on the pavement? You guessed it. A paper-clip.

If I hadn’t been thinking about that precise item, would I have noticed it? There’s no way of knowing for sure, but I tend to think not. There are millions of items lying on the sidewalks of London. How many of them does my brain decide to draw my attention to? Only a fraction.

Your eyes see everything that comes into their line of vision. All the data gets sent to your brain where a decision is made. Either you’re made aware of the information, or it’s sent to the subconscious part of your mind where it’s stored.

How does it decide what’s important and what can be ignored? Your brain loves logic, order, and consistency. It prioritizes evidence that supports your beliefs and will help you achieve your goals.

If you think someone is horrible, your brain will draw your attention to anything that supports that idea. But it can just as easily support the belief that this same person is wonderful. Same stimulus, different interpretation.

This amazing ability to direct your brain, is worth taking note of.

If you announce to yourself—and therefore your brain—that you’re going to have a good day, your mind will draw your attention to anything that supports than intention. Therefore, consciously deciding what kind of a day you want and what you want your experience of life to be like is vital if you want to create a reality that’s positive.

This is what optimists do. They expect life and all its experiences to work out for the best. With the help of their brains, that turns out to be true. The last thing your mind wants is for your expectations to be at odds with your experience.

Finding a paper-clip lying on the pavement of a busy street in London was just a reminder of this amazing ability. It’s a superpower that everyone has. All you have to do is draw your brain’s attention to what you want, and then sit back and let it support you.

Of course, you have to be mindful enough to notice the magic when it happens. If my nose had been buried in my phone, I probably wouldn’t have seen the treasure that was waiting for me.

Being conscious of the life you want to create is at the heart of directing your brain and making your desires reality.

You have one of the strongest forces on Earth at your disposal, if you choose to take advantage of it.

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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