The Happiness Connection  

Are you emotionally secure?

What makes you feel safe?

Common answers include:

  • A dependable income
  • Money in the bank
  • A committed life-partner
  • A secure home
  • Close family and friends you can rely on

You may believe that whatever is missing from your list is the reason you’re feeling vulnerable. But what if you have all the things you think make you safe and you still feel exposed?

Safety isn’t just about people and things. These will help you physically, but they don’t increase your emotional safety. That’s where the what-ifs live.

  • What if I get laid off?
  • What if I run out of money?
  • What if my partner leaves me?
  • What if I can’t pay my mortgage?

Having all the things isn’t enough to make you feel emotionally safe, because there is no guarantee you won’t lose them.

Emotional security comes from within you. It isn’t something that can be lost unless you choose to release it. It comes when you believe you are resilient and will deal with whatever comes your way.

If I believed my safety was totally wrapped up in physical things, I’d be in trouble. I’m a writer and speaker, with a fluctuating income. I live on my own with parents who rely on me and children who live on another continent. I have a home, but it has a mortgage.

In physical terms, my life isn’t as safe as it was a few years ago.

Does that mean that I don’t feel safe? Not in the least. I’ve been through a lot in my life and I know how resilient I am. I believe completely that whatever comes my way, I will deal with it.

Without resilience, it doesn’t matter how physically secure you are, your feelings of safety will be weakened.

The only way to increase your resilience is through practise. You need to get into the thick of life and experience some bumps and bruises. Your self-belief will increase every time you get up after a fall.

You need to prove to yourself that you can survive challenges.

The older you get before you experience tough times, the more frightened you may be of them. It’s a little like skiing.

If you learn to ski when you’re older, you’re likely to be more nervous about falling than if you were young. Old bones break more easily, and injuries take longer to heal. You may decide to do everything you can to avoid falling.

With this attitude, you don’t go down challenging runs or ski when the conditions aren’t perfect. You limit yourself in hopes you will be safe.

If you learn to ski as a child, you don’t care if you fall. That’s all part of the experience. You learn to trust your ability to tumble safely and get up again. You don’t shy away from challenging runs.

Swap the snowy slopes for your journey through life. If you haven’t shown yourself that you know how to get back up after an emotional fall, you are likely to spend your energy trying to avoid situations you aren’t sure about.

Parents strive to protect their children from failure, stress, and struggles, but in truth they aren’t doing them any favours with this approach. Learning to be resilient from a young age is one of the best gifts you can give your offspring.

The good news is that you can learn to roll with the punches and face challenges head on at any age. It may just take a little more effort.

2020 is offering you the perfect opportunity to increase your resilience and sense of emotional safety.

Step into the unknown

You won’t know how resilient you are until you fall a few times. It’s in the getting up that you discover your strength.

You’ll also learn that doing something for the first time doesn’t guarantee you will struggle. You never know what you can do until you try it.

If getting up seems hard, persevere. Don’t give up. Prove to yourself that you can do what it takes to right yourself.

Develop flexible thinking

Your old thought patterns probably need to be updated as you encounter new situations. Question your stories. When you make an excuse for why you can’t do something, ask yourself whether that’s actually true.

Learn to manage your thoughts and emotions by being aware of them. Don’t assume that the first ideas and feelings that spring into existence are the only way to interpret something. This will help you find more positive perspectives, and creative solutions.

Foster a healthy sense of humour

This is an invaluable skill when you are learning to be resilient. A good laugh not only makes you feel better, it will help you release some of the negative emotions that may be weighing you down.

Connect with your spiritual side

Whatever spiritual means to you, knowing that you have support and guidance from something more than your human self is incredibly powerful. Seeing yourself as a piece of a bigger picture gives you a different perspective.

I’ve been thinking about safety a lot lately with my 66 Days of Possibility experience. If you don’t feel safe, it’s hard to lean into what’s possible. You’re focused on surviving more than thriving.

The topic for this week’s Happiness Connection came to me when I was listening to the song, I Know Him So Well, by Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Tim Rice. It’s part of the musical Chess.

As I was singing along, the lyrics, “No one in your life is with you constantly. No one is completely on your side,” jumped out at me.

The only person you can ever totally count on is yourself.

Physical safety may come and go but trusting and believing in yourself can last forever.

As smoke, masks, and social distancing define life our current lives, take time to strengthen your emotional resilience.

The only one who can do that is you and this may be the perfect opportunity to do that.


Change story, change life

Humans are designed to relate to stories. It’s one of the quickest ways to illustrate a point or capture someone’s attention.

Before it was common to read and write, cultures passed on their history, knowledge, and wisdom through storytelling.

I frequently refer to myself as an edutainer — a person who both educates and entertains. This is a perfect description for a storyteller.

One type of traditional story is the fairytale. These began as a way to teach people how they should behave and what would happen if they didn’t. The original accounts weren’t written for children, and were gruesome.

In the Brothers Grimm version of Snow White, the fate of the wicked queen went like this. “They put a pair of iron shoes into burning coals. They were brought forth with tongs and placed before her. She was forced to step into the red-hot shoes and dance until she fell down dead.”

While being entertained, listeners were learning that horrible things happened to bad people. It encouraged them to think twice before straying from the straight and narrow.

It wasn’t until these stories became child-focused that this level of horror was removed.

It’s common to think of stories as harmless entertainment and, in many cases, they are. However, storytelling can be a psychological way of trapping yourself into limiting beliefs.

I’ve often heard people say that everybody has at least one book in them. It might be truer to say you have many volumes of short stories in you. You may never publish them, but you are their author none the less.

Humans create stories to justify and defend their actions and beliefs. Let me share an example.

When I was on my honeymoon many decades ago, my then husband refused to put on a life jacket and float above the Great Barrier Reef or near the shore in Hawaii. He told me he had almost drowned as a kid, so he had a fear of deep water.

I accepted his explanation without too much thought.

Months later, during a visit with his parents, the conversation turned to the experience Nick had mentioned. I asked for their perspective on the event. His mom and dad looked at me with amazement and then told me it had never happened.

Apparently, his older brother had fallen into deep water when he was young, but he had been quickly rescued with no lasting trauma. Nick wasn’t even born when this happened.

Somehow, he had taken the story and recreated it more dramatically with himself in the central role. He was positive it was true. It took some convincing by his parents for him to accept that it hadn’t happened.

He used this fictitious tale to justify his mistrust of water. It stopped him from experiencing what was possible. Instead, he limited himself.

When he realized that he had been using this story as an excuse, he slowly began to change his attitude about deep water. He started jumping into the middle of Okanagan Lake when we were boating with friends. He wore a life jacket to begin with, but eventually, that was released, just like the story he had been telling himself.

This is an extreme case, but it clearly illustrates a behaviour we all have. We make excuses for how we feel or what we believe is right, by creating stories to back us up.

I repeatedly told myself that I wasn’t co-ordinated, and therefore I couldn’t play any sport well enough to join in and not look foolish.

When I announced this to my father-in-law, he challenged me on it. He offered to teach me to play tennis well enough to join in on club nights without embarrassment.

I went along with his scheme just to humour him, but he was right. I did learn to play tennis. I was never going to be a star, but I was good enough to have a lot of fun.

When I realized the story, I’d been repeating to myself was false, I stopped telling it.

I know that if I wanted to invest enough time and energy in a sport, I could get good enough to enjoy playing it. I haven’t felt that urge, but then life isn’t over yet.

Rather than living in your stories, try to recognize them for what they are and then let them go.

Instead of believing you must keep your house spotlessly clean because that’s what good people do, keep it clean because you want to, or don’t keep it clean.

My mother is almost 90 and she still tells herself that she has to iron my dad’s shirts. If she doesn’t, people will judge her.

I can’t imagine many people noticing wrinkles on other people’s clothing or caring if they do. Don’t freshly ironed shirts get wrinkled within minutes of being worn?

For years, I believed the only way I could accomplish all the things I needed to do was by making a list and crossing things off. That wasn’t true.

I’ve proven that because I rarely make lists any more. When I do, it’s because I’ve chosen to. I don’t have to justify it to anyone, including myself.

Take some time to look for the stories you’ve created to explain the way you are. When you start rationalizing your beliefs or justifying why things should be done a certain way, there is likely a story at the root of it.

Begin by examining the tale you are telling to see if it is stopping you from living your most expansive life. If it is, try letting it go. Lean into possibility rather than limitation.

When you feel safe within yourself, you won’t need those stories any more. You’ll feel strong enough to accept yourself, just the way you are.

Life is changing again

Just as we’re getting used to social distancing and living with a pandemic, life is getting ready to change again.

Schools will be back in session soon, and experts are advising us to shrink our bubbles as the weather changes and we’re forced to spend more time indoors.

With no school-aged children and an already smallish bubble, it looks like more of the same is in my future. My energy is slumping and I’m finding it more difficult to stay motivated.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this situation. Normally, I’d fall into my favourite way of adding some excitement to life. I’d fly or drive off to visit friends and family in England or the States.

Because I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon, I had to find a new strategy.

Instead, I’ve turned to the self-determination theory, established by Richard Ryan and Edward Deci. It states that people are driven by three basic psychological needs:

  • Autonomy
  • Relatedness
  • Competence

In other words, people like you and me can increase our motivation through self-empowerment, personal growth, and social connection.

By upping any or all of these areas, you can improve your state of well-being and increase your zest for life.

Autonomy – choosing for yourself rather than being controlled by others.

When you find your circumstances changing without any input from you, it’s easy to feel that life is happening to you. When this happens, focus on the things you can control in your life and maybe add some new ones.

When I broke my ankle, I chose to honour the three speaking commitments I already had. I couldn’t prevent my ankle injury and surgery, but I could choose whether to let it stop me.

Take control of your fitness, find projects you want to complete in your house, or choose not to do anything that’s on your to-do list.

Empower yourself by taking charge of aspects of your life and giving them your attention.

Relatedness – feeling connected to others and the world around you.

Positive psychologists have been studying the relationship between social connection and happiness for decades. Studies show there is an overwhelming link between them.

Happy people have more connections and connecting with others makes you happier. Connection is about feeling you belong or have a bond with another person even if it’s short-lived.

I’ve connected with people I’ve met while travelling on the bus, train, or tube. When the journey is over, I may never see them again, but the time we spent together linked us and left me feeling good.

Competence – being good at what you do. This comes from personal or professional growth.

Humans are designed to be continuous learners. It makes us feel good. Sadly, not everyone takes advantage of this fact.

You don’t have to take courses or gain certifications. Acquiring knowledge through books, taking up a new hobby, or stepping out of your comfort zone are all good ways of increasing competence.

Listening to podcasts or online summits is another great way to foster personal growth.

I was asked to speak at the Awakening Joy Summit that will be aired online from Sept. 19-30. Twenty-five experts are sharing how to master the art of joyful living.

If this is something you might be interested in, you can sign up for a free ticket. The intention is to give back by helping people add more happiness into their lives.

This is a triple whammy. You can find ways to boost your happiness, improve your level of motivation, and receive a lot of free resources from the speakers, all at the same time.

I’m giving away my book To Know You is to Love You: a guide for self-love. The only way to get a copy is to join the summit.

The conversation about motivation is also applicable to anyone who has school-aged children. Use the self-determination theory to help your students as they transition back to school.

Help them foster growth, connection, and empowerment.

Try to focus more on what they’re learning rather than the grades they’re achieving. Learning and grades are not always as closely linked as you might think.

If they feel isolated, build connection into other areas of their lives. Share the fact that it’s more about the quality than the quantity of friends you have.

Make sure your children have some level of autonomy. This may start with what they wear, or what they take in their lunch bag. As they mature, increase what they get to choose and have responsibility for.

It can be hard to relinquish control when you want to keep your children safe and you believe you are older and wiser, but it’s important for everyone to have control over some areas of their lives.

If you feel a need to increase your motivation, create a strategy to increase empowerment, social connection, and personal growth.

I’m going to spend some time today making an action plan. If you want to increase your zest for life, I suggest you do the same.


How's your energy?

Do you have days when you feel worn out, anxious, or grumpy?

I’m having one of those days today.

Strangely enough, I’m usually surprised when these moods arrive. More often than not, the time leading up to them has been good. Suddenly, my life goes from heady to heavy.

Why do I feel drained and dissatisfied when everything was going so well?

With few exceptions, this situation comes when I haven’t managed my energy efficiently. I was probably creating or enjoying that feel-good phase with activities that consumed a lot of my vitality.

This dip in mood also happens when I encounter a situation that is a high energy drain.

You can’t expect to stay as energized as normal without taking some special steps and yet often that is exactly what I expect.

Everything you do, think, and create, takes energy. You probably know that, but do you have a management program to help prevent those heady highs being followed by heavy lows?

Obviously, I don’t have a system that I am consistently good about honouring. I tend to get caught up in life and forget to check in to see how I’m doing.

Waiting until your battery is critically low or has died completely before recharging, is not ideal.

I’m confident that I’m not the only person who suffers from a lack of energy maintenance, so I wanted to share some of the things I’ve had to remind myself about this week.

Your battery only works for so long before it needs recharging.

It’s interesting how often people ignore this fact. You give and give and give and then you’re surprised when you hit a brick wall; just getting out of bed seems like a challenge.

At this point it’s easy to feel like life is getting the better of you. I find my mood takes a serious nosedive when I’m depleted.

Not all activities consume the same amount of energy.

Getting caught up in drama and negativity takes more energy than being surrounded by peace. Even facial expressions follow this tendency. Your muscles work harder to frown than they do to smile.

Intense brain work or stepping out of your comfort zone will also zap your energy more quickly.

Ask yourself whether the high consuming activities are worth your energy?

Just because something burns a lot of energy, it doesn’t mean it isn’t good. If it’s good for you, it doesn’t mean it’s good for everyone or that it will be worth the energy consumption at some other point in your life.

Notice what’s draining you and ask yourself if it’s worth it. It’s a little like shopping. Is that purchase worth the money?

Don’t wait until your battery is critically low before you start looking for your charger.

It’s important to consciously be aware of how much energy you are using and what level your battery is at?

When you’re involved in high-energy activities, you’ll need to recharge more often. If you are surprised at how quickly you’re feeling depleted, examine what you’ve been doing.

High-energy consumption isn’t a bad thing, but being aware and choosing whether you want to continue it, is empowering.

Just like choosing not to accept an invitation to jump onto the drama train, you can choose not to indulge in an activity or viewpoint that is draining.

Not everybody gets recharged by the same things.

Life would be simpler if you could recharge by plugging yourself into an outlet. Instead you need to figure out what recharges your specific brand of energy packs?

Common ways are:

  • Eating
  • Meditating
  • Taking a nap
  • Getting out in nature
  • Exercising
  • Laughing,
  • Sitting in the sunshine
  • Spending time by yourself
  • Getting together with rejuvenating friends
  • Gardening
  • Reading

This is not an exhaustive list. Only you know the best ways to rejuvenate yourself.

Try something and then check to see if it has had the desired effect. What works for your partner or friend, may not work for you. There’s a certain amount of trial and error involved in this process.

Managing your energy is something few of us are taught at school, or by our parents and yet it is a vital skill.

Check in with yourself regularly during the day.


  • How am I feeling?
  • Does my energy need a top up?
  • Am I surprised at how drained I’m feeling? What has caused that?
  • Is what I’m doing worth my energy?

If you can maintain a consistently strong level of energy throughout your days and week, it will improve your quality of life exponentially.

More The Happiness Connection articles

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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