Creativity and happiness, when in doubt, force it out.

There are countless scientific studies showing that creativity increases happiness.  It has a positive effect on our feelings of well-being and attitudes. So why in an era of adult colouring books and Pinterest boards are we still struggling with being creative?

The answer is simple, we don’t have the time, we don’t have the equipment or we don’t have the skills. At least those are the excuses that we tell ourselves. The excuse I most frequently tell myself is that I’m just not in a creative mood. As it happens I haven’t been in a creative mood for years now. It’s not that I don’t want to create lovely things, I really do, but I just can’t feel ready.  I can’t feel ready to give something of myself and to open up and allow the process to flow.  So what next?  Force.  I decided today that if I can’t feel ready, I will simply just begin. Begin without a plan and allow my mind and my body to work as one.

Over the years I have spent more money on art supplies than I care to admit. They sit in a closet that I wish I went into more often, waiting anxiously to be used. Forcing myself to enter the closet and begin was the start to my day. I had no plan, only supplies. After a couple of hours with a large canvas and paints, here is the result:

Do I like it?  No, not really. I can’t see myself ever hanging this on my wall but I truly enjoyed the process.  I enjoyed selecting the colours and the long and painful process of blending them all together. I enjoyed the pain that my arm felt after the countless brushstrokes I made. I enjoyed the juxtaposition between the dark and light colours and my attempts to soften them. I enjoyed the time that I spent focused on one task.

I can always paint over it when the creative mood really strikes me but for now I am content in process of creation.

As an aside, my spouse feels that this painting looks like a buttocks. If your buttocks looks like this, please seek medical attention.

Apple has turned my children into monsters

Five years ago when my children were four and six years old my spouse and I bought them iPads.  They didn’t receive them as a gift for an occasion, it was simply that we spent too long  in the Apple store waiting for a genius to repair my phone. While we waited the children played on the iPads and were smitten.  When I think of it, the store concept is quite ingenious from a marketing and sales perspective. As parents we told ourselves that we would be doing our children a favour by giving them access to countless educational apps and getting them a head-start on becoming tech savvy. Retrospectively of course we were ridiculously delusional for ever thinking that way.

Fast-forward (do children now days even know what fast-forward means?!) five years and my children are entitled assholes. Monsters even. Their patience is non-existent. Want that new game? You’ve got it in seconds.  They can’t spell, that’s what auto-correct is for. Their printing is virtually illegible because they usually type. Imagination is a thing of the past, they watch adults on YouTube opening boxes of new toys instead of playing with their own toys. They are lazy from spending all their spare time in a seated position. I can’t blame Apple exclusively, after all, I bought those iPads.

You might be wondering how all of this has any relevance to my own happiness, well friends let me tell you. Every day my household is a battleground. It’s parents vs children in a war for respect, cleanliness and completion of basic necessities of home management. Today for example I asked one of my children to shovel the snow.  That simple request was replied to like this: “WHY DON”T YOU DO IT YOURSELF?” and continued on from there for longer than I care to admit.  Had I ever spoken to my parents in such a manner an ass-whooping would have been imminent. Living in a war zone where every request is an argument and no one helps anyone with anything becomes exhausting. The heaviness of negativity is weighing down our  house. I am tired. I am unhappy.

So what’s a parent to do to undo five years of entitlement?  Take hold of the wheel and steer that ship straight into the storm.  It’s going to be exhausting for awhile and quite honestly very unpleasant but it needs to be done. The children will need to earn their privileges through respectful words and hard work. We’re going back in time to farm-style. Do you want to eat?  Then you had better help with the preparation. Do you want to play with your friends? Then you had better make sure the house is clean. Do you want to watch tv?  Then be respectful and do as your told. Sadly it’s come to this and it will surely be met with resistance. I accept the blame for being too accommodating and accept my punishment. It will be misery for everyone but in the end I will be happier when they start to listen and they stop being assholes. One day they will speak to me kindly, in full sentence form and do chores without being asked first.  At least that’s the hope.

I wonder if this happens to every generation of parents. In 1880 did conversations go like this?

“George, I really want to get electricity because it will make things so much easier for us.”

“Martha, I’m sorry but the answer is no. If we get electricity the children will forget how to light a lantern and start thinking they can stay up past sunset”

skinner 2

Happiness is found in a meaningful life

I’ve recently finished reading The Power of Meaning *crafting a life that matters by Emily Esfahani Smith.  The purpose of this post is not to provide a book review but I think a synopsis is important to provide some insight as to how I’ve come to recognize that happiness lies in a meaningful life.

the power of meaning

This book is packed with anecdotal evidence and scientific research about happiness, meaning and the difference between the two. The evidence is clear, there is no secret to happiness, but those who have meaning in their lives are more likely to be happy.  Although the particulars of meaningfulness is different for everyone, the short version is being kind and helpful to others provides meaning and in turn happiness.

Some people find meaning in providing a good life for their children.  While that is important to me, that is simply a part of my everyday life. Others find meaning in the work that they do. I find great meaning in my work and am fortunate to know that the job that I do has a significant and positive impact every single day to improve the lives of others. Many people don’t have the opportunity to feel so fulfilled in the work that they do, and I am forever grateful that I have chosen a path that serves others. My work provides me with meaning, but it’s not enough. I have the capacity and strength to do so much more and to help so many more people. I simply have not yet discovered the great work that I know my life will bring. I know I can do more and I will do more.

Yesterday I watched a video of Portia giving Ellen her 60th birthday gift.  Firstly I cannot believe that Ellen is 60, she has the energy and spirit of someone much younger. The gift that Portia gave Ellen has so much meaning and I hope that one day I will be able to give someone else such a wonderful gift, and I hope to be able to give myself such a wonderful gift.  If you haven’t seen it yet I highly recommend it.

Watch Portia’s 60th birthday gift to Ellen here

Did you cry?  I cried. What an amazing way to give back to the world and provide such incredible meaning to your own life. When each of us have gone from this world we will be remembered for something different. How do you want to be remembered?  I want to be remembered for helping and changing the lives of others. How I’m going to accomplish that is still to be determined and in the end isn’t that the wonderful part of life? The choices we have and the unknown of what lies ahead.

Say it with me….. “NO!”

We are people pleasers. We want to make other people happy and in order to do that we agree to do a lot of things. Making people feel happy and helping people succeed feels good. Because of that, we say yes to a lot of people and a lot of things that we know we don’t want to do. We have a problem saying no. I have a problem saying no.

My work is meaningful and has a huge effect on the lives and happiness of  others. Every single day the words I choose and the services I provide have the ability to make the lives of others better. In retrospect it is a large burden to bear, holding the happiness and success of others in your hand. If I am not available, people don’t receive the same service, they won’t get the help that they need and deserve. That weighs on me every single time I am sick, every single time I feel like I don’t have the energy to keep going. I have to keep going because others depend on me. It’s exhausting. Sometimes I feel like I just can’t keep going. I can’t talk about your rape one more time, I can’t talk about that murder you saw happen, I can’t talk about that time your dad tightened a belt around your neck and made you watch as he raped your sister. I am tired. I can’t take it anymore and each story weighs on me. I lay on the ground as I absorb your weight and get sucked further underground.

As much as I know my work is important I need to to recognize that my ability to help others  lies in my ability to keep myself safe and healthy.  Have you ever gone on a trip and listened to the flight attendant tell you that you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you help others put on theirs?  It’s a truth that we need to remember every single day of our lives.  If I can’t help myself, I can’t help you.   Sometimes helping myself means that I have to put boundaries in place to protect myself.  Sometimes I have to call in sick because I need a day to myself to rest, relax and ground myself.  A mental health day is just as if not more important than a physical sick day. Sometimes I just have to say “no, I’m not coming in to work today” or “no, I can’t take on that extra project”.  It’s not that I want to lay on the couch all day watching Netflix, but know that if I don’t, I’m going to sink further underground with your story until I can’t be dug out again.

We need to learn how to say no. We need to say no to projects we can’t finish without feeling stressed. We need to learn to say no to that friend that wants us to go to their Tupperware party. I want to make my boss happy and I want to make my friends happy but the reality is that if I say yes to everyone I will slip so far underground that I can’t breathe anymore let alone be helpful to anyone.

We can’t please everyone and if we don’t put ourselves first we won’t be able to please anyone let alone ourselves. It’s okay to say no and sometimes it takes practice to feel comfortable with it.

Say it with me….. “NO!”

Accepting that you are enough

When you suffer from depression and anxiety sometimes it feels like pursuing happiness is a fruitless labour. It feels like no matter the effort you put in, sometimes that faceless monster storms into your life and takes over. The road to hell is paved to good intentions. Hell is your bed and you’re stuck in it wishing for sleep to guide you from one day to the next in a blur of nothingness.  You don’t want that nothingness, but it’s the best you can do.

I want to be happy. I want to be productive and accomplish things. I want people to be proud of me and most of all I want to be proud of myself. When that depression monster is pinning you down your hopes and dreams become distant memories. Those distant memories fade into a fog that seems impossible to push through, but push through you must. It’s an exhausting process but pushing your way through is the only way to get out.

Some days I think I can’t make it out of bed let alone get dressed and be functional at work. Those are the days that I have to talk myself through one step at a time. I tell myself that I’ll just shower and see how it goes. From there I tell myself I’ll just get dressed and if at any point it becomes too much I can go back to bed. Next I’ll get myself to work, if I have to leave so be it.  Usually it ends up that step by step, I’ve successfully made it through another day. Did I get home and cook an amazing meal?  Probably not. Did I come home and clean the house? Yeah right. But make it through the day I did and sometimes that is all we can hope for and that is enough.

No one is happy all the time and sometimes the best we can get is simply to survive and that is okay. Rather than focusing on the things I did not accomplish that day, I choose to focus on the things that I did.

Maybe there’s a load of laundry on my bed but at least I washed it. Maybe there’s a pile of dirty dishes on the counter but at least I made a meal. Sometimes we need to allow ourselves permission to accept that we can’t do everything.  Feeling guilty about the things that weren’t accomplished will not lead to feelings of success but understanding and accepting that there are times when whatever minimal tasks we did manage to accomplish is absolutely okay will allow us to feel at peace with ourselves.

Today is survival, tomorrow is fame and fortune. Just kidding, tomorrow is simply better than today and that is enough.

Collecting moments

There are times when happiness seems like a distant dream.  A foggy memory of something you felt once upon a time.  For me that time was this week.  There were many feelings I had this week and happiness wasn’t one that stayed around for longer than a short glance and wave from across the street.

Throughout this week of anxiety, stress and uncertainty I forced myself to find joy in the moments in time that were meaningful.  When thoughts are honed in on the positives it’s easier to re-frame the overall outlook. Retrospectively throughout the week I have actually amassed quite a collection of lovely moments that brought me joy. In reality no one is happy all the time and it is the special connections we share that can bring us happiness.  Sometimes it can be helpful to take time to remember those moments and fully appreciate them.  Here are some of mine:

  • Getting a text from my spouse to say that he had bought dog food. This was a pleasant surprise which meant I didn’t have to go that evening after work.
  • Hearing a friend regale a story of accidentally seeing her next door neighbours having sex. This is not the first time this has happened and her describing what she saw made me laugh.
  • Getting an avocado pit from a friend to grow into a tree. Now that tree will forever remind me of her and will be connected to us both.
  • Putting on my Lana Del Rey vinyl, pouring a glass of whiskey and just sitting down to enjoy them both.
  • Talking about challenging work changes with friends.  The amazing part about that moment wasn’t the work changes but the knowledge that I am fortunate enough to work with a few people with whom over the years I have forged such strong friendships.

Now that they’ve been written out, it honestly doesn’t seem so bad. Those moments were special to me and I am grateful for all of them. Now feast your eyes on my pit in it’s pre-tree faze.

Modern life is draining away our happiness

There are countless studies showing that rates of depression have been steadily increasing over the years.  Why is that? When science has brought us such advancements in medicine that we are living longer than ever before and we can access anything we need with the click of a mouse, why are we so unhappy?

we have lost ourselves.

The simplest answer is that with the rapid advancements in technology we have lost ourselves.  Lost our ability to stand in a line for 5 minutes without needing to check our phones. Lost our free time now that schedules are packed to the brim with work and children’s activities. Lost the knowledge and skills to create things for ourselves. Lost our sense of purpose. 

We have replaced family gatherings with the like of a social media picture.  We know everything about everyone but spend little to no time with them. Starting at a young age we pack our children’s time with sports training and music lessons because they must have all the opportunities we didn’t. We check our work e-mail after hours to try and make the following day less stressful. Why are we doing these things?  We tell ourselves we’re more connected than ever before and we’re increasing our opportunity for success. But are we really?

If our modern lives have led us to our own unhappiness, what are we to do about it? There are seemingly endless minute details that we can change which have the potential to increase our happiness a little at a time.

what are we to do about it?


Stop reading the news so often.

Let’s face it, most of the news is bad. We don’t sit down to read the news and walk away feeling good about ourselves or our species as a whole.  If there is no value added to your life by reading the news regularly then don’t do it. If you must read the news regularly, balance it out something positive like Good News Network

Get creative.

Studies have shown that people who spend their time doing creative things like knitting, art or journalling reduce their levels of anxiety and increase their moods. If you’re not sure where to start, have a look at your Pinterest boards. Stop pinning and start doing!

Reduce your social media presence.

Social media is a great way to keep in touch with rarely seen friends but it can be exhausting to keep up with. We naturally want to stay up to date with the world and the people we know but the end you will be no worse off for missing that picture of Aunt Josephine’s brunch plate.  You don’t need to quit, just check-in a little less frequently.

Cook and eat mindfully.

In a fast paced world of work and appointments we often consume food that is either pre-prepared or quick to make. We take little enjoyment in the preparation or consumption of food.  Set aside time at least one night per week to enjoy the process of preparing a meal from scratch and maybe even invite someone over to share it with.


Who doesn’t love a vacation? It gives us something to look forward to, reduces stress and re-energizes our creativity. If your bank account says that a vacation isn’t in the cards, escape with a good book instead.

Get outside.

Since the 1980’s, forest bathing has been the cornerstone of Japanese healing and preventative medicine.  What exactly is forest bathing? It’s the act of immersing oneself in nature. Head into a forest, take a deep breath and enjoy the sense of calm, lowered blood pressure and increased feelings of wellness that nature can provide. As peaceful as it sounds, finding a forest can be a little tricky for urbanite so adapt by walking to a park or even some balcony gardening.

Talk to strangers.

Do the exact thing that parents teach their children not to do. We tend to go about our business in such a task oriented way that we forget to take a moment to look at the world around us. We don’t hesitate to argue on-line with a stranger about politics but we won’t smile at a someone we pass on the street let alone say hello.  The simple act of a polite conversation might be the most meaningful experience that you can give someone that day.

Just be.

We feel compelled to be doing something at all times. If there’s a silence in the conversation we need to fill it, if we’re alone at a table we check our phones.  Learning to give ourselves permission to do nothing be can be challenging.  Put on some music and watch the flames in a fireplace or light a candle and enjoy a hot bath. Be alone with your thoughts and appreciate yourself. Just be.

Find yourself

Despite the effects of our hectic pace of life and instant access to everything,  there are choices we can make everyday that can increase our own happiness. Find peace in disconnecting. Find time to do the things that you enjoy. Find the opportunity to create and learn new skills. Find yourself.

We bring you a connection to the modern world

Photo credit: Bizarro Comics