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The International Day of Happiness

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Did you know that March 20th is the International Day of Happiness? While we certainly aspire to enhance emotional wellbeing every day, this day has a special meaning! The United Nations launched this initiative in 2012 to expand how we think about and pursue world economic growth. It recognizes that sustainable growth must balance social, economic, and environmental wellbeing. Jargon aside, this means that emotionally healthy and balanced people are core to our economic success.

To celebrate this day, take the time to reflect on how well you’re balancing your emotional growth and wellbeing. If you think you may need to rebalance a little, consider these tips:

Start with vision and values: What vision do you hold for you and your family? What are the values you want to live by? Do you want a life that prioritizes health and fitness? adventure? personal growth? family connection? community service? gratitude? serenity? simplicity? achievement?  Make this a collaborative exercise! Invite others into the conversation who are most important to you, and see what you can come up with as a team. This can be a rich exercise where you learn about what’s important to the people you love, gain agreement, and most importantly commitment; because it was done inclusively! This is meant to be fun and inspiring. Get creative, pick words and symbols that you find emotionally engaging, and can easily refer back to as you strive to live them.

Be kind! Avoid the judgment trap. This is a proactive exercise to be more closely aligned with what’s important to you. If you’re not already achieving all your goals (and who is?!), give your critical mind a few days off work! The purpose of the visions exercise (listed above) is to take a thoughtful look at where you are…and want to be, and make adjustments as necessary. It is one of our cultural challenges that we struggle to be present in the “here and now”. Know that what we do right now has value for its own sake and in the interest of our future plans. We need to be right where we are right now, as we move towards our future self! Accept who you are right now.

Be planful. One of the main factors that affects emotional wellbeing is a feeling of progress and achievement. Set shorter-term, realistic goals along with your long-term goals, so you can feel forward movement which will help you to see the changes you aspire to, and maintain your commitment. Plan specific activities and behaviours that you can implement (meditate 5 minutes per day, eat veggies twice a day, no-screens family dinner 2x’s per week, take one trip a year). This may require that you eliminate some activities that aren’t really serving your priorities to make room for the activities that will. Be sure to celebrate the accomplishment of short-term and long-term goals.

Don’t forget your allies. We sometimes fail to take a broader look at supporting people and resources. Friends and family often have ideas to share and maybe even time and resources we haven’t considered. Also consider your employer. Perhaps there is a thoughtful and constructive way to give them a chance to retain a valued employee (you!) by including them in the conversation. There may be room for flexibility in your schedule, travel hours, or responsibilities that could help you realign your behavior to meet your values and goals.

Happy International Happiness Day! Do let us know where your reflections took you and how your plans to rebalance are developing. We’d love to hear from you!

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Dr Francine MacInnis, Psychologist

Dr. MacInnis is a seasoned psychologist with 20 years of professional experience. She completed her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the University of Western Ontario. Her research was in “positive psychology” which challenged traditional views of what makes people “well” and satisfied with their lives and urged professionals to develop methods not only to help people find relief for distress (very important) but also on helping people find joy, meaning, and purpose in their lives (also important!). Since the time of her research, this field has truly flourished as have people who have applied these positive practices.