Thursday, October 8, 2009

Happiness in Three Easy Steps

I learn a lot from listening to the radio. Recently, I've heard a few of the hosts on CBC Radio 2 talking about a British researcher who's been studying....Happiness!

According to this researcher, who conducted trials with university students in the UK, there are three simple steps we can take in our lives to start feeling happier and improving our outlooks. I mean easy peasy. This is stuff we can all do:

1. Force Yourself to Smile

Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm not much of a smiler--especially in public. Sure I smile when I'm having fun with my family and friends, but when I'm out in the world I am very straight-faced. I think a lot of that comes from living in a big, impersonal city. Nobody wants to let their guard down because the second you do--POW!--someone's going to take advantage of you. What a way to live! But that's urbanism for you.

I'm not sure I'm ready to take my smile to the streets, but apparently just the act of smiling--forcing your facial muscles into that position--on a regular basis can help make you feel happier. So, whether you're at work, in bed, or in the shower, SMILE! Smile at yourself, at your dog, at your neighbour. It helps.

2. Express Gratitude

This is another exercise that can be done alone or with other people. Every day, think about something you're lucky to have and express gratitude for it. You'll start to focus on all the great things you already have rather than jealously coveting what you wish you had.

I'm so grateful to have a roof over my head. I'm grateful for my two happy and healthy cats. I'm grateful for my always loving, caring, and understanding girlfriend (maybe I should have said that one before the cats...) and I'm grateful that there's food on my plate every time I want a meal. When I think about all the freedoms I have, I realize I'm an extremely fortunate person.

This exercise is particularly applicable here in Canada, with Thanksgiving coming up this weekend. Happy Thanksgiving Canada!

3. Acts of Kindness

The other weekend I was doing some volunteer work, and I met an artist who mentioned how badly he wanted to showcase his work in such-and-such a place. He said he'd tried to get in there before, but it just wasn't happening. He didn't know how to get the ball rolling. Well, it just happened that I used to work in such-and-such a place. I loved his art, so I advocated on his behalf to get him slotted in. He was over the moon. "I don't even know how to start thanking you," he said.

He didn't need to. I couldn't believe the emotional high I got just from helping someone achieve a goal. I wasn't going to get anything out of the situation in terms of remuneration. It wasn't about money, or power, or esteem, or any of those things we're taught to seek in life. I saw that I could help him out, so I did, and it made me feel incredible. Even as a writer, I don't have a word to express how good I felt about it.

That's what the acts of kindness are all about. I've started doing a lot of volunteer work over the past five years, and with no exaggeration I can tell you it has changed my life. My experiences of helping others while expecting nothing in return have made me a happier and more fulfilled person. Volunteer. Give money to charity. Feel good.

On the flip side, also take time to reflect on the acts of kindness others have gifted to you. Even if it's something little, keep it in the foreground of your mind. Two of my friend invited me out to a show tomorrow. Mundane? Unimportant? Empty socializing? No. Even the simplest invitation is a sign that there are people in the world who think about you, care about you, and want to spend their time with you.
Three simple actions can boost your happiness factor:
1. Smile
2. Express Gratitude
3. Acts of Kindness

And while we're on the topic of giving, remember that I'm giving all profits from my eXcessica ebooks purchased through the publisher's website between September 15 2009 and December 15 2009 to LGBT YOUTHLINE. If you're looking for a daily act of kindness, buy one of my books or make a donation to this worthy cause. For all the details, read here. It'll make you happy!

Thanks and Hugs,
I love you all,
Giselle Renarde


  1. Giselle,
    I love this! Not only the tips on happiness, but your generosity! My husband created a class called Crossroads in the HS where he teaches, and thus works to support all groups who experience prejudice of any kind. Always looking for the excuse to buy another book, this is one of the best ones I have found!

  2. Very nice post - thanks for the tips.


  3. Hi Giselle,
    I really needed this reminder today. Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. This blog entry is now available as a podcast here: