A Hundred Days to Happiness: Enjoy Every Bite

When I talk to my patients about their diets, I give them the facts, but I’m also a realist. If I tell a man with diabetes never to eat chocolate, he’ll either feel guilty when he does or he won’t tell me about it later. I also don’t put an absolute ban on dessert for patients with high cholesterol.

Nothing is forbidden (except poison which isn’t a food anyway). Instead I recommend mindful and informed eating. If you eat a treat high in fat, calories or sugar, you should be aware of it’s short and long-term effects on your body.

The key is to enjoy every bite.

Not only will this make you more mindful and aware of your eating, it will also allow you to feel more satisfied with less food. It’s a simple way to lose excess weight.

When you go to a buffet, it’s easy to try a bit of everything and discover you’ve put way too much on your plate. You can reduce the calorie consumption and increase your enjoyment by attending to every bite.

Your happiness exercise for today: enjoy every bite of food you eat for one day. Don’t rush. Chew every bite before you swallow. Enjoy the look, aroma, flavour and texture of each morsel. Feel the satisfaction of swallowing and the sensation of fullness and being nourished.

Enjoying every bite of food is a simple but profound way to increase your level of happiness. Once you’ve tried this for a day, look for other enjoyable everyday sensations that you normally rush through.

The list is endless: the comfort of lying down in your comfortable bed after a long day, a warm shower, a bubble bath, brushing your teeth, the feeling of exhilaration with vigorous exercise, the sensation of well-being afterwards, a cup of tea, a hug, a kiss.

Every day is filled with a hundreds of treats. Enjoy as many as you can today.


A Hundred Days to Happiness: Laugh at Yourself Today

Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously.

We all make mistakes, and most of the time, we feel bad about them and bad about ourselves. When we’ve played the fool, it seems natural to feel embarrassed.

Your happiness exercise for today is to look back at the ridiculous things you have done in your life. I’m sure you can think of a few. I have plenty in mind myself.

But this time, instead of looking back with regret, shame or embarrassment, replay your bloopers tape with a laugh track. When you watch your personal bloopers DVD, turn off the critical, self-pitying commentary.

Forgive yourself for playing the hapless tramp like Charlie Chaplin. We all play the fool. It’s part of the human experience. That’s why we laughed with the little tramp. We could all identify with him.

Making mistakes is part of learning and growing. We are the biggest fools only if we take ourselves too seriously, don’t laugh at ourselves, don’t see our mistakes in retrospect and fail to learn from them.

What have you learned from your mistakes? What have you learned about yourself? What have you learned about happiness?


A Hundred Days to Happiness: Laugh Out Loud

LOL is the texting abbreviation for “laughing out loud”, but I suspect that we use this acronym more often than we actually do the real thing. That’s pretty sad, and since my blog is all about happiness – in your life and in each of your days, we better do something about it.

To laugh is a pure and spontaneous way to express joy. Children laugh every day. They laugh and giggle just when they’re playing and having fun. They see the humour in the silliest things in everyday life.

Young kids don’t have to try too hard to laugh, but somehow along the journey to adulthood, most of us lose that natural, spontaneous silliness.

I don’t want to blame it on school, but when life gets too serious or rather when we take life and ourselves too seriously, humour takes a back seat and the laugh track of our daily lives is silenced.

My parents both had a terrific sense of humour and that went along with not taking themselves too seriously. I loved family meals not just because of mom’s great cooking but because of all the laughs.

We were able to laugh at ourselves. My dad loved to tell stories, but they were long and not necessarily good ones. One of us would eventually have to ask him to get to the point.

When the rest of us would reminisce about the past, my sister, the baby of the family with the most active imagination, would almost always add in the most precise details – even for events that occurred before she was born. We used to kid her about her “I remember” stories.

My brother, like my dad, was very inventive and always came up with innovative ideas and creative approaches to problems, but some of his innovations didn’t work as well as he envisioned.

My brother tried to fan the flame and speed up the cooking on our Hibachi barbeque using our Filter Queen vacuum cleaner in reverse. He managed to fry the picnic table instead.

When caught in a downpour while camping with his friends, he kept the equipment dry underneath the station wagon. He returned with a V-shaped Coleman stove that he had to hammer back into shape.

Your happiness exercise for today (and every day): Don’t let a day go by without having a good, soulful laugh. Laugh until you have tears in your eyes. If you haven’t done this for a while, try hanging around funny people.

Look for the humour in your day.

Think of the funniest things you’ve seen or experienced. Choose one so funny to you that you can’t keep from smiling just thinking about it.

Coming up: laughing at ourselves.

Happiness Purpose Your Calling

A Hundred Days to Happiness: Am I Moving Closer or Further?

“Happiness,” said Gandhi, “is when what you say and what you do are aligned with what you believe in.” To be truly happy we must know our deepest values, discover our life’s purpose, and live accordingly.

We are all imperfectly human and we all fall short of our own ideals, and an important part of finding peace and being happy in this world is to accept those imperfections in ourselves and others.

Like life itself, in spite of imperfection, we are still beautiful and worthy of love and happiness.

When I look back, the times in my own life when I felt most unhappy were not due to the circumstances of life or the actions of others. Though I may have blamed them at the time, my happiness was not caused by bad luck, injustice or the ill will of others in my life.

The greatest unhappiness was when I didn’t act according to my deepest values – when I could have said the right thing but didn’t or when I could have made a big difference but didn’t. These were the times when I failed to achieve my potential – when I failed to seize the day and instead let opportunities slip away.

Now don’t be down on yourself just because you’ve done the same thing; we all have. It’s part of being human. We go about our days semiconscious and distracted by competing priorities. Our personal values compete with those around us, and even in our own minds, consciously and subconsciously, we have opposing motivations.

This happens so often without our awareness that we sometimes don’t realize why we may be feeling unhappy even when – for the moment – things seem to be going well on the surface. But when there is dissonance between what we say and do and what we truly believe in, we cannot shake a gnawing unease.

So it’s helpful to reflect on your greatest values and to discover your calling in life. Once you have this foundation, it can be the measure of your words and actions each day.

I practice meditation through mindful living. At times throughout the day, I pause and reflect on my inner and outer activity, asking “What am I feeling? What am I thinking? What am I doing?”

And I measure the integrity of my activity at the moment by asking, “Am I moving closer or further from my ideals, my calling and my deepest beliefs.”

This serves as a correction when I’ve strayed, and an affirmation when I’m fully aligned.

Your happiness exercise for today: Reflect upon your deepest values and your calling. Throughout the day, ask yourself, “Am I moving closer or further?”

At any time you must make a difficult decision or find yourself where you didn’t expect to be, ask the same question, “Am I moving closer or further?”  The solution may be the answer to the question, “What will bring me back into alignment with my true self and my calling?”

Happiness Purpose Your Calling

A Hundred Days to Happiness: Your Call of the Day

In my last post, I wrote of the call to your life’s purpose as the intersection of your talents, your passions and the needs of the world. We often think of our life’s purpose as one overarching drive, and that often is the case.

But in our lives, we have different priorities and goals at each age. The needs of the young are not the same as the needs of our elders. That’s why parents can give advice to their adolescents, but the lessons aren’t fully learned without the experience of years. With the cycles of life, parents must be patient with their children just as their children may one day need to be patient with them.

Your calling as a child is to establish a sense of your self and your self-worth as a human being worthy of respect and love. You discover your talents, learning in school and from life. Your parents play a pivotal role in helping you establish your self-concept and your perspective on the world.

As a teen you have to cope with your emotions, your relationships with your peers and your role in society. You tread the line between independence and dependence on your parents.

In young adulthood, the focus may be on your career, making a living, establishing your own place and finding a significant other. As a parent, you are focussed on your children: the joys and challenges of parenting.

In midlife we look back at our lives, re-evaluate our goals and priorities. For some, it is a reaffirmation of our calling. For others, it can be an about face when we realize that we have not been true to our deepest values and passions.

The golden years is a time of looking back, taking stock of our lives and making sense of it all. It can be a time of generativity, giving to future generations, sharing what we have learned and accomplished over a lifetime.

But in every day of your life, there are many calls, and in an ordinary life, they are often missed. As you go about the busyness of your day, it is natural to miss the many opportunities to make a difference in your world and in particular, the lives of people around you.

I remember as a child shopping with my parents at a downtown department store. Maybe it was Woodward’s or The Bay. I had to go to the washroom . . . badly. I didn’t have a dime to get into a toilet stall. A kindly man noting my distress saved my day by giving me the dime that I needed.

Sometimes you can do something that may seem small to you but can make a big difference for someone else, but to do that small kindness requires a kind and open heart and the will to do what needs to be done.

You and I are capable of these small, significant acts each and every day. We just have to look for them.

So to answer the call – where your talents and passions meet the needs before you – does not have to wait for your work of a lifetime. You can answer the call every day, even many times throughout a day.

Your happiness exercise for today (and every day): Look for an opportunity to do what you can to help others in need, and answer the call by seizing that opportunity. You will discover that in the process, you will meet your own need to make a positive difference in our world.

Happiness Purpose Your Calling

A Hundred Days to Happiness: Discovering Your Purpose in Life

When I talk to my kids about their future careers, I know that what they decide to do with their lives will be shaped by their life experiences. Though they may have passion in a number of areas today, they will discover more of themselves as their lives unfold.

I draw for them three large circles analogous to the model used in the business classic, “From Good to Great”. In that book, Jim Collins asserted that great companies chose as their business the intersection of three great circles representing (1) what they did better than any other company, (2) what they were passionate about, and (3) the needs of the world.

I see potential in each of us, and when I look at my kids and talk to patients, both adolescents and adults at a crossroads in their lives, I draw them those three large circles.

The first circle represents your passions. What do you love to do? What would you be willing to do for free? What could you do for hours at a time and instead of feeling exhausted, you feel energized?

The second circle represents your talents. What do you do better than anyone else? What comes easiest to you? In what area of your life can you become great if you had the right training and put in enough practice?

The third circle represents the needs of the world. How can you use your talent and passion to meet the needs of others?

The intersection of these three circles – your passions, your talents and the needs of the world – is your calling – what you need to do. Your calling is not icing on the cake when the rest of your life is looked after. It is the purpose of your life. It is your gift to the world.

Your happiness exercise for the day: Try this exercise today. Take a blank piece of paper and draw three intersecting circles. In the first, write what you are passionate about. In the second, what you do better than anyone else (your friends and family may help you here). In the third, look for the needs of your world.

For more on Finding Your Calling, see Episode 19 of

Happiness Purpose Your Calling

A Hundred Days to Happiness: Finding Your Calling

Sometimes if you’re lucky, life takes you in the direction of your calling – the place you call home, when you are engaged and empowered by a sense of purpose greater than yourself. More often, however, you can lose your way with endless detours. Some of those detours can be meaningful; some may be distractions.

If you’re fortunate, the circumstances of your life may seem perfect and sufficient to make you happy. But sometimes having a good marriage, well-behaved kids, a comfortable home and enough food is not enough. Without a deep sense of purpose, you may still feel incomplete.

For most of us, life isn’t perfect. Sometimes, events don’t go our way. Relationships are rarely maintenance-free. Kids will go through difficult phases. Yet if we have an abiding sense of purpose, it can give us the strength to endure the challenges of our lives and still be happy.

Your calling may not necessarily be your original career choice. It becomes obvious sooner or later when your work is aligned with your deepest passions. In spite of success and promotions, if what you do every day does not engage your true self, you will feel unfulfilled and incomplete. Despite outward success, happiness may still elude you.

As a child growing up in Vancouver, my mother was very bright, and she hoped one day to go to university. I remember my mom’s gift with words and her love of books. I would go to the Burnaby Public Library with her as a child, and we would both reach our limit on the number of books we could borrow at one time. In an alternate universe, I believe my mom would have been a writer.

But tragedy intervened. By age nine, my mom lost both her parents, and in order for her brothers and sisters to stay together, they all had to work to support the family. The older siblings worked to support the younger ones still in school. My mom studied to do secretarial work.

My mom found her calling in her devotion to family – originally in her family of origin and later the family she nurtured with my dad. She always impressed upon me the enduring value of family, especially when I was a teen and thought friends and girlfriends were more important.

When her three children were grown up, my mom’s sense of family and friendship expanded. Her circle of concern and care expanded into the community, and her time and energy were devoted to making the world a little kinder and happier for others.

I wonder if I would have discovered my calling without the devotion of my mother. She gave me a love of books and of writing. She nurtured my creativity. She modelled care and concern beyond my own self-interests and beyond family. She inspired me to do my part to make the world a better place for others.

Your calling isn’t always what you first choose. Life can intervene but when it does and you listen, you may hear a deeper meaning – perhaps a still small voice that will empower you to live your life’s potential and allow you to discover ever greater happiness.

Today’s happiness exercise:  Ask yourself today, “Have I discovered my calling, and am I answering it in what I do today?”  If not, reflect on your life so far. What were your passions and talents as a child? What has life taught you? What is it telling you now?

Coming up, more on discovering your calling.

Happiness Love stress management

A Hundred Days to Happiness: Your Power to Choose

Stress is an essential part of our daily lives, and at times, we can feel overwhelmed.

How can you regain control, and how can you be happy in the face of stress?

It’s essential to recognize two things. First, enduring happiness isn’t found when life is perfect because life doesn’t work that way. We, and every aspect of our lives, are ever changing. Different aspects of our lives may be working well while others are not. If your happiness depends on an idyllic stress-free life, you’ll rarely find it, and when you do, it won’t last.

Second, even at the most stressful times in your life, there are some things within your control. When you’re overwhelmed and feeling helpless, you may only see the immovable obstacles and your inability to cope with them.

Yet in almost every situation, you have some choice. The key is to recognize your options and your power to choose. This may be a change in strategy, perhaps a different approach or a shift in attitude. It may be a decision to take a detour or a modification of your short or long-term goals.

I remind patients – and myself – in the face of a difficult situation, that there are three choices. Leave it, change it or reframe it.

If you hate your job, you could consider quitting, but if you don’t have something better lined up, you could try to improve your work conditions.

The greatest stressors for employees can be the workload – too much to do without sufficient time and support to get it all done – or relationships with coworkers. A good and sympathetic manager may be approachable and helpful in addressing these issues.

The third choice is to think about your work in a different way. Is it your attitude that is the problem? Will this job be more tolerable if you see it as a steppingstone to where you plan to be in the future? If you choose to keep this job, would a change in your approach make it more enjoyable?

If you’re coping with a difficult relationship, you again have three choices. I’ve had patients who were struggling in their marriage but when they recognized that they had a choice to stay or leave, that power of choice helped them recognize why they chose to stay.

In the context of our whole lives, our relationships are much more meaningful, and unlike a job, we shouldn’t end a marriage because a better offer came up. We can transform our relationships if we look at one another in new ways and if we make the relationship a priority rather than a competition. Too often, spouses keep an internal list of rights and wrongs, what they’re giving up and how they’re giving in. A relationship is not so much about compromise as it is about growing emotionally and growing together. We can grow personally as we grow in love.

However, if you are stuck in an abusive relationship, you shouldn’t compromise your own dignity, self-respect and self-worth as an individual. You shouldn’t compromise your most important values.

If you’re stressed and unhappy at school, quitting may not be an option. Yet you should ask if your course of study is aligned with what you really want to do with your life. Years of study have to be fueled by your personal passion. What can you do to improve your course load or improve your performance? Do you need more rest? Do you need to be more efficient?

During life’s most challenging times, remember your power to choose.

Coming up: practical stress management techniques.

Since February 1st, I’ve been sharing the insights I’ve learned from my patients, friends and family in “A Hundred Days to Happiness.” Each day, I will post one new insight on, and my blog at

Emotions Happiness stress management

A Hundred Days to Happiness: Happiness in the Face of Stress

Stress is an essential part of everyday life. In fact, we need positive stress, or what Hans Selye called eustress, to move forward, grow and achieve our potentials. My son needs that little extra help to get out of bed on a school day; otherwise, he’d be in bed all morning.

Distress, however, is from negative stress or stress that overwhelms us. This can affect us mentally and physically. It can take the form of competing demands from your work, school, home or social lives, an abusive or adversarial relationship, or situations that seem beyond your control.

We function at our best when the challenge of our activities matches our resources and abilities. An example would be the perfect job that absorbs all of your attention, engages your talents and provides you with the time and support you need.

When your abilities far exceed the task at hand, you’d be underachieving and you’d feel bored. You need enough challenge to bring out your best.

If the demands of the situation are beyond what you can manage, you experience increasing stress. A common example is a job in which you’re doing the work of two people, there’s not enough time to get everything done and you don’t even have time to take your lunch break.

Chronic mounting stress can lead to burnout. If we feel that the mounting stress is exceeding our abilities, we begin to feel helpless, and that helplessness commonly results in anxiety. We will have difficulties relaxing, sleeping and enjoying each day.

Over time, continued overwhelming stress can lead to feelings of hopelessness, and this can eventually lead to depression. At this point, we lose our motivation, enthusiasm and capacity for positive experiences. Even if we’re not teenagers, we might have difficulty just getting out of bed.

The key is the locus of control. We are most distressed and unhappy when we feel powerless in our lives – if our actions feel futile, if our dreams are repeatedly shattered, if our feelings are not acknowledged or if our voices are not heard.

This is important for teachers and parents to recognize – that we must listen carefully to hear a child’s voice.

Your happiness exercise for today:

Ask where you are on the spectrum of stress. What are the major stressors in your life and how are you coping? Are you experiencing enough challenge in school or work? Are you feeling fully engaged? Are you growing and moving forward?

Or are you feeling distressed by your situation or your workload? If you are, what aspects of the situation are under your control? What are your choices?

Coming up: Strategies for Managing a Difficult Situation and Coping with Stress.

Since February 1st, I’ve been sharing the insights I’ve learned from my patients, friends and family in “A Hundred Days to Happiness.” Each day, I will post one new insight on, and my blog at


A Hundred Days to Happiness: Obstacles to Happiness

Today, what stands between you and happiness?

There are many times in our lives when we don’t feel as happy as we could be. We’ve had some bad news – a friend moving away or falling sick, or we’re coping with disappointment – not getting the job we were hoping for.

And there are the darkest times when we can’t feel happy at all: the catastrophes and tragedies of life – the loss of loved ones and dear friends.

Often, the obstacle is a difficult situation – at home, at school or at work.

Think about your own life. Are you as happy as you would like to be? What is holding you back?

I have found with my own patients and in my own life that stress is one of the most common causes of unhappiness. We can be healthy and have enough to eat but be miserable if we are overwhelmed – if the demands of our daily lives are more than we can manage.

You might be surprised how often physicians become stressed, burnt out and depressed. If we’re not careful, we can easily fall into the traps of overcommitting and overworking ourselves. Because we find so much intrinsic gratification from using our intellectual, emotional and social skills to help our patients, we can bury ourselves in our work. It’s hard for us to say no to someone we could help. What we usually end up doing is saying no to ourselves, our own wellbeing and sometimes to our own families and friends.

A lot of physicians skip their lunches, family dinners and even sleep for a night or two to keep up with the neverending cascade of care, but if we aren’t wary, we will eventually have difficulty staying afloat even at what we do best – our work.

It is well-known that in the process of burnout, physicians will let their physical health, social lives and family relationships deteriorate at the expense of their work. Ultimately, what was most gratifying to a physician can become meaningless. That’s when physicians can become irritable and prone to error.

Obviously, you don’t have to be a doctor or even an adult to have too much stress in your life. Last week, a mom brought in her 10-year-old son who had been having difficulties keeping up in class. When I had a chance to talk to him alone, this pleasant, bright boy did not have a learning disorder. He had been depressed due to years of social stress, including numerous negative experiences with friends and bullies. 

Your happiness exercise for today:

Think about your life today and how much stress you are currently experiencing. Is stress keeping you from being happier today? What are the sources of your stress, and what can you do about them?

If you’re a parent and you’re not sure if your children are as happy as they can be, consider the stresses they may be coping with. Help them to identify the source of their stress and empower them to do what they can to make positive changes.

At work or at school, is there a friend who might be overwhelmed and could use your support?

Coming up: How to deal with stress and other obstacles to happiness.

Since February 1st, I’ve been sharing the insights I’ve learned from my patients, friends and family in “A Hundred Days to Happiness.” Each day, I will post one new insight on, and my blog at