Happiness The Qualities of a Child

A Hundred Days To Happiness: The Qualities of a Child – Live Fully & Deeply

Live Fully & Deeply (for March 31st, 2011)

This day is not just another day, another 24 hours in our long lives, a flip of the calendar or another to do list.

Today is a grand expanse of time from the perspective of a young child’s short memory of life. A child will learn many new things today and be present for most of the day.

At day’s end, the expanse of time lived and memories of thoughts, feelings and activities satiate the young growing mind, and the sleep is well-deserved and deep.

Your happiness exercise for today: Be like a young child; live deeply, love deeply, sleep deeply and dream deeply.

Happiness Love The Qualities of a Child

A Hundred Days To Happiness: The Qualities of a Child – Expressing Unedited Emotion

Expressing Unedited Emotion (for March 30th, 2011)

Young children don’t hold back.

Hugs and kisses come easily and spontaneously. They say “I love you” more often, and unlike most adults, we know what they mean and we know how they feel.

Culture makes us hold back and hesitate. We leave our deepest thoughts unvoiced, and keep our warmest feelings to ourselves.

We’re all good at criticizing and finding fault with the people with live with, but not so good at expressing appreciation and love. We’re quick to get anger, and slow to forgive – especially with those we love the most.

The greatest tragedy is that most of us will leave this life not knowing that we are appreciated, that we make a big difference in the lives we touch, and how much we are loved.

Your happiness exercise for today: Imagine that today is your last chance to see the people you love. Say what you need to say, and express how much you love them.

Happiness The Qualities of a Child

A Hundred Days To Happiness: The Qualities of a Child – Telling the Truth

Telling the Truth (for March 29th, 2011)

Young children say what they mean even if it’s a little embarrassing for you.

They’re a great motivation to align your words and actions.

If you are less than truthful, your child may catch you up at that critical moment at customs or question what adults call white lies.

Your child will also tell you the truth about you. When they get older, they will show you the truth about yourself. They will display some of your least favourite quirks and qualities. My child, my funhouse mirror.

Your happiness exercise: In all that you say and do, imagine a child is watching you.

Forgiveness Happiness Letting Go Love The Qualities of a Child

A Hundred Days To Happiness: The Qualities of a Child – Forgiving & Hoping

Forgiving and Hoping (for March 28th, 2011)

Young children may make a big deal in the short term about little things but they can be better than us in letting go. With the big things and with us, they can be much more forgiving – more than we can be with one another.

Unless we really blow it and disappoint them and let them down one too many times, they are ever forgiving, don’t give up on loving us, and don’t give up hope.

Your happiness exercise for today: Have you given up on anyone, including yourself? Was it really for something unforgiveable? If you’ve given up on the relationship but haven’t let go of the pain, what do you need to do feel free?

Growth Happiness The Qualities of a Child

A Hundred Days To Happiness: The Qualities of a Child – Learning Always

Learning Always (for March 27th, 2011)

Do you remember the joy of riding a bike for the first time?

That’s the experience of mastery. A moment earlier, you didn’t believe you could do it, but once you had found that sense of balance and the point of mastery, they became a part of you.

When a child is ascending the learning curve, there are frustrating moments mixed with goofy fun. A child expects to make mistakes and unlike most grownups isn’t afraid to look silly. Ego is left behind – or at least the child hasn’t invested so much into it.

Your happiness exercise for today: Intend to learn something new today. With a friend, plan to do something where you both can be free to look goofy. Have fun!

Forgiveness Growth The Qualities of a Child

A Hundred Days To Happiness: The Qualities of a Child

I am currently on a retreat with limited access to the internet. If you promise not to peak, I’m posting this week’s entries and exercises in advance.

Being and Becoming (for March 26th, 2011)

Parenting brings us home.

To be an engaged parent is to reengage the ageless qualities of the child. If we fail to be present, we miss out again on a chance for the rediscovery of what matters most.

Of course, kids can be as goal-directed as grownups but those goals are usually for the short-term. As any parent will tell you, their preferred first strategy is the wear-you-down protocol. They will ask for the same thing (e.g. candy, ice cream, a new toy, a puppy) repeatedly, thinking you will ultimately give up and give in.

The very young live more in the moment and when you have a real conversation, you can for a time forget about your troubles and your age and get caught up in the present. Time can stand still and expand.

The world, everything and everyone in it, including ourselves, is in constant flux, always changing. In youth that change is considered growth. In maturity, we call it aging.

But we never have to stop growing or learning.

Your happiness exercise for today: Stop seeing yourself as static or aging. Begin each day wondering like a child what this day may bring. How will it surprise you? What pleasures await you? What will make you laugh?

Be present today. Capture yourself and your world just as you are today for we’ll all be a little different tomorrow.


A Hundred Days To Happiness: Time With A Child

Time can stand still when you’re present with a child.

On the beach, I made a sand castle with my two nieces, and I was as much within the playful, creative process as they were.

Young children naturally become engrossed in play – a state of mindfulness. They lose their sense of time. They are absorbed in the present moment.

Building a sand castle with a child may be the most effective form of meditation. Not worrying about creating something that will last forever (Sand castles are always washed away), all your senses are engaged in play for the sake of play, fun for the sake of fun.

Think of the texture of sand between your fingers and the warmth of the sun. Enjoy the senseless silly talk between a playful grownup and a child. Appreciate the joy of living fully in the present and feeling fully connected to life.

Of course, since your normal state of awareness is suspended, you need another grownup – such as a mom – to remind you when it’s time to have lunch or reapply sunblock.

We all need a time out from our usual grownup way of being. If you have a young child in your life, give yourself a treat by playing together – playing catch, making a puzzle, drawing pictures or playing in the park – and staying fully present.

Your happiness exercise for today: Make time for play today. Think of your favourite games or toys as a child. What engaged you the most? What were you able to do for hours at a time? Might those same activities engage you now and bring you into the present moment?

If you can, spend some time fully present in conversation and play with a child you know. They don’t have any special training, and that may be why young children can be the best therapists.

Happiness Positive Potential Purpose Your Calling

A Hundred Days To Happiness: The Good You Can Do

In my last post, I talked about our potential to do harm even if we don’t intend to. That’s part of being human, but we can minimize our harm to others by being more mindful of our words and actions.

The daily news is filled with stories of the negative human potential – how we can harm one another through abuse, aggression and criminal actions.

But you and I have a greater potential, and that is our potential to help one another, to make a positive difference in someone else’s day and life, thereby increasing the happiness enjoyed by others and ourselves.

If we could match the needs of our neighbours with our own special abilities to help, imagine how much happier our world would be. There would be less suffering, and we would be living more purposeful and meaningful lives.

When we think about meaning and purpose, we usually think about our whole lives and our ultimate calling, but I believe there is a unique meaning and special purpose in each day. We just have to look for them.

Your happiness exercise for today: In your home, school, workplace or community, be an agent for positive change. Where you see a need that you can meet, take the initiative and make a difference.

Happiness Medical Ethics

A Hundred Days To Happiness: Above All Else, Do No Harm

You would think that the first rule of medicine would be to do good, and in fact, beneficence is one of the core principles of medical ethics. After all, isn’t that the main activity of physicians – to alleviate suffering and to promote health?

The first rule above all else is to do no harm. It is the everpresent reminder that while we have a great capacity to help our patients, we may also cause them harm.

Our patients give us their trust and confidence. If these or the tools and technology of medicine are misused, they can cause grievous harm.

We can also cause unintentional harm in the course of trying to help. Virtually every treatment and procedure carries with it some risks and side effects. This is well known with any medication, including herbal and alternative remedies.

A key principle in ethics is informed consent. The autonomous patient must be given sufficient information about the potential risks and benefits of any treatment or procedure before they can give consent to proceed.

When you are prescribed a medication for example, you need to know the major (e.g. life-threatening) as well as the common side effects. You will then be in a better position to weight the risks versus the benefits and come to your own decision.

The double responsibilities of doing good while avoiding harm are not unique to the physician. Parents, with their calling to raise and protect their children and to nourish them physically and emotionally, can do great good and great harm. Trusted professionals including teachers and clergy carry similar responsibilities.

Each of us is intimately interconnected to countless others, and in our actions, carry an analogous duty and responsibility. We each have the duty to help others but the responsibility to avoid causing them harm, but like the nature of medicine, it is the nature of living a human life that we do cause harm intentionally and unintentionally.

We are all guilty of hurting others in our actions and with our words. Much of the time we do this without intending to.

We can however minimize the harm we cause and maximize the good we do by living more mindfully – by being more conscious of the impact of our choices. Whenever we must make an important decision, we should consider the balance of good versus harm not only for ourselves but for others and our world.

Your happiness exercise for today: Be mindful of the effect of your words and actions on others. While making a point of increasing the happiness in the lives of the many people you will come into contact this day by kind words or thoughtful gestures, do your best to minimize harm.

If you have hurt others intentionally or unintentionally, admit it first to yourself and accept that we have all done this. Then balance the harm you have caused by doing something good for the one you have harmed.

We all share responsibility for the wellbeing of one another and consequently their happiness.

Happiness Medical Ethics Positive Potential Your Goals

A Hundred Days To Happiness: Live According To Your Highest Values

My work in medical ethics informed my conception of how to live a happy, meaningful life.

The principles of medical ethics – autonomy (respect for the individual’s choice), beneficence (to do good), nonmaleficence (to do no harm) and justice (to be fair) – form the foundation of medical practice.

In the ten years that I consulted on some of the most challenging ethical situations at our hospital, where family members and hospital staff were struggling to make the best decisions for a patient who no longer was able to make autonomous decisions.

I began each consultation by affirming our common goal: to bring to the table all that we know about the medical situation and to seek the best solutions for this loved one and patient from that individual’s perspective – to hear how this person found meaning in life and to make decisions aligned with what he or she would have chosen – in essence, to hear the patient’s voice.

I also emphasized the importance of the principles of medical ethics. They are not mere philosophical principles to be taken off a dusty bookshelf for bedtime reading or madly scrambled for in an ethical emergency. Because they underlie all that we do, these principles should serve as the moral compass guiding our daily work.

I used to say that the road to hell (or ICU) was paved by clinical practice guidelines. If we blindly react to a medical condition with the usual protocols of assessment and intervention, we can make the wrong decisions for an individual.

All that we do in healthcare – our investigations, our treatments, including surgery and medications – are tools. Medical ethics guides us in choosing which of these tools are appropriate for an individual’s situation.

We must first consider our goals of care, and of course, the patient’s voice is paramount. We need to know what the patient would choose from their unique perspective and sense of meaning.

Your happiness exercise for today: In our lives, we will each face difficult situations where we must make the right choices. When we haven’t made the best choices – perhaps we didn’t take the time to consider our moral principles or we were just reacting to life, we eventually must confront them.

What do you believe in? What are your most important ethical principles? Write them down. Put them in your wallet – in the front of your wallet. As you go through your day, look at them often, and affirm that in what you say and how you act, you are respecting who you are and what you believe in.

What are your goals, your megagoals, your life goals? Take some time this week to write these down and stick them on your bathroom mirror. In the morning, ask yourself how you plan to move towards your goals during the day. In the evening, reflect on your progress towards them.

These are two of the keys to a meaningful and happy life: live in accordance with your greatest values and move towards your greatest dreams.