My Happiness Project

I went to see a documentary last Friday night, The Happy Film, with my friends Alison and Bea. When we got to the cinema there was a long line-up and a sign at the entrance that the film was sold out. Disappointed, I suggested that we work our charm and see where we end up. Alison approached an official looking guy with a clipboard and within seconds we were given three free tickets (I’m not kidding you). So not only did we not have to pay the $20 admission (we offered of course), it was definitely a happy start to a film about happiness that we would have been very unhappy to miss.


The subject of the film, Stefan Sagmeister, a partner in a NYC design firm (DEFINITELY check it out because their work will blow your mind) tried three methods in sequence for several months – meditation, cognitive therapy, drugs –to evaluate their relative effectiveness in making him a better and happier person. (Spoiler alert: say “yes” to drugs). He was at the event and answered questions after the film. In response to one audience member, he mentioned the work of Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology. One exercise Sagmeister relayed to improve happiness is to write down three things that made you grateful that day. This 45 second exercise before falling to sleep can make us happier.


I have done something similar before on the advice of a wonderful rabbi I met on the day my mother died. I needed to find happiness back then (and deal with a messy stew of other emotions) so she gave me a sticky note that read: “Modah ani lifonech…” which is the phonetic Hebrew translation of “I am grateful for…”. For a while, I woke up every morning reciting in my head all the things I was grateful for. I recall it making a difference to my overall sense of well-being.


So, I have decided to kick-start a happiness practice again by writing down three things that made me grateful that day. Here’s how it’s been going since I saw “The Happy Film”.


Friday: I am grateful for…

  1. seeing an interesting doc with Alison and Bea who are so smart and interesting
  2. eating Jake’s homemade pizza & laughter around the dinner table
  3. hearing my sons come home at 2 a.m. and knowing my entire family is safe under one roof


Saturday: I am grateful for…

  1. an invitation from the cutest button of a child who knocked on our door, and announced, “I’m Gloria, and I’m 7” before giving me a handmade invitation to her family’s party next Sunday so they can get to know their neighbours better
  2. my smart friend Tamara who gave me great input for a story
  3. warm conversation around our dinner table (after working as a team all day to make everything from scratch – from bread to carrot cake) with Jake’s old roommate and his parents (so grateful to be part of my sons’ community)


Sunday: I am grateful for…

  1. the crepes and latte John made for breakfast, and his sweet caresses before we got up
  2. the sound of Jessie drinking from her water bowl. I love that sound
  3. Micah’s shy smile and walking with him in the rain with Jessie and Henry (my sister’s dog)


Monday: I am grateful for…

  1. feeling calmer after a jog with Jessie
  2. a quiet morning watching John read on the couch listening to Debussy while I write
  3. the perfect family dinner (and my pastry dough rolling out perfectly for homemade apple pie)


Tuesday: I am grateful for…

  1. coffee with my pal Jamie overlooking Riverdale Park, with Jessie at my feet
  2. Jake’s wonderful girlfriend, Michelle, who braved the Eaton Centre with me (I hate clothes shopping and shopping malls) to help me find an outfit for an upcoming gala
  3. Micah’s honesty – so I know he meant it when he said my new outfit made me look tall!


Wednesday: I am grateful for…

  1. early breakfast in High Park with a good friend and watching the baby ducks
  2. my neighbour’s lilac bush and the smell reminding me of my childhood home
  3. Micah buying me chocolate


What makes you happy?



Photo credit: Unsplash – Florian Klauer

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