The Joy of Tidying up...

Book recommendation: 'The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up' by Marie Kondo.

Who knew that with all of the recent emphasis on organizing methods and media focus on hoarding, a book on tidying up could sell 3 million copies and counting.  I considered myself tidy and have had energy for discarding things. When I received the book as a gift there didn't seem any reason to read it because in my mind I was already there.  A colleague raved about the book and had pictures and stories to share.  This got my attention and I took the book on a road trip.  Once I got started, I could not put it down.  The mind shift for me was profound.  The brilliance of the book is about keeping what gives joy as compared to my notion of tidy being about storage and discarding what is not useful.  The author recommends starting with clothing.  I collected every bit of clothing from closets, storage boxes and shelves and piled it all on the bed and floor in categories and in less than 3 hours I was done.  I thought it would be difficult to discard good quality clothing and items I might use some day.  It was easy when I applied the notion of whether the item brought me joy.  Lots has changed since acquiring most of the items and they had served their purpose.  In the end I kept very little and for the most part only the items I wear regularly.  I also noticed that recent purchases were much more about wanting what I want rather than what I need which is clearly in alignment with the wisdom of the book.  My book library is next and I look forward to it rather than dreading the decisions about what to give away.  I will only keep the ones that remind me of what I enjoy.

The more enduring value of the book is the universal application of the principles to all aspects of life. [Russell]

There is more to feeling blue than meets the eye!

New research shows that when you are feeling sad you may have trouble seeing the colour blue.  Seems a little contradictory since the language 'feeling blue' is a well known expression for sadness or depression.  Seems like the happy drug dopamine is once again implicated since its absence interferes with being able to perceive the colour blue.  When dopamine levels are low we not only feel sad but our visual perception of the world is altered.  Blue skies are associated with pleasant experiences and sad or depressed people may not be able to see them properly and miss out on the potential uplifting effect. [Russell]

Link - article in Toronto star, Sunday Sept 13.  Feeling sad can literally colour your view of the world, researchers say.  Sarah Kaplan (Washington Post)

Choices in the fog of depression...

As one person who has felt the impact of depression both as a low level chronic state with bouts of acuteness, I was attracted to an article by Rosie DiManno in the Toronto Star - Assisted-suicide shouldn't be for those in the fog of depression: DiManno. 

The article opened me to a broader conversation about the imminent elimination on the ban in Canada to assisted suicide.  As a person who holds dear whatever freedom I can sustain in a world of increasing regulation, I lean toward gaining this particular freedom.  Until now, I have held a much narrower idea of terminal illness as the reason I would want the freedom of accessing assisted suicide. 

What I know is true from her article is that a person suffering from depression is not necessarily capable of making this crucial decision.  We do not yet know the criteria the government of whatever stripe (pending the outcome of this fall's election) will include or exclude in the legislation.  I would like to think that, whatever the state of my health, I would be able to make an informed decision.  What I do know to be true is that my idea right now about what I would do if faced with such a decision is purely theoretical.  I can only know what I will do when I am in it.  I truly hope not to be in it. [Russell]

Exploring the notion of Unhappiness

I thought I would explore the notion of unhappiness just for fun and was intrigued by the long list  of mistakes and habits that are claimed to be responsible. 

Some examples:  dwelling on things that cannot be changed; putting up with negative people and thoughts; a belief that life is hard; seeing your future through worry and fear. The list is endless and overwhelming.  

Small wonder that becoming happy may seem daunting.  It was exactly the complexity of what needed to be done to be happy that prompted me to look for a simpler solution.  That solution is to focus on physical and thought activities that are known to cause the production of endorphins, or happy drugs.  

I am close to 900 consecutive days of 30 minutes of exercise and 3 pages of writing about being grateful, what is meaningful in my life and what wins I plan for the day.  I do this first thing in the morning which sets up my day with an awareness and expectation of well being.  It works! [Russell]

Money doesn't necessarily buy happiness and I am happy to have both...

The definitive quote on money and happiness is that "money doesn't buy happiness".  The quote is often used when talking about people who have lots of money.  This would suggest that happiness is somehow a virtue of being poor.  I think a better quote would be that "money doesn't necessarily buy happiness".  As a person who has money, I like to adjust the quote as follows:  "money doesn't necessarily buy happiness and I am happy to have both".  [Russell]

Inspring Quote on 'Commitment'

Here is a quote on Commitment that I found inspiring.  For me, getting from confusion or procrastination to commitment is the most challenging part of taking action.  Once I am committed, get out of my way!  Being reminded of what shows up to help once I am in motion is helpful. [Russell]

"Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred.

A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way." - W. N. Murray

Humans are mostly positive after all!

This according to research by The University of Vermont's Computational Story Lab.  The study found that in any language the use of positive words outstripped negative ones.  The majority of communication is positive whether in books, social media and the news media.  This must help to explain the resilience we see in people and populations faced with hardship.  But why do those who have so much find their lives wanting? [Russell]

"Win as if you are used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Win as if you are used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is a more profound message than it looks on the surface.  Most of us win a lot more than we lose and mostly take it for granted rather than celebrating our wins.  The enjoyment of losing seems like an impossibility.  I wonder if we celebrated our losses rather than grieving for them, it would speed up the process of moving forward?  [Russell]

Being your own Best Friend

Best Friends will be there for you through thick and thin.  It is a well known saying that when troubles happen, you quickly find out who your friends are.  Best friends are supportive and try to help.  The best kind are those who listen without judgement.  This gives you and me a chance to think it through and reflect in order to find our own way through the trouble.  It is not helpful when our self-critic starts nattering.  What if you became your best friend and gave yourself pause to reflect in order to find your own way through? You will have increased the number of your best friends as a bonus.  You know yourself best and what a treat to have you on your side! [Russell]

Happiness is playing Skip Bo

Playing simple games with family or friends is a lot of fun.  Skip Bo is a card game we play with our 8 year old grandson.  He is pretty good at it and we help him to learn as we play.  There is some skill involved but mostly chance with winning being the luck of the draw.  It is so much fun to play with Samuel due to his excitement when our play sets up his next move and especially when he wins two games in a row.  While he loves to win, he also loves it when we win and this is the most fun of all. [Russell]

Brain Plasticity - Advantages of Journaling

Having recently graduated from occasional pain due to a deteriorating spinal condition to constant pain, I am interested in any and all means to control or cure it.  I have experimented with a variety of exercises I have learned from physio, chiropractic and the internet.  I discovered a routine of exercises that has helped to reduce the intensity of the pain.  What I had noticed is  the pain is either absent or less intrusive when I am focused on activities that fully occupy my mind in meetings with my business clients.  I am also free of pain when I play Pickleball on Mondays, although I suffer afterwards.

I have begun reading Norma Doidge's second book on brain plasticity, 'The Brains Way of Healing'. The first chapter is on Chronic Pain and explains why I have less or no experience of pain when my brain is otherwise occupied.  Very simply, the brain has the remarkable ability of blocking severe pain in other parts of the body. It is possible to use the power of the conscious brain to lessen or eliminate the pain in the moment and by sustained effort eradicate persistent pain. 

I have begun to experiment with my back pain using the simple strategies that he suggests.  

I have learned that the best way to change any behaviour is to catch myself in the act.  So far, I have become aware of occasions when the pain spikes and have simply focused on my breathing so that my brain is otherwise occupied and the pain immediately lessens.  This result is congruent with what I have noticed in my work and playing Pickleball.

I plan to use my Happy Heart daily journaling to chronicle and monitor my progress towards the eventual eradication of my persistent pain. [Russell]

I am just so grateful that my daily routine of exercise and writing...

It is a very cold day in the Toronto area today and many are grumbling about it.  The sun is also shining which has been a relatively rare occurrence since winter started in October.

I am especially appreciative of the brightness and warmth because it has been missing in action most of the time.  I am also reminded of those who suffer from SAD or seasonal affective disorder which is exacerbated by low levels of light and especially sunlight.  Having spent too much of my life being sad, I can't say for me that it was more evident in winter with lower levels of light.

I am just so grateful that my daily routine of exercise and writing about gratitude first thing in the morning has banished my chronic sadness.  I have much empathy for SAD sufferers and wonder if such a daily routine would help. [Russell]

"If our standard of value is human life...

Alex Epstein in his book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels makes the case that we have enough energy from fossil fuels and nuclear power to last for thousands and thousands of years. 

To me this is comforting in itself since I am not convinced, nor is he, that alternate sources such as solar and wind will ever do the job.  I can relax knowing that we have time to sort out our energy future while not sabotaging our good lives.  

He says it thusly, "If our standard of value is human life, the ultimate benefit that a commodity like fossil fuel energy can deliver is to contribute to the pursuit of happiness.  If we can only survive in a way that is miserable, why survive?  Happiness is the reward of life. And energy is a great enabler of travelling to places that excite us.

Thus in every realm that affects our lives, we should expect to discover that more energy can play an amazingly positive role."  This is a very interesting way to think about energy as opposed to the conditioning by the climate experts and the media that energy from fossil fuels and nuclear power is bad.  I am truly happy that the book was recommended to me since it provides perspective for thoughtful people. [Russell]

The ordinary is so often taken for granted...

It is thought that significant emotional experiences can alter one's values.  People who face and conquer life threatening events quite often become more present or 'in the moment' paying more attention to nature and relationships and the ordinary activities of life. 

The ordinary is so often taken for granted, such as noticing the smells and flavours of a simple meal; the words of a familiar song; the small wins of a normal day; the playfulness of the family pet. 

I recently experienced a car accident on a multilane highway at high speed having been hit from behind by a fully loaded tractor trailer.  The laws of physics and a wet road allowed me to come out unscathed in what could have been a final event in my life.  As I was spinning and being hit by the tractor trailer and a panel van I remember thinking, without any fear, that 'this is it'.  It turned out that it wasn't. 

Having been on a personal journey of awareness, the experience simply strengthened my intention to live in the 'now'.  The bonus is that when I write in my journal on a regular basis that 'I am happy! I am confident! I am alive!', the one that trumps them all is that I am alive!  It no longer is taken for granted.  I feel it, I know it, I revel in it. [Russell]

The MUSE - 'Spend 3 minutes a day. Track your results'

Ancient Greek muses were goddesses who provided help or inspiration.  To muse is to think or to meditate in silence.

The MUSE device is a trademarked brain sensing headband that helps you do more with your mind, and more with your life, by helping you learn to manage stress, stay calm, and stay focused.  Check it out on

The MUSE is really is easy to set up and use. 'Spend 3 minutes a day. Track your results'

A Wandering Mind

I have known for some time that my mind creates anxiety by thinking about all that can go wrong in just about everything that I think about.  For me, it is mostly future based and one might argue that I should be prepared for anything since I have thought of all the possibilities.  The problem with this is that one can only take action in the present.  Taking action creates confidence, ergo, my faulty thinking erodes confidence and happiness.  In fact, Harvard researchers found that we spend 46.9% of our waking hours with a wandering mind and that this makes us unhappy.  I am using my MUSE device to train my mind to be able to stop the anxiety producing wandering of my mind. [Russell]

Peace of Mind

Peace of mind as a concept ranks right up there with happiness in its importance at least anecdotally.  I don't know what the research would say, but it is commonly cited by adults as something desirable for themselves and other non related adults especially if they are in sales.  Like happiness, peace of mind can be holistic, encompassing all facets of life, or situation specific.  One has peace of mind when things are taken care of as in arranging a safety deposit box for valuables.  Peace of mind in the broader context is a little more interesting.  Does 'everything need to be taken care of?', or is taking care of a limited number of important issues  sufficient enough to achieve this state?  Does peace of mind mean being at peace with everything regardless of whether they are taken care of or not?  What does being at peace mean exactly?  More to come... [Russell]


To ruminate is to think carefully and deeply about something.  So why does ruminating get in the way of both happiness and confidence?  Another definition which relates to the physical behaviour of animals is more informative.  In this context, to ruminate is to bring up and chew again what has already been chewed and swallowed.  Who among us has not made a mistake and revisits that mistake in our heads over and over with the same feelings of regret and failure that occurred at the time of the actual experience.  In some cases thinking about the mistake can last a lifetime.  Some of us are more prone to this mental activity than others.  If done a lot there is a constant release of fear and anxiety drugs flowing into the system making it difficult or nearly impossible to experience joy or to approach life with confidence.

Remind yourself daily in your Happy Heart Journal to notice when you are ruminating and to stop yourself.  Eventually, you will change the brain pattern. [Russell]

The usefulness of 'mistakes'

I notice that our grandson at the age of seven has a dose of perfection disease.  He wants to get things right and doesn't much like it when he makes a mistake or is corrected.  And therein lies a reason for his condition.  His world is constantly correcting him.  His parents, his grandparents, his teachers, his schoolmates and himself.  The assumption is that there is a correct way and for sure there are ways of doing things that help the world to work such as using words that others understand making communication possible.  Observing the law can also be useful in keeping the world orderly and facilitating a measure of trust.  

What would happen if we encouraged our young people to do some things with an expectation that it might not work and then help them look for the usefulness of their 'mistake' rather than trying to make them feel better about their 'mistake'?  Hmm!