Last Monday night I attended a workshop at Hillhurst United Church on happiness. I was not planning on attending- John Pentland mentioned it to me in passing and the thought of attending wouldn’t let go. I consider myself a happy person (for the most part) so I didn’t really feel like it was that pertinent to me. That being said, I do try to pay attention to what ‘sticks’ in my consciousness and this was one of them. So off I went, rushing from spin instructing to the happiness lecture last Monday.

All I knew was that a U of Calgary professor would be speaking on happiness- that’s it. I had the good foresight to bring a notebook, which I ended up furiously scribbling in, filling four pages front and back during the two hour workshop. At the end of the two hours I found myself wondering how I could land myself in this undergraduate course. I was that intrigued.

Of the entire workshop, which I have no way of doing any justice to in a short blog post, the one thing that stuck with me (and was repeated by Patrick Finn over the evening) was the famous quote by Aristotle: “we are what we repeatedly do.” Happiness never struck me as something you do- but if we are what we repeatedly do, we can’t expect to be happiness embodied if we spend most of our hours or days cultivating anger, frustration, sadness or unhappiness. We are what we repeatedly do, happiness included.

Of all the small exercises we did during the workshop, my favourite was the list making (I am my mothers daughter!) on what makes us happy and unhappy. We distinguished between “unhappy” and “sad”- and I surprised myself at the ease the list flowed once I started. Happy was easy- and so was unhappy. They ranged from small, seemingly inconsequential (i.e.: unhappy? unloading the dishwasher. happy? reading a book) to profound and emotional (unhappy? feeling unappreciated. happy? loving others and feeling loved).

As I revisit the pages of the happiness practice, I am reminded of my Dad. Not just because he is one of the happiest, most positive people I know, but because he always has insisted on reworking the statement, “practice makes perfect” to “perfect practice makes perfect”. In our human quest for happiness we must figure out what makes us happy and practice it (says Dr. Finn) and develop a happiness practice- simple. We are what we repeatedly do.  If we practice sadness, anger, frustration and suffering repeatedly, we cannot expect one day to be happy. We haven’t practiced it, how can we expect to experience it?

As I contemplate my own happiness practice and develop this happiness muscle, it seems like a timely moment to reflect. Tomorrow is my 30-something birthday and I am reminded constantly that time is always flowing, whether I choose to be conscious of it or not, life beats on day after day and week after week, and arrives once again at my birthday. The choice to be happy, to develop this practice, to continue to grow is my own.

Lastly, I would like to finish off with a small snippet of my happiness list. (Notice how many things are food-related).

Holly’s happiness list (shortened):

sunsets, warm places, the desert, the mountains, family/friend QT, adventuring, traveling, riding bikes, drinking wine, baking, cupcakes, Pal, cookies, laughing until it hurts, spontaneous nights out, eating out, painted nails, musical theatre, vacation, orange things, waterslides, new sneakers, road trips, sweatpants.

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