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Dear Candy Q&A: Re-Defining Happiness

What does it mean to be happy? The answer to that question depends entirely upon whom you are asking. How we answer that question for ourselves has an impact on both our moment to moment experiences and our overall sense of wellbeing.

"Usually, we think of happiness as delight or joy or celebration...and yes, these are aspects...but happiness sustained is more than these elements. It is found in moments of meaning. Moments of learning. Moments of awe. Moments of connection and moments of acceptance and peace.

Early understandings of happiness meant "lucky" or "good fortune," but there is an exception, from the Welsh roots, which pointed toward "wise." And if these complex roots are present at all today, which I believe our research in resilience and positive psychology demonstrates, then we get to happiness not just through that which makes us content or puts us in a state of smiling; but also through those times where we thoughtfully build within us the template for richness, for strength, and for growth." - Dr. Maria Sirois

The ability to expand our sense of what it means to be happy has a lot to do with the meaning we assign to our experiences and our journeys toward greater wellbeing. How can we start to look at the journey we are on from a little different perspective so that we can see the richness, the gifts and the silver linings in these experiences? For myself, learning to slow down, savour and appreciate good moments has been a gift. I also have far more gratitude and derive a lot of pleasure from the little things in life. I see a level of beauty, especially in nature, that I never noticed before. I also have a much deeper level of understanding of human nature, which leads to more compassion overall.

The foundation for increasing happiness comes from acceptance. Can we accept where we are at health-wise in this moment? If we are fighting with what is, we cannot become happier. Acceptance does not mean resignation. We absolutely are still working towards positive changes but we are no longer wasting our energy fighting with what is. Rather than resisting our current experience, we are accepting it for what it is, and letting it be for the moment while we shift our focus and attention toward that which will bring a greater quality of life.

What contributes to our happiness comes from our values, our needs, our passions and our interests, so it varies from person to person. We can learn what makes us happier and we can start to incorporate more of these activities into our lives, building habits to increase our overall sense of happiness and satisfaction. The beautiful thing is, you don't have to wait until you are recovered to start doing this. Reflect for a moment on what brings you a sense of pleasure or fulfillment, even in small, momentary ways. Make a decision to start actively incorporating more of this on a daily basis. It doesn't have to be huge. In fact, a few small changes to our day can make all the difference.

Laughing is a great way to improve our level of happiness. This is why laughter yoga is so powerful. It doesn't have to be genuine in order to get benefit. If we can laugh more in our day to day lives, we release the neurochemistry that helps us settle our nervous systems and increase our overall happiness. Gratitude is another way. Two minutes of writing what you are grateful for and why at the end of each day has been shown to increase overall levels of happiness and life satisfaction. It teaches us to seek out and look for things to be grateful for in our day, which helps to shift and balance our overall perspective.

Finding what you are passionate about, what your life purpose is can also bring more happiness and satisfaction to our lives. That discussion is beyond the scope of what we are focusing on here today. That being said, determining what you value and what your greatest strengths are, and bringing more of those into your daily life in a conscious way is a good place to start.

If you want to explore this notion further, a great resource to assist you in discerning what makes you happy, along with exercises to increase your happiness levels is "The How of Happiness" by Sonja Lyubomirsky

By recognizing that we don't have to be completely well in order to be happy, we open up to the possibility of bringing a higher quality of life into the here and now. True lasting happiness comes from within, and we can begin to access more of it right now in small ways. Those small ways, used consistently, start to build habits, and we start to naturally seek out more opportunities for happiness. The next thing you know, your life starts to look a whole lot different even when the actual circumstances may not have changed all that much. To me, that is well worth cultivating!

Until next time!

If you have a question, please email me at


Candy Widdifield is Certified Master Coach, Registered Reiki Master Teacher and former Registered Clinical Counsellor, living in Calgary Alberta, Canada. She has a background in brain retraining & nervous system regulation, trauma, grief & loss, mindfulness, somatic therapy, & positive psychology. She taught the DNRS in-person program for 5 years, has over a decade of experience coaching brain re-trainers & provides mentorship to other coaches. Candy works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. More information about Candy can be found at


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