Following up on old experiments: Meditation

Open up your mind

Way back in the early days of this blog, (my fourth experiment to be precise) I did a happiness experiment on meditation.

My results were mixed, and I largely attributed this to the fact that I was trying guided meditations when I was going to bed, so I was already tired. Basically, I fell asleep a lot.

Lately though, I’ve been attending restorative yoga classes. They move very slowly. You get into a supported pose and stay in it for 10-15 minutes. It is low impact, but you can still get a good stretch in. I love it because it provides the environment for meditation that I’ve always needed. I’m active enough that I don’t fall asleep, but I’m slow moving enough that I can really let my mind clear out.

I’m finding that it does a spectacular job of clearing out my brain and helping me to shift gears from work-mode into evening-mode. I let the thoughts drift pass me, and eventually all of my stressful thoughts resolve themselves and leave me at peace.

Active meditations aren’t unusual. Zen Buddhism has walking meditation exercises, yoga is all about mindfulness and awareness (key concepts of meditation) and there are many more examples.

Have you ever tried meditation? Do you find it easier to meditate while moving or while staying still?

A quick happy thoughts list for tonight

It’s a busy week, but I’m trying not to let that get in the way of my writing, so I wanted to pop on and write a quick happy thoughts list to focus on the things bringing me joy in my life.

1. Everyone who comments on this blog: It’s been a busy summer, and suffering from weather headaches has made it especially challenging, but knowing that people read this blog has got me coming back to writing after every break. Thank you all for your support!

2. Getting to bed at a reasonable time: It’s still not easy, but it’s starting to get easier with practice. Eventually, I might actually get a decent night’s sleep on a regular basis!

3. Options: Knowing you have choices in life, even if you decide against those alternate options, can really be freeing. It means that you live your life because you chose to live it that way. That’s true freedom, it’s both exciting and terrifying. I like it.

What’s putting a smile on your face today?

A Happy Thought for the Night

The view from the Isle of Skye

This is a picture my wife took while we were on our honeymoon in Scotland two years ago. That was a journey we went on together, and now with her going back to school full-time as an adult, we’re going on another journey together.

Travelling through life has its ups and downs, but the happy thought for tonight is that there’s often one heck of a view!

Be the Cheerleader for Everybody in your Life

If you haven’t checked out Kid President before, it’s a brilliant young kid and an ongoing show series from the SoulPancake YouTube channel. I can’t really recommend it highly enough.

It also makes the perfect way to introduce a new philosophy I’m working on: be the cheerleader.

We all spend a lot of time wrapped up in our own heads and in our own lives. It’s perfectly natural. However, I’ve noticed that it’s the people who take the time to cheer on others that really make a lot of the difference in this world.

Often, when you ask someone about a big influence in their lives, they mention someone who took the time to cheer them on and support them, even when they didn’t necessarily need to do so. Let’s face it, it feels really good to have someone in your corner cheering you on.

More and more, I’m trying to be that cheerleader for people I know. Rather than assuming that they know I think they’re awesome, I’m taking the time to mention it to them. Maybe I can connect them to a job opportunity, help them with a project, or something else entirely. I’m being careful not to overextend myself, but this is taking surprisingly little time.

Why should I do this? Yes, I want cheerleaders in my life too. I have some amazing people in my life who take that role for me, but I always welcome more. But I don’t do this out of pure self-interest. I don’t just want a world where I have more cheerleaders, I would like a world where everyone has more cheerleaders helping to motivate them on things that are important to them.

So, awesome readers, what can I cheer you on for? Or, alternatively, who do you cheerlead for?

Happiness Experiment 41: Sleep on your Guest Bed

This all started as a reaction to the dust level of cleaning our master closet.

We started cleaning, and our master bed quite quickly filled up with clothing that needed to be placed somewhere. Once we opened the pandora’s box that was our closet, we quickly realized it was more than a one-day job.

So, we went to the guest bedroom, and unintentionally started my 41st happiness experiment: sleeping on the guest bed.

We have a plush euro-top bed in our master bedroom. In the guest bedroom, we have a firm, utilitarian bed. While the plush bed seduced us with comfort when we bought it 4 years ago, the firm bed appears to be what we need now.

While I never feel quite so luxurious on the firmer bed, I woke up more easily each morning and seemed to have a better quality of sleep. My wife and I both had a similar result, we slept better on what we had considered to be our second-best bed. We continued sleeping on it for the entire week just to see if it was random chance or if we actually were sleeping better.

We’re in the process now of switching furniture between the two bedrooms.

This leads to my challenge for you. Often, buying a new mattress can be a bit pricey just to indulge a theory, but if you have two bedrooms, you likely have two beds. You can switch beds for a few days and see if it helps. Sometimes, we have the resources right at hand for experiments, and the solutions might be cheaper than you ever thought!

A little bit of elbow grease on our part is getting us a bed that lets us sleep better at night!

Have you ever slept on your guest bed?

Time flies when you’re eating ice cream!

If there’s no rest for the wicked, I have been the wickedest for the past 2 weeks! Wow!

Okay, catching up, the first thing I want to share is about the Magnum Ice Cream “Pleasure Store” pop up shop in downtown Toronto at 11 Bloor Street West.

I’ll tell you all about my experience, but firstly, it’s only open until the end of August 30, so go now, grab a bar. I’ll wait…..

You ready yet?

Okay, here we go.

I’ve loved chocolate dipped ice cream since I was a kid. It’s basically one of the most incredible ways to present ice cream. All kinds of awesome.

The Magnum Pleasure Store offers not just a taste sensation, they offer a system.

Step 1: Start with a vanilla or chocolate ice cream bar (interestingly enough, vanilla outsells chocolate about 2:1)

Step 2: Pick your coating – it can be white chocolate, milk chocolate or dark chocolate.

Step 3: Let the fun begin. You get to choose from a TON of ingredient options:

Magnum Pleasure Store Ingredients

As you can see, there are more than a few choices. From edible rose petals to bacon and chili flakes, or back to the normal kind you’d see on ice cream… Let’s just say that behind that glass is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Cam, the Magnum Pleasure Maker

This is Cam. He was my “Pleasure Maker” for the day. He took the ingredients I picked, shook them in the little mini martini shaker you see in his hand and then poured the ingredients onto my freshly coated ice cream bar.

Then, the next step is to drizzle more chocolate on top of the bar (as if it wasn’t decadent enough already).

The end result for me was this:

Magnum Ice Cream Bar

Suffice to say, I walked out of there with a huge smile on my face. I hope they make this a regular gig every summer, Toronto might get a bit heavier, but we all will be a lot happier!

I had the luck of going with a few friends who also reviewed their experience. Check out Casey Palmer (who takes ridiculously good pictures) and Christine Pantazis

[Disclaimer: Magnum Ice Cream Canada was kind enough to give myself and a group of friends access to the Pleasure Shop (prior to opening one morning) and free ice cream. We weren't asked to blog or tweet about the ice cream, but I did it anyway because the ice cream was that good, and now I'm blogging about it to make sure my friends go while they still have the chance!]

Life examined every 7 years

I recently had the chance to watch 56up, a fantastic documentary about an experiment that has been ongoing for quite sometime where, starting from age 7, people have been interviewed every 7 years to see how they are progressing in their lives, their beliefs, their fears and their hopes for the future. Now, they are 56 years old.

Wikipedia describes the Up Series as:

The Up Series is a series of documentary films produced by Granada Television that have followed the lives of fourteen British children since 1964, when they were seven years old. So far the documentary has had eight episodes spanning 49 years (one episode every seven years) and the documentary has been broadcast on both ITV and BBC. In a 2005 Channel 4 programme, the series topped the list of The 50 Greatest Documentaries.[2] The children were selected to represent the range of socio-economic backgrounds in Britain at that time, with the explicit assumption that each child’s social class predetermines their future. Every seven years, the director, Michael Apted, films material from those of the fourteen who choose to participate. The aim of the series is stated at the beginning of 7 Up as: “Why do we bring these children together? Because we want to get a glimpse of England in the year 2000. The shop steward and the executive of the year 2000 are now seven years old.”

In addition, Wikipedia says:

The premise of the film was taken from the Jesuit motto “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man”, which is based on a quotation by Francis Xavier.

Watching 56Up led to some fantastic discussions about growth, life, and what you would do if you knew you would be interviewed about your life every 7 years. Does knowing your life will be monitored change how you will live it?

I definitely recommend watching this film. It’s not all happiness and good things, it’s a fairly realistic perspective on how people change through their life when they are faced with challenges. It makes you think, and I like that about a documentary.

Check out the trailer and tell me what you think. Would you participate in something like this?

Happiness Experiment 41: Should I Take Vitamins?

It’s been a while since I did a happiness experiment. Far too long really, I think that happiness experiments have become an important part of my self-discovery.

As always, these experiments are performed on myself and I tell you the results of how I feel. I don’t recommend undertaking them without talking to your Doctor. So, without further ado, here is experiment 41:

Should I take Vitamins?

I’ve asked myself this question many times in the past. I’m far from a religious taker of vitamins, but I’ve purchased bottles of multivitamins in the past and taken them, but been indifferent about the results.

Now, with my experiment on Eating the Rainbow in my past, I wondered if I would get somewhat similar results. After all, the end goals of the two projects are the same – ensuring that you get vitamins and minerals your body needs that you might not be receiving in the standard diet.

I’m lumping this experiment into a single post, because frankly, I can’t imagine anything more dull than me writing about taking a multivitamin once per day for a week. Really, it makes paint drying sound downright exciting by comparison. However, diet can be boring but it is a necessary part of life.

For the purpose of this experiment, I bought a package of generic, store brand adult multivitamins from my local pharmacy. I took one per day for a week, following the instructions on the label.


Meh? If the results on Eating the Rainbow were a bit hard to pin down, this was almost like ghost hunting.

Did I feel better than before taking the multivitamins? Slightly. I received a more noticeable benefit from adding variety to my diet, which likely exposed me to a wider variety of micronutrients, so that makes sense.

So, should I take vitamins?

I’ve heard of people seeing more benefits with targeted vitamin regimes where they take specific vitamins to deal with health, diet, or other concerns. In the case of an off-the-shelf generic store-brand multivitamin, it hasn’t hurt me, and I might see a longer-term benefit. So, I’ll continue taking these vitamins I have, but I won’t spend a large amount of money getting another bottle when this one is empty without first talking to a specialist who knows more about vitamins than me.

Happy Thoughts List: Magnum Ice Cream and other Tasty Treats

Today I had the awesome fun of going to the Magnum Ice Cream pop up shop on Bloor Street in Toronto before they opened to the public. This place has delicious treats (and often long lines) so I jumped at the chance. I’ll be posting a more complete blog entry of everything, but here’s a quick peek at what I had:

Magnum Ice Cream Bar

In the meantime, it’s been a day of ups and downs, so a happy thoughts list is more than called for. Here we go:

1. Unexpected surprises: It was a random conversation on twitter that led to a few people talking about Magnum Ice Cream, which then led to the Magnum social media person tweeting us and inviting us in for a taste. As I’ve said before, open your life to random things, you might be surprised a the amazing results you see.

2. Surprisingly productive days: They may not taste like ice cream, but they do taste satisfying (and have fewer calories). I love days when you end up accomplishing far more than you had thought you would.

3. Loved ones: You may not love every minute you spend with them, but they make your life better for being there. My wife and I both get weather headaches, so this recent unsettled weather hasn’t made us our best and brightest, but I still love her with all my heart.

What’s been keeping you smiling lately? Hopefully you’ve had some surprise ice cream treats in your day!

Learn from what you fear

I had a nightmare last night. It was the first one in a long time, and it was far from pleasant.

The dream revolved around fear of loss and forgetfulness. I had a backpack that was full of incredibly important things that I left behind in someone’s office, and I was terrified about losing it.

As nightmares go, it was rather mundane. No demons, no undead, no monsters, no crazy things. Just loss.

I woke up rather exhausted, because even if the dream wasn’t scary in the traditional sense, it unsettled me. As the day went on though, I spent some time thinking about what the nightmare might have meant. Rather than running from what I feared, I started to think about what I could learn from my fears.

In reality, I had a lot of things around the house that I’ve been putting off lately. Things that I haven’t really wanted to deal with, but I realized I was afraid of forgetting them. I had a growing to-do list, and I think an element of the nightmare was trying to tell me that I had a fear of losing track of them. It wasn’t just that. It probably wasn’t all that simple, but even taking this one lesson from the experience made me feel better about it.

As a result, I cancelled my plans for tonight and spent my night getting things on my to-do list done. Whether or not this caused my nightmare, I feel as if a physical weight was taken from my shoulders. I learned something from what I feared, and with that knowledge I made my night so much better.

Have you ever managed to turn something you fear into a learning experience?