Choosing Happiness Is Easier Than You Think
4 May 2018 - Impact Hub

Manal: In 2015, I gave a Brown Bag Lunch at Impact Hub Ottawa on Happiness Habits. My approach to coaching stems from the belief that what we do everyday matters. I wanted to support my clients in identifying and cultivating healthy habits that help them move towards their potential. My work asks the question: How can we make daily choices easier and more aligned with what’s really important to us? And when we do, what influence do these choices have on our overall happiness and wellbeing? That’s when I began to delve deeper into the happiness research.

The ‘aha’ moment came with the realization that all of us can intentionally choose to increase happiness and wellbeing, and that those choices may be easier than we think. There was growing research to prove it. It was empowering. Rather than wait for happiness, why not create it?

Amy Longard, a plant-based nutritionist, friend and fellow Impact Hub Ottawa member attended my Brown Bag Lunch and approached me with an idea. Amy is passionate about increasing wellbeing through plant-based nutrition. She wants to encourage people to make deeper, kinder choices. What we put in our body is what fuels our mind, body, and soul and also our connection to the Earth.

Amy’s idea was to start a community-driven initiative based on the happiness habits and to plan a series of events – for one month each year – that centered around one or more of those habits. It clicked. Both of us shared similar guiding values. A holistic approach to health and well-being, a happy community and making a positive impact in the world are important to us. We found ourselves surrounded by people at Impact Hub who shared those values too. We could combine our different approaches under one umbrella: to cultivate happiness and build community through intentional everyday actions. We brought in community leader and Yogi, Kate Durie and just a few weeks after our initial meeting, #HappinessHabits613 was launched on Facebook, rallying the community.

Amy: By that point, the ideas were flowing and our vision and support network was growing significantly. We tapped into something that was missing in the community and it felt good; to us and to others. Somehow, within a few short weeks, we brought this little dream to life.

To make an impact, we knew that we needed a clear and simple message and concrete action steps. The philosophy of the initiative is based on the nine Habits of Happiness. Using these as our core principles, we planned events that incorporated one or more habits. Some past events include: Mindfulness Meditation workshops, Goals with Soul workshops, Food and Mood lunch & learn, Group Movement at Parliament Hill – Ottawa, Art & Live music, and more!

Manal + Amy: What the research has uncovered is that success doesn’t lead to happiness, but it’s quite the opposite. When we are happy, then we’re more successful. Many people think about happiness because something in the current way they’re doing things isn’t working. We’ve been taught to believe that if we’re successful then happiness will follow. The focus on success over happiness (or being driven by the achievement of external goals) adds stress to our lives. We don’t celebrate a job well done; we just move the goal post. What if we focused on happiness first? When we cultivate happiness habits, we feel happier more often, and over time, our definition of a successful life changes. Our attention shifts to our internal experience rather than striving for external fulfillment. What happens when we’re happy? Our creativity and productivity increases, our physical health improves, we form stronger relationships and we can better cope with an increasingly stressful world. That’s the key for us: to increase our community’s resilience so that no matter what challenges arise, we know we’re going to come out on the other side stronger.

Change needs action so, how do we start? Through launching HappinessHabits613, we realized that our community valued taking action with the support and encouragement of people around them. This was at the core of our “why”. Everything feels better when we can share ourselves and grow together. And because any change requires practice, practicing together keeps us motivated and inspired. Creating strong connections became our most important happiness habit because those connections have the most significant and direct impact on happiness.

#HappinessHabits613 created a space that helped people make meaningful connections and that encouraged reflection on what’s happening in our daily lives. Creating a healthy life starts somewhere, and true clarity equals power. Power to change, grow, and stay motivated in pursuit of a life that feels good. So, creating long-lasting change is fuelled by awareness of what’s important to us as individuals and shining a light on what’s holding us back. We wanted to create a movement to share, learn, and take action together. Awareness is where we start.

Rest is how we keep going. With every event we organized, we encouraged self-care. It is part of the change process. Personally speaking, as entrepreneurs, our work life is intimately fused with our personal life. It’s easy to sacrifice self-care for the pursuit of meaningful work. It’s difficult for many of us to draw clear boundaries. We’re fortunate enough to love what we do, but what we are learning is that when we listen to our bodies and take care of ourselves, especially after big projects, we come back more focused, energized and ready to dive back in. Our businesses flourish and we perform better overall.

Creativity needs space, and rest creates space. For us, it’s about walking the talk. The community felt the same way. They were burnt out and overwhelmed. Life was moving too fast. They wanted to walk the talk.

Every year the community comes together for HappinessHabits613 – A month of cultivating happiness and building community. They can connect with people in a fun, supportive environment. For us, we feel that we’re making a positive impact in Ottawa. There’s power in collaborating for a similar goal. We’re proud of the of the work we’ve done together for many reasons: when we work together, rather than separately, we are able bring people together, make a greater impact and support them in a holistic and empowering way. As a Life Coach and a Nutritionist, we know that our priority and our passion is to create a happy and healthy community. A happy community is comprised of happy individuals, all working together for a better future.

HappinessHabits613’s work to cultivate well-being in Ottawa is contributing to the following Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

Written by:

Manal Nemr

Manal Nemr believes that what you do everyday matters. As a certified life coach and well-being expert, she supports multi-passionate women move towards their potential by creating space to explore what is possible. Through her one-on-one coaching, workshops and community initiatives, Manal helps her clients cultivate daily practices, healthy habits and learn practical strategies that enhance mindfulness, happiness and overall well-being.

She co-founded HappinessHabits613 with Amy Longard, a registered holistic Nutritionist and plant-based Chef and Kate Durie, a registered Yoga Teacher.

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