Farewell (for now, at least)

Time for an announcement.

As you’ve probably noticed, this blog has been dwindling away and looking a bit unloved for some time now… And I’ve now decided to officially close the Happy Things doors – at least for a little while.

The reason for this, as you may also know, is because I’ve been getting increasingly busy with my other blog, Theatre Things (if you like the theatre, please check it out), and have some fairly ambitious plans for its future development. All of which sadly means I’ve run out of spare minutes in the day to devote to Happy Things.

It’s fair to say writing this blog has been one of the best things I’ve ever done, not just because it led me to set up Theatre Things, but because it forced me to focus on all the good stuff going on around me. At times it’s hard, especially right now, to be positive and find the little happy things in life – but when you do, it’s so rewarding. I honestly think writing this blog has made me a happier person.

I’ve met some amazing people, and have really appreciated all the support and friendship I’ve gained from getting to know the awesome blogging community. Through working on Happy Things, I grew in confidence as a writer, and it even helped me figure out how to use Twitter. (And now I’m addicted…)

So this is farewell for now, but please do pop over and visit at Theatre Things, or come and say hi on Twitter @lizzid82. And hopefully I’ll be back one day – after all, there’ll always be sunsets to share…

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Happy Sunday: free brownies and excited pandas

It’s been quite a week. With a big work event and lots of theatre-ing (more in fact than I’d intended at the start of the week), there’s not been a lot of time for anything else, including sleep. But there’s always time for a bit of good news, so here are a few of the nice things that have happened this week, for me and the world in general.

This week:

I got to go to my first ever award ceremony, when my company was shortlisted for an education award. And even though we didn’t win (fortunately we’d all been practising our ‘gracious loser’ faces), we did get Highly Commended in our category, which was rather exciting – and gives us something to aim for next year 🙂

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My sister Caz shared this story on Facebook about a professional photographer who was inspired to see things differently by his daughter Kaja, who has Down Syndrome and is a natural with a camera. The two embarked on a photographic duel, each taking pictures of the same person or place, and the results from both are really beautiful.

There’s nothing quite like making someone smile, and this week I got that warm fuzzy feeling when I arranged a little surprise for a friend who hadn’t been well. Although it was nothing big or special, the delighted message I got from her yesterday totally made my day.

The snow in North America may not be great for everyone, but these Syrian children, recently arrived in Canada, have never seen it before, and their reaction is a joy to watch, as is the way the family have been accepted into their new community in Ontario.

And while we’re talking about snow, check out the excitement of Tian Tian the panda in Washington. Adorable 🙂

This Monday was Blue Monday (or so the papers would have us believe) – supposedly the most depressing day of the year. So cake shop Konditor and Cook decided to spread a little joy by offering free chocolate brownies, and my friend and I made a special trip on the way to work to get them. So it turns out that literally the only thing in the world that will get me out of bed early… is a free brownie. Good to know.

Free brownie

A teenager from Dublin has invented a life-saving sleeping bag for homeless people, lined with fireproof bubble wrap to keep the user dry and with reflective markings to give them high visibility. Now the bags are being made by people who used to be homeless as a way to get them back into work and help those still on the streets.

I really wasn’t looking forward to this week at work, which we knew was going to be busy and stressful… but we got through it by working as a team, there were no major disasters and – most importantly – it’s all over now 🙂

Tennis player Jo Wilfried Tsonga went to the aid of a ball girl during his Australian Open match on Wednesday, pausing the game to go and ask her if she was okay, and then personally escorting her off the court. And then he won, which seemed only fair after being such a gentleman.

I bought a cosy new dressing gown last weekend, and even though I somehow messed up and picked up the wrong size (still no idea how I did that), it turns out having a dressing gown that’s several sizes too big actually just means there’s more to wrap yourself up in!

How was your week?

Happy Sunday: fudge, friends and football

Hope everyone had a great week! As usual, I’ve been keeping an eye out for good news and happy things to share, both from home and away. What good things happened to you this week?

This week:

  • So technically, this happened a little over a week ago, but I’m still very excited, so it’s going on the list… On January 1st, my year got off to an awesome start when I was asked to write a monthly theatre feature in a local magazine. To say I was excited doesn’t really cover it – I can’t wait to get started.
  • Speaking of local, the youngest person on the New Year Honours List is 13-year-old Jonjo Heuerman from Wilmington. Jonjo’s raised over £235,000 for Cancer Research UK, in memory of his nan, who died of bowel cancer, and his football hero, Bobby Moore.
  • My friend Nina had her first article published on Elephant Journal this week. It’s a great piece about how to deal with life’s ups and downs, and well worth a read. And you can read more from Nina on her blog, The Pollyanna Plan – she’s brilliant and one of the most positive people I know.
  • Chris Dempsey from Illinois donated part of his liver to a complete stranger in 2015, after overhearing one of his colleagues talking about Heather Krueger, a family member who needed a transplant to save her life. Chris and Heather got to know each other in the time leading up to the surgery – which was a success – and now they’re engaged.
  • As part of a work project, I randomly decided at the end of last year that I was going to learn Welsh. The idea of the challenge is to learn as much as possible during January using our language app, and although it’s open to anyone, we’re having our own internal competition in the office, which – as of Friday – I’m winning! (I have a feeling when I go in tomorrow I won’t be any more, so I’m making the most of this small victory while I can.)

Welsh uTalk Challenge

  • Last week, commuters on a morning train from Ascot to Waterloo actually enjoyed their journey for once when the conductor posed a fun music quiz, repeating the question each time new passengers got on. Apparently this is quite a regular occurrence on South West Trains – are you listening, Southeastern…?
  • I was feeling a bit grumpy the other day (yes, it does happen – I’m only relentlessly cheerful when blogging) and then my friend Safia produced her latest amazing creation, Super Sinful Oreo Fudge. It’s basically a heart attack on a plate, but if it did kill you, at least you’d die happy. Unfortunately I was too busy eating to take a photo, but you can see Safia’s pictures – and check out how it’s done – on her blog, My Griffin Way.
  • A woman from Sydney, Meg Churches, has become famous for making tiny wraps to protect orphaned baby bats. The idea behind the wrap is that it replicates their mother’s wings, which is crucial for the bats’ survival. Meg’s design goes under the adorable name of Cuddlebatz, and here’s what it looks like in action:
  • Without wanting to bang on about theatre, this week I’ve seen three fantastic shows – New Jersey Nights (a celebration of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons) at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford, Grey Gardens at Southwark Playhouse, and a second visit to the hilarious Peter Pan Goes Wrong (the link is to my review from the first visit, when the show was touring – it’s now at the Apollo Theatre in the West End, and still brilliant).

Have a great week! 🙂

The Happy Newspaper

You know how it can often feel like nothing good ever happens? Reading the papers or watching the news – even going on social media – it can feel like everything’s war, death, disease, crime, poverty… It really can be pretty depressing.

Well, who knew? It turns out good things are actually happening all the time. And how do I know this? Because of The Happy Newspaper.

The Happy Newspaper

 

The Happy Newspaper is an initiative from designer Emily Coxhead (who also created the Little Box of Happy Things that I mentioned a few weeks ago). Essentially it’s a 32-page publication packed full of good things, without any of the horrible news we’re so used to hearing on a daily basis. And that means it’s a great resource to dip into any time you’re feeling a bit gloomy with the state of the world, and you don’t have time to go and sit by the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport.

The first edition of The Happy Newspaper came out a few weeks ago, and I’ve been meaning to blog about it ever since – but I kept getting distracted by things like Christmas. But now that we’re into a new year, I think it’s important to start it off in a good mood, by taking a little look back at all the lovely things that went on in 2015.

The Happy Newspaper

The paper’s broken down by month, with each getting its own summary of good news stories. Things like the 109-year-old Australian man who knits tiny jumpers for injured penguins, or Ireland legalising same-sex marriage, or the firefighters who went back to finish mowing a man’s lawn after he had a heart attack. Whether it’s a huge, life-changing event, or something that really only affected one or two people, it has the same impact when you read it here: a warm glow inside, and the reassuring knowledge that the world isn’t always a horrible, dangerous and unkind place.

Besides the monthly summaries, there are sections devoted to showbiz, travel, poetry, recipes and New Year tips. And there’s an article by Gabrielle from The Green Gables, who you may remember ran the Choosing Happiness e-course I took last year, about the importance of feeling and expressing gratitude.

The Happy Newspaper

But possibly my favourite section is the Everyday Heroes double-page spread, made up of people nominated by their friends, family, colleagues or just casual acquaintances, for being brilliant. Whether it’s a story about a specific event or just their general awesomeness, it’s impossible to read these tributes to amazing people without a smile, and a moment’s reflection on the everyday heroes in our own lives (because we all know at least one).

The Happy Newspaper

It’s clear from the moment you open The Happy Newspaper that it’s an absolute labour of love for Emily and the team of volunteers that helped put it together. I hope they’re all really proud to have been part of something so inspiring; I know I would be. And I hope also that there’ll be future issues, because I think this is exactly what the world needs right now.

You can still purchase the first issue of The Happy Newspaper – it costs just £3.50 and is worth every penny. I know I’ll keep coming back to it again and again, safe in the knowledge that I’ll always find something in there to cheer me up if I’m having a bad day. Or even if I’m not.

Happy reading!

8 simple acts of kindness we can all do today

Today isn’t just Friday the 13th; it’s also – and much more importantly – World Kindness Day. This has been a thing since 1998, and is pretty much what it says on the tin: a day dedicated to being kind to other people.

In a world that so often seems like a very dark place, it’s easy to feel like we as individuals can’t make a difference. But if we all think like that, nothing will ever change. And maybe brightening one person’s day is enough; it might not change the world, but it could change theirs, and that’s what matters.

So here are 8 simple ways we can all be a little kinder, starting right now. Let’s try and make every day World Kindness Day. Because – well, can anyone think of a good reason not to…?

1. Give up your seat

This is just good manners, really, but you don’t only have to give up your seat for elderly people or pregnant ladies. Surprise someone by offering; for all you know they’ve had a really long day at work and taking the weight off their feet might be just what they need.

2. Say something nice

No need to gush, but a simple observation that someone looks nice, or an acknowledgment that they’ve achieved something (however big or small), or just a kind word because they look a bit down, could make all the difference.

3. Buy a suspended coffee

The idea is simple but brilliant: when you buy a coffee for yourself, buy a second one for someone who’s homeless. Cafés all over the world now belong to the Suspended Coffees movement; visit their website to find one near you.

4. Make a donation to charity

Any charity you like. It’s really easy to donate now – you can literally do it anywhere, any time. Or you could do a crazy sponsored event and get other people to do the donating. And if money’s tight, you can donate books, clothes or other possessions you don’t need any more to charity shops.

5. Surprise someone

Today was a bit of a long day at the office, and somewhere along the way, we started talking about chocolate pizza. As you do. So one of the guys quietly took himself off and made one. (And by that I mean he melted some chocolate in a frying pan and stuck some Smarties in it, but it’s the thought that counts.) Surprising someone with a kind gesture – it doesn’t even need to be anything big – is a great way to cheer someone up, and will probably make you feel pretty good too.

6. Smile and say hello

So simple. On the train, in the street, at work – instead of avoiding eye contact, smile and say hello. Not in a creepy way – just a friendly greeting; it could really cheer someone up if they’re having a bad day.

7. Volunteer your time

We all have skills in different areas – whether it’s photography, writing, knitting, cooking, music… – and they can all be useful to different groups and organisations working in our society. There are so many ways to volunteer; visit a site like Do-It for ideas in your local area.

8. Pay it forward

Someone did something nice for you? Pass it on. Pay it Forward isn’t just the name of a movie – it’s a whole movement, and even has its own day every April. The idea is that if we all pass on a good deed, the kindness will keep on going and spreading. (Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t do something nice for the person who was kind to you, as well.)

Happy World Kindness Day, everyone. Thank you for reading, and may I say you all look lovely today 🙂

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.