Category Archives: Happiness

Back to School 101

Jasmine Zyzniewski

Jasmine Zyzniewski

(Today’s Blog Post features Jasmine Zyzniewski {see her bio below}, who is working with me as an intern as part of her practicum at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Manitoba.)

September is always an exciting month for university students. Summer is winding to a close and the motivation to start learning finally kicks back into high gear. We go and buy all of our textbooks, find that one squeaky chair in the classroom that nobody likes and sit down in front of the teacher with eager minds and creative thoughts. The course outline is then distributed for all of our classes and all of a sudden “WHAM!” university just doesn’t seem that fun any more!

The buzz of excitement around the hallways begins to dwindle and you can find us university students wandering around like zombies to get to our classes. Assignments begin to pile up, we feel like we haven’t socialized in ages and the word sleep leaves our vocabulary for months at a time. Okay, I might be exaggerating just a little, but any student can tell you that school is fun, intriguing but also very stressful. Much of your time is dedicated to studying hard and trying to raise that GPA in hopes to continue our education or find a well-paying job in the future.

As a fourth (and final) year student completing my BA in Psychology, I feel – for the first time – I finally understand how to get a good firm grip on my university work load. I have managed to come up with three tips to help first year students or those already trooping through further years to manage and actually enjoy their time at university.


It’s easy to get motivated come September. Everything is new and exciting for everyone. But what about October and November when those school commitments are screaming at you from every angle? I have found that when I keep my motivation up throughout the entire semester I am less likely to procrastinate on my work load. Motivation is different for everyone. Whether it be finding an inspirational quote to get your creative juices flowing, allowing yourself a piece of candy for every page your write in an essay or creating a collage of all your dreams for the future, motivation is key to getting you to classes and actually wanting to finish those 3000 pages of reading due for tomorrow.


Due dates begin to pile up come October and especially November. The further along you get into your university semester, the harder and more time consuming the assignments become. I’m sure all of us university students out there have had the experience of lying down in bed and remembering that essay that is due at 9:00 tomorrow morning. We fly out of bed, make ourselves plenty of coffee and prepare for our third all-nighter to get that assignment finished. Agendas are like paper gold to me. At the beginning of a semester, I write down all the due dates for every course that I have. This ensures that I stay on top of these dates and allows me the opportunity to get ahead of them! Knowing which assignments are coming up and giving yourself ample time to complete them will reduce stress and increase grades, guaranteed! Our inner spell-check doesn’t work too well at 4:00 a.m.! So avoid those nightmares about school and get organized!


As much as school can overwhelm our schedule, too much study time can send students into a downward spiral. There comes a time where we have to put our books and laptops away, stop writing that major essay and just let loose! We need breaks from our school commitments to relax, rejuvenate and relaunch. So what does capital F.U.N. mean to you? For some it can be a night of dancing with friends, a Sunday dinner with the family or a relaxing evening with popcorn and a Netflix binge. For others it could be an exciting football game, curling up with a good book or just sleeping an afternoon away! Taking a break from responsibility and giving our brains the opportunity to go into shut down mode for a short period of time has always helped me to come back to my school assignments with a fresh set of eyes and a clear focused mind. Take the opportunity to have some fun and let’s help society avoid that zombie plague that everyone has been raving about. University students will be the first to turn!

You can do it university students! Get motivated, get organized and get loose! We have two more months to go until Christmas break, let’s get this semester rolling and off to a good start!

Jasmine Zyzniewski is a fourth and final year student completing her BA in Psychology with a minor in Peace and Conflict Transformation studies. She aims to normalize and contribute to mental health awareness through optimistic and positive reflections on herself and her surroundings. Alongside her studies, she loves DIY crafts, spending time with family and any good book she can get her hands on.

A Gratitude Letter to My Doctor

High Five!

Have you thanked your doctor lately? How about all those other really important people in your life, who truly contribute to your happiness and well-being.

My doctor just retired. It was a moment. She’s been my doctor since I moved to this city at the age of 27. She meant a great deal to me. I think I told her that in person, regularly. In posting it here, I am addressing it to doctors everywhere. I am also writing this here to inspire you to pause and appreciate those key people in your life.


Dear Doc:

Thank you. You make a difference.

I am sure your days are filled with people complaining, being impatient at having to wait, experiencing all kinds of anxiety at hearing a test result…and there you are, plugging away and greeting each of us like we are the first person you have seen that day.

I want you to know – in case I don’t say it often enough – you are very important to me. You are as valued as my friends are to me. You attend to me physically, and you also help me be better emotionally. Everything you say, and how you say it, makes a difference in my day. 

You greeted me as a new patient to you, who was also new to this city and to a brand new phase of my life. You gave me the news that I was expecting both of my children, and you cared for us through those pregnancies and all of the follow-up care. Even though you were no longer taking patients, you accepted my request to see my mother who was in the early stages of cognitive dementia and fearful of what was in store for her. You took on my daughter as a patient as she developed into womanhood, and you even allowed me to ask questions about her during my own appointments. You have allowed me to breathe easier when I found ‘something’, somewhere on my body, and you were able to put my mind to rest about that thing.

I hope you know – and always know – that you have added to my life in immeasurable ways. I will always remember you with fond thoughts.

You are not replaceable, but I hope I am able to find someone just like you. Someone who chose this career path because she or he had a passion for helping people continue to be better. Someone who is caring, kind, considerate and brutally honest when that is required! Someone who truly sees me, hears me. and values me as I will see, hear and value them.

Thank you, Doc! High Five to you!

Warm Regards, Deri

So, who can you send a letter to today?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, at home and at any age!

The Gift of a Rainy Day

A Rainy Day Hangout

A Rainy Day Hangout

It can be a drag. You’ve been working hard all week and have been looking forward to a weekend of fun outdoors. After a week of commuting in blistering heat, you wake up on Saturday morning to cloud cover and a drizzly forecast. Groan.

It’s perfectly okay to be a bit bummed out. I mean, you had big plans for the day; sunbathing, gardening, going for a long walk in the park, a get-together with friends on a steamy deck enjoying great conversation over a cold drink or two.

Once you’ve given yourself permission to sulk a little, decide what opportunity this quick change in plans has provided to you. I think that sometimes the universe provides for us the very thing we need that we might not give to ourselves.

Here are a few ‘rainy day’ ideas:

  • Skip the shower and don your favourite ‘comfy’ clothes (no shaving, no make up, choose to go au natural!)
  • Enjoy your coffee and morning paper for an extra long time; read the sections you tend to skip when you are short on time.
  • Clean out those drawers that you have been thinking about for the last two (or ten) years. You may discover things long forgotten and thought long lost.
  • Pull out that craft/hobby/special project that you never get time to do on a ‘normal’ busy day off. Remember why you enjoy that activity.
  • Go through your photo albums and just enjoy the memory-filled ride. Pause and take yourself back to the time when the photo was taken. What emotions are attached to it? For what and whom are you grateful during that time in your life?
  • Snuggle under the afghan and watch movies – all day!
  • Sort the 1000+ photos still on your phone and send them off for processing or organize them into an on-line album. You’ll be so glad you did.
  • Play a board game (you still have some around, I bet!)
  • Write a gratitude letter to someone special in your life. Take your time.
  • Read a good book.
  • Phone your Mom (or Dad, or Aunt, or Sibling, or Good Buddy) – just to chat.
  • Meditate; you’ve always wanted to try it, right?
  • Play charades with the whole family; the kids, although hesitant at first (depending on their age) might just like it!
  • Take a nap – on the couch – or wherever you darn well feel like it!
  • Cook dinner together. Make everyone responsible for one part of the dinner. Make it a ‘no rules’ experience (i.e. start with dessert…in fact, it can be all dessert!!)
  • Cuddle with your partner; who knows what that might lead to… it’s all good for you at any stage of life!
  • Go outside! There is something vero relaxing about walking in the rain. If the temperature is warm, skip the umbrella!

I’d love to hear your rainy day ideas. What gift has a change in plans provided for you?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, at home and at any age!

Gone Fishing: A Metaphor for Summer Rejuvenation

Fishing Fun!

Fishing Fun!

Are you feeling tired? Are you counting down the days until you take summer vacation? Are you focused on the clock at work, willing the minutes to go by as quickly as possible?

I just set my out-of-office message for the summer, and it reads ‘Gone Fishing’. That message communicates what I intend to do for myself over the summer (so that my family, friends and clients get a better ‘me’ in the long run).

Although I will literally be doing some fishing over the summer, I really mean for this message to express the state of mind I plan to create. It is a metaphor for how I want to feel and be over summer. The ‘Gone Fishing’ state of mind, for me, begins with a visual image. (Use whatever image you like, if the one I am suggesting does not work for you).

When you imagine that you have ‘Gone Fishing’, what are you doing? And, what AREN’T you doing?

I’ll bet you are:

  • Calm
  • Smiling
  • Breathing slowly
  • Aware of your surroundings (hearing birds chirping, seeing the calm water around you, feeling the warmth of the sun on your face)

I’ll bet you AREN’T:

  • Experiencing distress
  • Frowning
  • Hyperventilating
  • Focused on the nattering voice in your head

When you are ‘Gone Fishing’, you are doing things that are out of the normal routine. You let go of what you would be doing on a regular day (being constantly connected to your phone or other technology, ruminating about work, worrying about your child) and you escape to an oasis of relaxation (whatever that might be for you).

So, to create ‘Gone Fishing’ for you, follow these simple steps:

1) Disconnect from technology. Install an out of office message, and trust that you’ll be a better ‘you’ when you reconnect again.

2) Let go of all things restrictive. Let your hair go wild; substitute constrictive clothing for soft, comfortable items, pull out those wickedly comfortable sandals.)

3) Breathe. Watch Dr. Mehmet Oz demonstrate the proper way to do it here (you might be surprised by what he suggests).

4) Focus ‘out’. Move your attention to the sights, sounds and sensations around you.

5) Just ‘be’. Decide to ‘go with the flow’; whatever happens, just be with it.

If negative thoughts enter your mind, practice the strategy outlined in this post titled, ‘How to Rewire Your Brain for Success‘, by Geoffrey James: Shrink the negative image that accompanies the negative thought and emotion. Make the image teeny, tiny and very grainy.  Repeat shrinking it, making it smaller and smaller each time.

Then, draw in a positive image and elongate, enhance and enlarge it. Make it more colorful and vibrant. Repeat this several times, making the positive image larger and more colorful. And, add some sound to it to anchor it more fully in your brain.

So where and when will you ‘Go Fishing’ this summer?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, at home and at any age!




You Matter: Three Ways to Make it a Better World

You Matter!

Remind yourself every day – You Matter!

We are all part of an ecosystem – several, actually. Our families, communities, schools and workplaces are all environments of which we are a part. We affect, and are affected by, everything else that is a part of each ecosystem.

I love the definition of ecosystem from Wikipedia; especially the description of how all living organisms are “linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows”.

I constantly remind myself to be mindful of the “nutrition” and “energy” I am adding to the lives of the people I meet and interact with every day. Am I adding something positive? Do I contribute something that helps and supports people? Social contagion is real. We catch each other’s emotions just like we catch colds and flu viruses from each other.

A recent article got me thinking about this again. Erica Pearson of the New York Daily News describes a University of Pennsylvania study that found negative tweets by younger people are associated with higher rates of stress and heart disease in the larger community. Tweets about hating and being bored and unmotivated were linked with higher heart disease in the community. Tweets about friendship and about what’s good in the world were linked with lower rates of the disease. The study found that it was not the “tweeters” who experienced the increase in heart disease, but that those young people were representative of the larger community in which they reside. In other words, communities that are less well (more disease) are those that seem to be associated with more negative and unmotivated young people (at least according to their tweet content). “When people in your community are angry you are likely to feel that simply through psychological contagion,” said lead researcher Johannes Eichstaedt, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student.

So, what are people ‘catching’ from you? If you are hanging on to anger and negativity, it is not just affecting you, but it is affecting everyone around you. The entire ecosystem is changed by you and the nutrition and energy (or lack thereof) that you contribute.

Maybe a better question is, what do you want people to catch from you? Start by thinking about the kind of world you want. I cannot say I have ever met a person who said they want to live in a world that is negative, angry, sad and unmotivated. My guess is all of us – or most of us – would say we want to be part of world that is positive, peaceful, happy and energized.

Here are three ways you can contribute healthy nutrition and energy to the ecosystems of which you are a part every day:

1) Ask yourself, and answer, ‘What’s good today?’ Then ask one other person.

2) Compliment/appreciate one person in your life. Wait long enough to see them smile and light up when you do. Remind yourself of that memory as you drift off to sleep.

3) Spend 1 minute in total silence. Close your eyes, focus on your breath, and turn down the volume on your internal dialogue. Just be.

Do you make a difference? You bet, you do. What you think about, feel and do will either add to or detract from the health of your ecosystem. What will you choose?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, at home and at any age!