Tag Archives: wisdom

Does Happiness Matter?

 

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Love this poster by Lykki.com – an amazing (and happy) company

A fascinating overview in the last Atlantic Monthly seems to say – not so much… After over a thousand books (yes 1,000 books) on the topic of how being happy is what matters the most, there is new and unsettling evidence that this may not be true. A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that people who say they are happy, but don’t have much of a sense of meaning in their lives have the same gene expression patterns as people who are enduring chronic adversity.

The key is of course in how we define happiness. Is it momentary joy or is it satisfaction from one’s accomplishments and successes? Do you need both?

While the experts debate the fine points, I just recommend a “daily dose of happiness” which may be as simple as listening to Pharrell’s “Happy” at least once a day! And if it does NOT make you happy – email me asap!!!

Alexandra T. Greenhill, MD, CEO founder of myBestHelper (who is generally happy even when the skies are gray)

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What Freakonomics author Steven Levitt thinks is important for parents to do

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I read with great interest an interview of Steven Levitt by Christopher Kompanek published in the Financial Times. I have loved each edition in the Freakonomics franchise not necessarily because I agree with all the conclusions, but because it’s a great way to be reminded to think differently, to tackle an issue from an unexpected angle, to question assumptions and commonly held beliefs…

His views on parenting in particular caught my attention. His belief is that passion and curiosity are two most important qualities he hopes to instill in his own children, currently ages from 10 to 14. He is quoted to say:

“A lot of parents emphasize achievement, but I think that’s the wrong approach. Almost every kid knows how to read and do math, but when I look at my students, what separates the truly exceptional ones is a combination of creativity and excitement for life. Very early on I made my goal not to have my kids be really good readers or really good at math but instead to try to instill in them this idea of thinking and excitement of pursuing what they love.”

This closely aligns with my own perspective on what is important to get our kids to understand, now that there is more and more evidence that EQ is a stronger predictor of success than IQ.

Would love to get more perspectives on this, and other things you consider as the most important things to teach our children.

Alexandra T. Greenhill, CEO cofounder myBestHelper, raising three kids that we hope will be at least passionate and curious

Two People Who Made a Difference: Dr. Maya Angelou and Dr. Christine Simard

We all have our personal heros and – I need to stop today an acknowledge two people that made me a better person and a better leader.

The better known one – Dr. Maya Angelou passed away this week. The other – passed away four years ago this week – Dr. Christine Simard and was just acknowledged in this week’s Globe and Mail.

I never got to see in person Dr. Angelou, but her writing shaped much of how I see the world. My favorite quote from her is a core concept of the way I try to live my life.

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I did get a chance to meet Dr.  Christine Simard in person and her real life courage inspired in a way that only real encounters can. People often talk about leadership and humility, but rarely is it something that you actually get to see. Dr. Simard was a general surgeon who completed six tours of duty outside of Canada, including four to Afghanistan – often as the sole surgeon present, on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. She saved countless lives by being unassumingly amazing at her craft, and doing complicated procedures requiring advanced sub-specialty training. She did them because there was no other choice – truly a matter of life and death. I really think Dr. Simard lived her life by the Maya Angelou quote above.

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Dr. Christine Simard

They were both forces that made the world a better place and their light will shine on.

Alexandra T. Greenhill, MD, CEO cofounder myBestHelper

The best Mother’s Day gift ever….

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I am a mom. Mother’s Day is coming up, but this is also Mental Health Week, so I am getting lots of media and social media info focused on that. It’s been interesting reading what is said on these topics seemingly on different tracks, yet linked in so many ways.

It got me thinking (yes, I know – dangerous!). Let’s consider for a moment something that the organisers of Mental Health Week say about mental health, but from the perspective of a busy mom:

“We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. Mental health is more than the absence of mental illness. It’s a state of well-being.”

As a mom, I wonder… I am not alone when I describe parenting not as a state, but rather as constant change. Raising children, how can I achieve that sense of well-being when everything is so topsy-turvy unpredictable and rapidly changing? Every parent has experienced at least a few days of being overwhelmed, out of balance, anxious and stressed, and those who say otherwise are just not owning up to the truth.

It has always been tough being a parent, but the pressures now seem ever higher, as both expectations on what parents do and kids need to achieve keep rising. As well, with all the easily available information, there are no excuses such as “I didn’t know”.

The sense of well-being dies through a thousand paper cuts caused by thoughts and moments of avoidable imperfection.

So, the best Mother’s day gift ever for me would not be chocolate, flowers or presents.

What I really want is a helping hand when I am carrying groceries out of store with a toddler on my hip, someone to hold the door as I push a stroller into a building, a supportive smile when my angelic child decides to throw a huge temper tantrum in the candy isle.

What I really want is people being really ok with me being late a few minutes to a meeting as the morning to school routine had some snag that led to a domino chain of delays. What I really want is a hug at the time I least expect it, a note from friends who still care about me even if we have not met in ages, a simple text to say “You are doing great job. It can’t always be easy, but keep at it – you ROCK!”

I am lucky, because many of these things happen to me and I am surrounded by people who are generous and kind and helping. None of what I do would be possible without the moral and tangible support of a huge number of people who have my back. Thank you.

And so, for Mother’s Day – which happens to be during Mental Health Week – let’s give each other some love – and some leeway. Life is not perfect and that is awesome. And moms need to be reminded of that.

The best gift possible to any and all Mothers that you know would be to give them some love and kindness, give them support and encouragement, give them a break and a hand if you can. On Mothers’ Day and any day.

Alexandra T. Greenhill, mom and CEO, myBestHelper

All too often, people judge a book by its cover…

My teenage niece Emma just posted something on Facebook (yay! she is old enough to use it!) that got me going… She shared a story about another teenager from the Australian North who upsets all expectations in a singing competition. You have to see the video to understand, as no words can describe what everyone thought would happen and then what actually happened.

It tapped into one of my greatest pet peeves – time and time again, we see examples of “what we see is not what is” and yet, we are all too often guilty of judging a book by its cover and going with our own assumptions.

Her video recalls the story of Susan Boyle, the 47 year old sensational singer that rocketed to international fame on Britain’s Got Talent. If you have seen the upheaval she created, it’s not a surprise that her initial video has 147 millions views on Youtube alone. The judges honestly admitted that their own cynicism colored their expectations, and yet we all go with our assumptions again and again.

We also judge capacity based on gender – study after study shows these biases alive and well… for example, if people can’t see but can only hear the applicants to a job, women stand a better chance at being hired. Similarly, if a person reads a work situation about overcoming an obstacle and the “main character” is described as a woman instead of a man, readers assume the chances of success in the situation are slimmer.

And over 50 years after the “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King, we might have a US president of African-American descent, but race remains an issue.

I was actually watching Martin Luther King’s speech with my second daughter, as she is studying human rights in school right now. And I do sincerely share his dream, that people are no longer judged based on their appearance, but rather on the merits of their abilities and the “content of their character”.

We need to help each other recognize when we miss opportunities to be amazed because we are set to assume otherwise. I think sharing these stories and videos that remind us to keep an open mind will help us collectively become better at that. Many children’s stories are also centered on teaching kids that the beautiful prince or princess may be a heartless jerk and happiness lies not in the most perfect offering, but in one’s own preferences – just look at the success of the Shrek and Megamind movies.

myBestHelper is also doing something towards that too – Alongside the profile photos of helpers and families there is a “personal catchphrase” that allows each person to describe in their own words who they are and what matters to them.

I will end this post with my favorite quote on the subject:

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Alexandra T. Greenhill, mom of three, CEO founder of myBestHelper, woman, human

What’s the problem with pink and princess? The marketing, not the moms.

I totally agree it’s not about pink or princesses… What do you think?

Alexandra T. Greenhill, CEO myBestHelper and mom of three girls

Dr. Rebecca Hains

This week, New York and Slate published pieces asking why so many moms have a problem with pink and with princesses.

“What’s the problem with pink, anyway?” griped Yael Kohen in New York. Then, building upon Kohen’s piece, Slate senior editor Allison Benedikt demanded: “What is it with you moms of girls? I have never met a single one of you who isn’t tortured about pink and princesses.” Her annoyance is palpable.

Both writers proceed to defend all things pink and princess. “We treat pink — and the girls who like it — with […] condescension,” Kohen states, while Benedikt adds, “Moms of daughters need to chill out.”

Oh… really? Let’s take a step back, please. I am the author of a forthcoming book called The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, and Kohen and Benedikt’s arguments are wrong on several levels. By pontificating on the subject without actually talking to the moms they’re criticizing, they’ve missed the…

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Best 5 real strategies to be more calm and less stressed as a parent

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I was recently asked by a mom on Facebook for strategies to be more calm and less stressed as a parent. As a parent of twin boys and an older girl all under 5 years old, she is rightfully feeling overwhelmed!!!

So in my reply to her, it occurred to me that there are five real strategies that have made my life so much better (not that things are perfect ALL the time, we still have those days where several days attack me at the same time!):

  1. My default answer is ‘yes’ to any offer of help. Even if I can do it perfectly well myself, it saves me energy and gives me capacity.
  2. I learned how to ask for help myself and not wait to be offered some. And often, it’s not on an exchange basis – I can’t help them directly, but it’s clear that I would help someone else in the future when I get the chance. 
  3. I get the kids to do as much as they can at their age to help – and it’s surprising what they can do – my 18 month old could unload the dishwasher! (yes, there was a broken plate or two at the beginning, but they really learn fast). 
  4. The one book that helped me hugely was “How to behave so your kids would too…” – see previous blog about main messages http://blog.mybesthelper.com/2012/12/10/secrets-of-a-child-whisperer/
  5. Last but not least, asking other parents for advice helps.. all kind of tips and tricks that make their lives better. I have accumulated tons of these over the years! 

And, what strategies have helped you? Namaste!

Alexandra T. Greenhill, MD, Mother of three, CEO myBestHelper