By Aleks from Pexels

Many Christmases ago, when I was living in Newfoundland, far away from my family and friends, my best friend—and budding filmmaker—in Toronto, sent me a photo memory scrapbook she had created for me. Those were the days before Amazon, Instagram, and the iPhone when, “software” was a pair of cozy PJs, packages took weeks to arrive, and camera film was mailed away for photo printing. My friend’s kind gesture and thoughtful gift boosted my spirits over the moon!

I was reminded of my friend’s kindness, when I recently discovered the book, “50 Ways to Feel Happy”. The book’s brilliant yellow cover, positive messages, fun family activities, and cheerful graphics brought a smile to my face. Given the book’s theme of giving and thinking of others, it seemed only fitting to recommend it for reading over the holidays.

Happiness Key #1: be kind to others and … yourself too!

This compact, 64-page book is chockfull of ideas and simple, hands-on activities to help yourself, and others, feel happier. As Vanessa King, author of the book, and lead psychologist for the Action for Happiness charity points out, happiness begins with being kind to others as well as ourselves. She encourages readers to become “happiness investigators.”

“We are all different people, so what helps each of us feel happy can be different too.”

Does feeling happy never mean feeling unhappy?

Being happy all the time isn’t realistic as King acknowledges. “Struggles and difficulties are part of life too,” she says.  “The good news is, the activities in the book can help you cope and bounce back when things go wrong. That’s all part of happier living!”

The language and tone of “50 Ways to Feel Happy” is warm, engaging and child-friendly and each chapter includes entertaining, simple activities for every key in the “10 Keys to Happier Living”. Best of all, it’s fun and easy for children to follow because the text is presented in a spacious, picture-book format and complemented with playful, character illustrations by Celeste Aires.

I Love Your Smile, chalkboard sign created by Marion May

Imagine these “10 keys to Happier Living” as gifts we can share with one another throughout the year:

  1. Giving: Doing things for others
  2. Relating: Connecting with people
  3. Exercising: Take care of your body
  4. Awareness: Live life mindfully (See Finding Joy Through Mindfulness Through the Holiday Season)
  5. Trying Out: Keep learning new things (See Are You Learning the Power of Yet?)
  6. Direction: Have goals to look forward to
  7. Resilience: Find ways to bounce back (See Bounce Back: How to be a resilient kid)
  8. Emotions: Look for what’s good
  9. Acceptance: Be comfortable with who you are
  10. Meaning: Be part of something bigger

In the final chapter, Ms. King concludes, “The important thing to remember is that you can make a difference. Even small actions can lead to a happier you … and a happier world!”

And in case you’re wondering? Forty years later, I still have the keepsake scrapbook and my friendship with my best friend—now an accomplished children’s TV animation producer—is still going strong!

For more links about happiness and nurturing psychological health, visit:

A leading non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire individuals, schools, communities, and workplaces to take evidence based action to create a happier, more caring world.

The Keys to Happier Living Toolkit for Primary Schools (aged 7-11)

From all of us at The Open Door,

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to you and your family!


Marion May is the Blog Curator and Content Writer for The Open Door blog as well as a reading and spelling tutor for The Open Door, tutoring children between the ages of seven and 10. Her blog content is “local, organic and specific” and is relevant for parents of children with dyslexia.

Marion formerly tutored teenaged students in a literacy remediation program at Sir Guy Carleton Secondary School in Ottawa. She also worked as a paid fundraiser and grant proposal writer for The Excellence in Literacy Foundation, a national non-profit aimed at helping marginalized youth. She began her career in radio broadcasting and news writing and has worked in the area of promotional writing for several federal government departments and agencies, including the National Research Council.

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