For every 10 reviews on Amazon, I’ll donate 10 copies of Doing Happiness to Gilda’s Club of Greater Toronto
I won’t tell you how good it is, but Hugh Culver will!! Thanks Hugh!
“Even if you are a happy person, I want you to read this book. What Rob Hawke has done is to boil down the best of positive psychology, self-help, and sage advice into a very readable (131 pages of goodness) guide to, as he says “uncovering the hidden benefits of feeling good.”
I just completed my new book “Doing Happiness: Uncovering The Hidden Benefits of Feeling Good” The good news is there are simple things we can do everyday to help us feel true happiness. More than that, I talk about the many tangible benefits our happiness brings to us and those we care about the most.I could use a bit of help.
Would you be willing to read it and write a review on amazon? It would take all of two minutes and it’s really easy.
You will get a FREE digital copy of Doing Happiness for your time.
Step 1: Hit this link (or the title below) and download a FREE digital copy of Doing Happiness,
Step 2: If you like it, leave a positive review! (If its 5 stars that would be so terrific)
It sounds like the set up for a joke doesn’t it? But that’s what we had on June 30th. The very first Self Care Movement Summit in Toronto went off like crazy.
People came from far and wide to participate. We had folks drive in from 5 hours away just to be there for the evening.
When you see a large conference room packed tight on a Monday night, you know that there is a real need for this. Folks needed to not only learn about what they are going through and how to deal with their situation, but they also wanted to connect with each other.
Some of the things we addressed were mindfulness, dealing with chronic illness at work, sex, intimacy, and using humour as a tool to help us every day. We had a patient panel that shared stories about what it was like to deal with our different conditions and we even managed to squeeze some laughs out of it.
OK, so we may have tried to cram too much really good content into one evening, but can you blame us? That’s like complaining that a meal has too much food or that somebody gave you too much chocolate or that your birthday present is too big to fit into your car. You get my point.
After working with cancer patients and their families for years, one of the most common things that I have heard is that once we are finished our primary care, we often feel lost. That was certainly how I felt after I got over my initial cancer treatment. My physician even looked at me and said “You’re cured” I was expecting triumphant movie music to come in as we hugged in a manly way, but the hug didn’t happen. Instead I thought “Really? I don’t feel cured. Besides, the cancer might be gone but I have this chronic situation to deal with for the REST OF MY LIFE. So, how is that cured?”
That’s what the summit was for. We were all there to talk about what happens now. How do we adjust to our lives in this “new normal”. How do we not just exist but help ourselves to thrive with the capabilities that we have?
When several hundred committed, smart and passionate people stand up and start sharing ideas, you feel it. You feel the energy shift from complacency and acceptance of the status quo to hopefulness and possibility. On Monday night a group of patients who were strangers just hours before, shared their wisdom and strategies to help people just like them.
So, back to our original question: What do you get when you have 400 people dealing with chronic conditions in one room?
Answer: A huge amount of courage and hope.
Celebrity Fan Moment
Don’t you love when you meet someone famous and they’re more impressive than you thought? I was very excited to meet Margaret Trudeau and I actually got to say hello to her backstage. I am rarely at a loss for words. However, in meeting Margaret, I was virtually tongue tied. When she did her keynote, she spoke with such wit, honesty and vulnerability that I became a fan immediately. The standing ovation she got was proof that she connected with our group.
If you’re a patient, you know about getting through tough times. If we reach out to other people, things get easier.
When I had cancer, I lived alone in a one bedroom apartment and quite frankly I had no idea how hard it was going to be. I thought I was tough enough to handle the challenges on my own. I wasn’t. Not only were the physical symptoms of my disease difficult, but I also suffered from depression and isolation. My story isn’t unique, or even close to the toughest one you’ll hear. Many patients like us stare down dark nights at 3 am and wonder how we’re going to make it to the morning. Being alone makes the journey much tougher. Helping each other makes it easier.
If you or someone you love is sick, connecting with other patients can be the difference between languishing alone and feeling completely overwhelmed or tapping into a sense of community and accessing resources to make your journey easier.
The first time I connected with other patients was 3 years after my treatment. I sat in a circle with other folks in recovery and thought “Oh My Gosh! I should have been doing this from day one!” There was such power in meeting people who had similar challenges. People shared ideas and strategies on how to get through a tough day. We all breathed out as we realized that we were not alone in what we were facing.
It has been my honour as a speaker and author to work with groups of patients and their families for years now. Something almost magical happens when patients get together in the same room and support each other. It would be great if you could come to the…
The always entertaining and insightful Margaret Trudeau. We get to hear her speak! How cool is that?
Do you know who’s going to do the keynote? Margaret Trudeau! Really. Impressed? I am. There is also going to be incredible content on wellness, self care and managing chronic illness in the workplace. As well, I will be doing my presentation “Taking The Laughter Pill: Humour and The Patient Journey.”
Oh, Did I mention its FREE? And there are APPETIZERS? (At least there will be until I get there)
The appetizers may or may not be salmon. I’m not in charge of the food. But frankly, how can you go wrong with salmon? Just sayin’.
All of this content is valuable. Just as important is the opportunity to connect with people who are going through similar challenges and help each other realize that we are all going through this together.
Have you ever felt like your concerns are utterly different from anyone else’s?
Sure you have! We all have different circumstances in our lives. For instance, I am wondering… Will the tires last on our car? Will the vacant lot down the street become a giant condo complex and ruin our view? Will Stephen King come to my poker game?
Stephen King considers coming to my poker game. I hope he brings chips.
(Ok, maybe I made up the one about the car).
We all think our concerns and problems are completely unique, but are they?
I am currently working on a program for people who are having a really hard time. Now, this group is facing incredible challenges that are very specific. However, I’ve noticed in my years working with different groups that a lot of the things we face can be really similar.
Some few years ago, I thought the challenges facing me as a cancer patient were unique not just to cancer patients but to me. Yup. I thought my story and my bit of hardship was incredibly important and oh so precious. And to a degree it was, as an experience with cancer should not be diminished at all. What I am saying is that if we hang around on the planet long enough, chances are, we’re going to experience some kind of hardship. It’s part of this thing called being human.
Think about the people you are closest to. Do they have their gooey, unresolved human bits? Do they have a challenge in their lives that they find really tough, be it addiction, an emotional issue or just getting through the day in this ridiculously complex world? I’m going to guess that’s a big “YES!“.
Its not like he needs my help, but Alec’s Podcast is terrific. Go ahead, click on it.
You see, it’s really easy to look at the shiny happy people (to quote REM- and why not? They rock.) and think that we are the only ones struggling to get out of bed in the morning, or working really hard to connect with our family, or dealing with a health issue. I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts by Alec Baldwin and he had Paul Simon on as a guest. Alec said he wanted to know what it was like to grow up being Paul Simon. Paul paused for a second and said “Hey, Everything happens to everybody.” I think that sums it up really well. Everything does happen to everybody. Especially over time.
You could say that this statement is trite and patently untrue. In a literal sense you would be correct. You could say to me “Hey Rob, This thing happened to me. It did not happen to you. Do not lessen the importance of my experience.” Point taken. After all, I once barfed in the train station in Hanoi at 5:30 am.
I barfed in this building once. I’m sorry Hanoi.
Has that happened to everybody? I sure hope not. Especially for the train station. However, I’m pretty sure we all go through some very basic human experiences that really seem to be the cost of the ticket to this ride called life. I think we all experience joy, love, loss, fear, connection, frustration, envy and of course a desire for a Led Zeppelin Reunion (ok maybe that’s just a few million of us).
Neil is awesome. That is all.
But in my work with cancer patients, their families, corporations, healthcare professionals, executives, and young people, I am starting to notice that the specifics of our challenges may be very different, but we are all out there, trying to find our way, trying to make a better life for ourselves and our families and trying to make sense of a world that may not make sense*. Wherever you are, to quote another great musician, keep on rockin’ in the free world.
*When Stephen King does come to my poker game, I’m sure he’ll call me on that run on sentence. Hey Stephen, read it out loud and it sounds fine! By the way, I just finished Finders Keepers and I loved it.
At a recent event for The Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington Dufferin, I was thrilled to present The Wellness Solution: Help Yourself Help The World. During one of the breaks, I was lucky enough to meet Laura McShane and we got talking about compassion fatigue. She agreed to a brief interview for this blog. But what does any of this have to do with AC/DC?
Rob: So, we’ve talked about compassion fatigue and I’m wondering could you just tell me at a very basic level what it is?
Laura: Yes, compassion fatigue is the cost of caring. It impacts the caring part of us that brought us into the helping field.
R: Is it just Mental Health Professionals who suffer from compassion fatigue?
L: Gosh, No. Everyone in the caring professions can be affected. Nurses, physicians, first responders and therapists can all be impacted by compassion fatigue. It goes beyond professions too. Parents looking after a sick child or caregivers of family member can be affected as well.
R: I read in some of my research that people who are affected by compassion fatigue sometimes take on the feelings of the people they are helping.
L: Caring professionals can be impacted by listening to the traumatic experiences and details of a client’s life and it can be very distressing for them.
R: Is there stigma in talking about it?
L: Well, I don’t know if I would call it stigma, but I would say that sometimes it might be difficult to address it because of a worry people might think that they aren’t capable of doing their jobs, which isn’t true. Compassion Fatigue affects the most caring, hard working people.
R: How did you learn about this and then become a trainer?
L: Well, I took a terrific workshop called “Walking The Walk” by Francoise Mathieu, which was really amazing. (link here) she has done some great work on compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma . The management team of CMHA WWD believe it is important to acknowledge that it exists and help provide staff with some strategies to cope with the impact.
R: What is one of the ways to deal with compassion fatigue?
L: Having a transition ritual is a great way to help cope. A transition ritual helps you make a separation between your work life and your home life.
R: How does that work?
L: Well, when you’re done for the day and you’re going home, you might want to crank AC/DC on your car stereo and sing sing sing!!!
R: That’s hilarious! And that’s a transition ritual?
L: Yes, it can help us draw the line between these two worlds so we don’t take the concerns of our work home with us.
R: What are some others?
L: Well, some others might be allowing ourselves to think about work up until a certain point in our drive home, say up until a marker on our drive, like a Tim Hortons. And then after that spot, we only think about our personal life and we leave work behind.
R: Any other ones?
L: Sure! A really great way of transitioning from work to home is to get out of our work clothes immediately after we get home and then getting into a more comfortable outfit. It can really help us change our mindset.
R: Do you have any stories from your own experience about dealing with compassion fatigue?
L: Yes I do. It was earlier in my career and I came home from work one day and I had a really rough day. There had been endless appointments and I had helped people all day long. I was exhausted. When I walked in the door, my daughter was so excited to see me and she wanted to go outside and play, bike ride, catch frogs, colour, and do all kinds of things. I said “Oh honey, Mummy is really tired right now, can I just have five minutes of quiet please because I have been helping people all day.” She looked at me and said “But Mummy, you’re my Mummy.”
L: And at that point I knew I had to make some changes.
R: Sometimes kids can have such clarity.
L: (laughs) Oh yes.
R: Is compassion fatigue something that we ever solve? Or is it something we have to deal with continually?
L: Well, I suppose it’s different for everyone. But, I don’t think we’re ever done. It’s part of the price of being a caring professional. One thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that this builds up over time and has a cumulative effect. So, you can be in one job and then take another position somewhere else and your level of compassion fatigue might become more and more intense. Just because we have changed jobs doesn’t mean that we have solved the issue. It’s really important for us to keep looking after ourselves and making sure that we are making our self care a priority. That way, we can continue to do the work that we love and finish our day experiencing compassion satisfaction.
R: Thank so much for talking to me about this today! I really appreciate it.
L: You’re welcome! Thanks Rob.
R: To celebrate the awesomeness of this interview, let’s all crank “You Shook Me All Night Long” By Angus and the boys.
I am thrilled to be included in an article in The Toronto Star on Healing and The Arts. There are so many people doing really important, groundbreaking work in this field. An excerpt is below. By Joseph Hall-Toronto Star
Humour out of darkness
Toronto author, actor and comedian Robert Hawke is marshalling humour in the battle against cancer, after it helped him through his own bout with the disease.
Toronto comedian Robert Hawke helps cancer patients out of the “4 a.m. darkness” with his “Spoonful of Laughter” workshop.
His comedy career was riding a high-speed laugh track a decade ago, having brought him frequent appearances on CBC television and radio shows and a full-time gig with the Second City comedy troupe. “I was freelancing, things were good,” he recalls. “And I was leading what I considered to be a pretty healthy life.” But then cancer sent him off the rails.
Hawke learned he had a thyroid tumour and that the master metabolism gland would have to be removed. The diagnosis and treatment proved psychological blows as much as physical ones. During weeks of fretful recovery, however, he hit upon this “funny idea” — to combat his cancer with comedy. The material he started developing and writing then would build a new calling and career.
“Once I started doing (comedy) work that addressed the cancer experience, I realized there was a real need for it,” says Hawke, now 50. That need found its source in the deep wells of fear, despair and isolation into which cancer patients often fall. Using his comic skills to make cancer patients laugh, he thought, could help haul them out of that “4 a.m.” darkness and allow them to more readily share their experiences and insights about their battles with others in similar straits.
CHRIS SO/ Toronto Star
Comedian and cancer survivor Rob Hawke, in blue striped shirt, leads an improv class of cancer patients at Gilda’s Club to encourage group laughter.
Hawke has developed several programs to address different audiences. For cancer patients themselves, his “Spoonful of Laughter” routine is a 40-minute exercise that leans heavily on teaching improv techniques in groups large and small. Another, called “NormVsCancer,” is an irreverent one-man show that OpenLab helped him bring into hospitals and other medical settings. He also created a program — Adventures in Patient-Centred Care — that teaches second-year University of Toronto medical students how to interact with more humour and humanity in the clinic.
Hawke believes that shared laughter is a key to opening cancer patients up to the camaraderie, comfort and expert advice — the “wisdom in the room” — that can be found in fellow patients. And the reactions of patients involved in one of his recent improv exercises seemed to bear him out.
“I don’t think we get enough opportunities to laugh,” said participant Nadha Hassen, 26, who is battling thyroid cancer. “It’s amazing to … be in a space with other (patients). I feel like I just took this amazing stretch.”
Hawke also published a how-to book in 2011, called Kicking Cancer’s Ass: A Light-Hearted Guide to the Fight of Your Life. It offers cancer patients strategies on dealing with doctors, setting up support groups, making healthier choices and overcoming the bouts of worry and depression the disease can bring.
However, sometimes our “muscles” of compassion and empathy can get tired. You might be easily distracted when you’re with the people you serve. You might not care as much or be using your skills to the best of your ability.
It can be hard for us to admit that this is happening to us. We’d rather just push through it and pretend it isn’t there.
Then kablam! You realize “I’m suffering from compassion fatigue!”
It can feel like everyone is dealing with this better than we are. I’ll tell you a secret about humanity though, we all have our issues. Even the well adjusted “superstar” of your team can have a hard time with compassion fatigue.
So, how do we help ourselves through this? One of the great ways is to collaborate with our peers.
Really. Collaborating with our peers can help us like crazy.
It struck me that that there are literally thousands in the caring professions who are working really hard, giving generously of themselves and sometimes feeling really worn out in body and psyche because of the nature of this demanding work. I am guessing that no one in the world has this whole thing solved. Yep. No one. However, if we have one small piece of the puzzle worked out, shouldn’t we share what we have?
I had the honour recently of presenting my keynote “The Wellness Solution: Help Yourself Help The World” for The Canadian Mental Health Association: Waterloo Wellington Dufferin. I asked people to share how they dealt with this when they were having a tough day.
What happened my friends, was significant.
People stood up, talked and joked. They shared solutions and strategies to help each other with this tough issue and the energy of the room took off. As a speaker, it was so much fun to see more than a hundred people dive in and collaborate. In fact, folks were so pumped about helping each there that I had trouble ending the exercise and getting on with the show. It was a real testament to how generous people in the caring professions are and how, when we share what we have, everybody wins.
When the day ended, people were happier knowing that they helped their colleagues and that they had learned some valuable tools they could use the next time the elephant tried to sneak back in the room.
If you’re in one of the caring professions, you probably care a lot. I bet you wake up in the morning and care more before 9 am than most people do all day. (My apologies to the marines- for a bunch of reasons.)
Having that much concern all day long can sure take its toll on your health and you guessed it, your wellness! Well what is wellness about? Its about actually taking your own needs into account, slowing down on occasion and being kind to yourself. Let’s use the concept of a well, because heck its right in the word “wellness”. If you are caring for people all the time and not looking after yourself, then chances are you are drawing on your own resources to help them, while depleting yourself. This can leave your poor well empty and even a bit dry, as it were.
“The Wellness Well” You see what I did there? Sure you do.
When we ignore our own wellness, we tend to stress out, feel really overwhelmed and our health can suffer. The problem is, we rarely give ourselves permission to help ourselves. We feel like we should just “tough it out” and “carry on”.
However, if a friend came up to you and said “Hey I’m burned out at work, and my joints are achy do you think I should go for a massage?” Of course you’d say Yes! You’d send them off to get their body kneaded faster than you can say “CranioSacral”-which I can’t say at all.
But will we get a massage ourselves? Of course not! Why? I blame my protestant upbringing. (Feel free to blame whatever culture you’re from- I’ve found it so much easier than actually taking responsibility for myself). But seriously, we do that all the time. We can be having a really tough time and desperately need to cut ourselves some slack but we sometimes find that difficult.
Essentially wellness is, taking care of ourselves before things become horrible. We often mislabel healthy concern and care for ourselves as “Selfishness” or “self-centered-ness” or even “being like crazy Uncle Bob” but really carving out a place for wellness in our lives can be the best thing we can do for our level of contribution. Think about it, when we feel good, do we want to contribute more or less? More of course! Are we worse at our jobs or better? Better!
Damn! Don’t you want some of this? A massage I mean.
So there you go. Wellness is valuable not just to you but to the people around you and the work you do. So how do you get more of this thing called Wellness into your life? Well, that’s not actually that hard. Here are a few suggestions:
1: You could, go for a walk in nature. Simply stepping outside and walking for thirty minute has been proven to make us healthier and reduce stress
2: Get a massage! Get rid of those aches and pains and get the blood flowing by getting a massage that is either Deep Swedish or Shallow Ukrainian, (this doesn’t exist but it should.)
3: Hug three people. Because heck, hugs feel great!
So, wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope you give yourself two shots of wellness today.
BTW, I am currently creating a wellness program for CMHA Waterloo Wellington Dufferin called…drum roll please…
The Wellness Solution: Help Yourself Help The World
This simple exercise is scientifically proven to make you happier but it’s scary.
In fact, it makes me so nervous, that I’m trying to get the courage to do it.
Here’s the deal. You think of someone in your life who has really helped you out. Someone who you are really grateful to for everything they have done. This could be a really good friend, teacher, parent or sibling. Once you have them in mind, you write a page or so thanking them for everything they have done for you.
So far so good right? Here’s the catch. Instead of sending it off by email or snail mail, you call them up and then read them the letter.
I’m not gonna lie, I’m nervous about this. The prospect of calling up my Mom and Dad and thanking them and then having a conversation with a good friend of mine and actually being honest instead of making dirty jokes is something I could easily put off until, well, forever (or at least until the next Game Of Thrones book comes out, whichever comes first.). However, I committed to doing this. I’ve written the letters and read them a couple of times out loud and its go time! Right after lunch.
Because who wants to do something like this on an empty stomach? Not me! And besides, I am prone to displays of emotion so the conversations are probably going to end with me blubbering like someone watching the end of “Love Actually”. Perfect! (He said, wishing there was a sarcasm font). BTW, this is all research for my upcoming book Doing Happiness: Uncovering the Hidden Benefits of Feeling Good.
Alright, so I’ve eaten left over chicken and prepared myself to not tear up by watching Youtube clips of Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, so I think I’m ready.
OK, So, I got through the first one! I called up my best friend and read him my note of thanks. It was very weird and remarkably honest. I thought it would be awkward but it was actually alright. He was quite taken aback it seems, cause really, a friend rarely calls you up, swears at you and then says you’re awesome.
Now, on to my parents… After finding every excuse in the book NOT to do this, I finally went for it.
Alright! That went pretty well! The world did not end and nobody cried. (This is actually a great way to measure if a day has been a success) I managed to read my note to Mom and Dad and everything was alright. I do feel really good right now. In fact, I feel downright happy. It also feels like I’ve given a gift to people who I really care about. That actually might be the most important part about this. I know it’s an exercise to increase your level of happiness, but it feels different than that. It feels like this altruistic gift of acknowledgement and appreciation.
If you want to use this technique to scientifically improve your level of happiness (and those you care about) here are the steps…
1: Decide who you want to thank.
2: Set a timer for about 20 mins and write them a letter about how thankful you are for everything they have done for you.
3: Promise yourself that you’ll get to it tomorrow.
4: When tomorrow arrives, decide it’s not the right time and then do your laundry or wash your dishes, or do your taxes from 3 years ago.
5: Finally get the courage to pick up the phone.
6: Say something like “Could you do me a favour? All you have to do is listen, I’ve written you a letter and I want to read it to you. Don’t worry, it’s all good stuff, is that ok?”
7: Read the letter.
8: Feel Awesome!
You’ll probably feel terrific afterwards, and as a bonus, the folks you care about will feel great as well. This is definitely a scary and generous gift to give and as a bonus, I bet you also get your laundry done.