NAPERVILLE – Dianne Morr of Naperville clearly recalled the day she spent at the Timbers of Shorewood retirement home.
She was discussing ways for people to increase happiness in their lives when a 90-year-old man spoke up.
Morr said the man, who looked about 70, shared his experiences with physical therapy for a knee and his daily exercise class, as well as his deceased wife’s artwork he had uploaded onto his iPad. His enthusiasm for life impressed Morr.
“He was so vital,” Morr said.
In a world where people promote new ideas, businesses and hobbies, Morr, a toastmaster and former speech competitor, promotes happiness, that elusive trait most people claim to want and doggedly pursue, but often don’t keep for very long.
There was a time when even Morr didn’t quite understand how to attain it, much less show the way to others.
“I had struggled a bit with depression and anxiety,” Morr said. “I felt a calling to speak to people that were also struggling with depression and anxiety and let them know help was available.”
Although Morr did some presentations, her schedule was not as booked as she desired – that is, until another speaker said to her, “You’ve got to get ‘depression’ out of the title. No one wants to hear that.” Then the proverbial light bulb click on inside her head.
Morr had focused her reading, research and presenting on coping with depression and anxiety, which only seemed to increase her depression and anxiety, she said. Maybe, Morr decided, people would rather hear how to bring more happiness into their lives.
She began to research and read about happiness and collected scientifically proven tips that fostered happiness. To Morr’s delight, she began to feel happier and learned others wanted to feel the same way.
“It not only improved my speeches, it improved my life,” Morr said. “Even people who feel okay would love to be happier. There’s always room to grow in happiness.”
Much of what Morr gathered wasn’t groundbreaking information, but simple wisdom people generally acquire through the years and often forget, she said. It’s true, Morr said, that exercise – the act of getting up, getting out and getting moving – really does increase happiness. So does smiling.
“There have been lots of studies that prove that putting a physical smile on your face, even if it’s not connected to any emotion makes people feel less stressed and happier,” Morr said. “And when you smile, someone gets to see it. Often that person smiles back and that makes a connection.”
Happy people, Morr said, are more successful at work; she even gives talks on ways to bring more happiness into one’s company. She talks to volunteers, hospital auxiliary groups and lunch and learn presentations, Morr said.
But Morr’s presentations also specifically speak to mothers of young children – kids are especially savvy at picking up on their mothers’ happiness cues, Morr said – as well as retired people, caregivers, people who have recently moved and grieving individuals.
As these are all potentially isolating situations, often without the benefit of brainstorming with co-workers, Morr said it’s important for these people to especially seek out new experiences, practice gratitude, enjoy a hot cup of tea, adopt a new hobby, work a crossword puzzle, bask in sunshine, and call or email a friend.
“I had a friend who had never done artwork at all and she started taking oil painting lessons at 65,” Morr said. “It turns out she’s darn good at it.”
These strategies do not replace professional help if one has clinical depression, crippling anxiety or is mourning the loss of a loved one, Morr said, but they are helpful additions to building a happier life. That’s why she wrote her book, “Choose Happy: 25 Happiness Habits to Transform Your Life.”
Morr offered one surefire happiness tip that simultaneously brings multiple benefits: volunteer.
“You make new friends and you have someone to talk to. You feel good about yourself when you help someone,” Morr said. “It reminds us that we have a lot to offer.”
To learn more about Dianne Morr and her book, “Choose Happy: 25 Happiness Habits to Transform Your Life,” visit diannespeaking.com