Happiness Basics is a workshop offered by Primary Care Networks in the Calgary area to help people learn skills that make them happier

Take a deep breath. Reflect on it. Do you feel happy? It’s easy to think happiness—and the swirl of emotions that help it grow—are beyond your personal control.

Research, however, shows the way happy people behave links directly to the positive way they feel. Those behaviours are skills each of us can learn and use to feel happier and improve our health and well-being.

Finding happiness

Cochrane retiree Elaine Lewis, 65, recently travelled a path to greater happiness. Separated from her husband in 2014, she was feeling low when a counsellor suggested she attend Happiness Basics, a free four-week workshop run by the Calgary Foothills Primary Care Network. Based on positive psychology, the workshop has been shown to improve vitality and energy and reduce pain. “I was in a slump, going around and around in my head and needed something to lift my mood,” Lewis says. As it turns out, the workshop gave her the keys to unlock her own happiness.

Learning happiness

“I learned so much, partly because this opportunity came at the best possible time: when I was feeling so sad,” Lewis says. “I learned it’s all up to me, this happiness thing. I can choose to feel how I want to feel.” Working with about 15 others, she learned 13 skills that can be used daily to increase positive experiences in life. These include simple activities such as making dates with friends, writing in a journal to reflect on good times, sending thank-you letters and setting goals. All increase opportunities for being with others, finding meaning and recognizing achievements in life.

One skill—visualizing your best possible self—has raised the bar for Lewis. “It helps me feel more confident, open and good about myself,” she says, with a warm, engaging smile. She is also developing her curiosity, a known happiness booster, getting more involved in the community and volunteering. “I’m putting myself out there and I truly feel I can move on with my life and do so successfully.”

Shifting health care

Brice Willis, a Happiness Basics leader and a Foothills PCN behavioural health consultant, believes the workshop is “a paradigm shift in health care.” It takes deliberate effort to develop new habits and overcome natural biases, but this course gives participants the tools to be more proactive. “The thing that has struck me the most about the workshop is how big a difference investing time in applying the course concepts can have on people’s lives,” he says.

A number of PCNs in the Calgary area offer Happiness Basics workshops. Participation is free and open to anyone 18 or older.

Learn more about Happiness Basics.

You can register online for a Happiness Basics workshop. Important: Please read through all of the information on this page before registering.