It has been a year now since my beloved Aunt Hazel passed away. We are three weeks away from what would have been her 100th birthday. Motivated by her life and her intuitive understanding of what makes a happy life, I developed 10 Principles for Living a Happy Life inspired by her. I first shared them as a tribute at her celebration of life and I would like to share them with you. She seemed to intuitively know what lead to a happy life. In retrospect, I could have studied her life instead of taking a course in applied Positive Psychology (the science behind how people or teams thrive and flourish)! I hope that these principles pay a fitting tribute to her and that they also inspire you to take this opportunity to reflect on how you are living your live, being more intentional in what you are creating. Let me know how you are inspired to action.
10 Principles for Living – Inspired by Hazel Hladki
Number 10 – When you have had enough, take a nap. Hazel didn’t have the energy she used to so would sometimes go for a nap and take a break- even when others were around. The research confirms that just a 20 minute nap has substantial benefits so maybe we should all institute afternoon naps again? Imagine, if we truly listened to our body and took a nap when we needed one. Perhaps, we would all be just a little less impatient in the check out line or when we are stuck in traffic.
Number 9 – Balance is key – eat all the food groups, be mindful of what your put in your body, and don’t be afraid to have a bit of dessert. Hazel was a very conscious eater – she was mindful to get all her food groups. She recognized how important feeding her body was and avoided anything that was bad for her. She hated taking drugs of any kind and was keen to fully question each one and reluctantly agreed only once she was assured that the benefits outweighed the side effects. She also knew it was important to enjoy life, so a little dessert wasn’t out of the question, despite her high blood sugar.
Number 8 – Waste not want not. Long before it was fashionable, the Hladki’s lived and breathed the 3R’s. Their cottage was really a repurposed barn and I don’t think that there was anything in it that came direct from a store without at least two previous owners. The lamps were hand me downs, the linen cupboard was found discarded at the dump, stripped, refinished and repurposed and the blue and silver fuzzy wallpaper was stripped off one of the kids old rental apartments. The light fixture hanging over the table, came from my first home and the sunroom was built around the old windows my parents had replaced in their house. The drawers in the kitchen were stuffed with used pieces of tin foil and the cabinets had the original knobs on them circa 1960? Hazel knew that the latest granite counter top or a new sofa— wouldn’t make her happy.
Number 7 – Get outside – one her greatest pleasures was enjoying nature though not just anywhere – the cottage was a favourite place.
Number 6 – Be grateful – say grace before meals, and always write thank you cards. Give visitors a huge, warm hug and looking into the eyes, speaking from the heart, a genuine “thank you for coming”.
Number 5 – Follow your instincts –Hazel was fiercely independent and insisted on living in her own home and doing what she could do for herself. She really resisted using that walker. While some might think of it as stubbornness, perhaps it was her way of continuing to keep some sense of control or agency in her life thereby contributing to her sense of wellbeing. There is no question there is risk with this approach – perhaps a fall, the disapproval of others, but I am certain this sense of control and agency contributed to her health and well-being and I imagine she thought the trade offs were worth it.
Number 4 – Never stop learning –Whether it was discussing the book she recently read – an Inconvenient Indian about Canada’s history with our first nations, or researching and designing a competitive quiz for family to take on Christmas day, or surprizing Christopher with his first text message from Grandma, Hazel’s curiosity continued to motivate her to engage with the world. Never having done public speaking, she had her debut at the age of 93 when she was asked to share her memories as a founding member of the curling club at the 65th anniversary. It truly is never to late to learn and try something new.
Number 3 – Create places of effortless belonging –She and Roger played bridge weekly for many years with a close group of friends and she has been an active member at church for many years – all these activities allowed her to create meaningful social connections so important for well being, happiness and meaning and longevity. Find a tribe of like-minded people – Religion may bring a number of benefits – a community of support, a sense of comfort and hope. And, if you are living in a small town, you might be lucky enough to access a wide range of strawberry socials and affordable home cooked meals. The science tells us that the sense of community, and even the singing and prayer and the beautiful spaces has benefits they all help to release oxycotin and which impacts our parasympthatic nervous system, allowing us to relax. (check this).
She and her friend Leona, often attended church dinners all over town, undoubted as a way to avoid having to make a meal, but it had other social benefits too. It was at one of those strawberry socials where she befriended Denise, who was a great comfort in her last days.
Number 2 – Strive to find work you love; as when you love what you do, it isn’t work. Hazel loved working as a nurse, seeing the kids come in for their allergy shots and running into them on the street many years later. I can’t count the number of times that she told me “You should never do I job you don’t love”. In this day and age, that ideal can be difficult to live up to. At the same time, a sense of meaning and purpose, whether it be through work or volunteer activities is so important.
Number 1 – Relationships are all that matter
Hazel organized her days and life around time with the people she loved. And there were lots of them! She loved her family dearly – her kids, and her grandkids especially. She could never get enough of them. In addition, there were also those that she might have called her adopted family, her kids friends, a family at church, several other young people kept her connected. Karen described to me how even in the hospital, she had a steady stream of people visiting, perhaps more than anyone else on the unit. These connections with friends and family gave her support, and incredible joy. The visits connected her to the outside world, giving her something to look forward to and keeping her young and engaged with the world.
Hazel had a truly inspirational life. Although you won’t find her name in any of the typical places we look for inspiration. She isn’t on the latest who’s who or on the Forbes 100 wealthiest people. Hazel spent her time investing and cultivating a different kind of success. She knew better than most of us, that a big pay cheque or that next promotion or a new car, would not fill us up. She knew, that our one precious life was to be spent in the service of others and that, it is through those relationships and connections that we create a life of meaning, happiness, health and abundance.
Hazel spent almost 99 years practicing this approach to inspired living. Have you been listening? What lessons can you find in her life? How can you use those lessons to, bring more joy, connection and wellbeing into your own life and the lives of those around you?
Hazel has inspired me to be more intentional about how I spend my time, and how I can better cultivate my relationships with my friends and family. They are pretty big shoes to fill as I am sure I don’t I have nearly as many friends as she did!
In addition, and she has inspired me to make my first raspberry pie. I am sorry that I never thought to ask for her recipe as I missed the opportunity to learn from a master. And so it is with life. While she didn’t leave a written recipe card on how to live a happy and inspired life either, she left some pretty big clues to follow. In fact, maybe the recipe is right before our eyes, the ingredients filling this room.
In loving memory of Hazel Hladki
September 8, 1918 – July 14, 2017