Written by : Paula Felps 

Transcript – Celebrating 10 Years of #HappyActs With Deborah K. Heisz

Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Celebrating 10 Years of #HappyActs With Deborah K. Heisz




[00:00:02] PF: Thank you for joining us for episode 457 of Live Happy Now. We’re headed into March, and that gives us plenty of reasons to celebrate. I’m your host, Paula Felps. Today, I’m talking with Live Happy’s Co-Founder and CEO, Deborah Heisz, because, well, we love March. In addition to Daylight Savings Time and March Madness, it’s our Happiness Month. Deb is here to tell us what’s new as we celebrate our 10th year of #HappyActs. Let’s have a listen.




[00:00:32] PF: Deb, Happy Anniversary, 10 years of #HappyActs.


[00:00:37] DH: I know. It seems like just yesterday we were doing our first #HappyActs campaign. I really can’t believe it’s been 10 years but –


[00:00:43] PF: I know. Time flies.


[00:00:45] DH: Looking at my pictures of first #HappyActs walls, which I have some pictures of that on the wall, my kids are really tiny in those pictures. I guess it has been 10 years.


[00:00:54] PF: Now that like one’s driving, and they’re all doing stuff.


[00:00:56] DH: Yes. It happens. It happens.


[00:01:00] PF: For the uninitiated, before we get into what we’re doing this year, tell us what a happy act is.


[00:01:06] DH: Well, a happy act is a small thing that you intentionally do to make the world a happier place. They can be little things like paying someone a compliment, opening a door for someone, buying a cup of coffee for someone, planning a date with a friend that you haven’t seen for a while, going out to lunch, giving someone at the office a thank you note, any little thing that you do to make the world a happier place.


Here’s the catch. I think most people do those in their everyday course of life. I mean, I certainly am nice to people and polite. I know you are as well. I think most of our listeners certainly fall into that category, and we kind of do it out a habit. When you do a happy act, do it with intention because that way, you benefit from it, as well as the person you’re doing it for. All those studies show that when you do something nice for someone, when you say thank you or pay someone a compliment, yes, they feel good. But by doing those things, you actually feel even better than the person who you likely did something for.


[00:02:08] PF: Absolutely.


[00:02:09] DH: Do them with intention.


[00:02:11] PF: I love that, and it reminds me of the very first year that we were doing #HappyActs. We’re going to get into that in a little bit, but we had a wall in Chicago. The weather was horrible. It’s March and it’s Chicago. We moved inside a mall. We walk around. We’re getting people – for those who don’t know, we have people write down, “I will share happiness by,” and then they fill out the card and tell how they’re going to share it.


We saw this woman walking through the mall, and she was in her 80s. She had this bright yellow flower on and this bright red hat. I walked over to talk to her and said, “Did you know it’s the International Day of Happiness?” She didn’t know what that was or that it was. I thought maybe she had planned it since she was dressed so happy. She told me that every day when she left her home, no matter where she was going, even just to the grocery store, she would put on that flower, and she would put on that hat because it made people smile. She goes, “When I see people look at me and smile, it makes me feel good.” I thought this is a woman who’s doing a happy act intentionally every day of her life and didn’t even know #HappyActs were a thing.


[00:03:17] DH: No. I love that story because so many people do things every day to improve the world around them. What we want to do is encourage that. We ran into so many people that first year that were like, “What is this about? Are you selling something? We don’t really understand. You want me to make the world a happier place. Huh?”


One of my favorite stories is from one of our wall hosts that year who was talking about they were in a restaurant. Someone came in and basically said, “I don’t believe in all that garbage,” and blah, blah, blah. They talked to him for a while, and he hung out, and he saw everybody else kind of come in. By the end of the day, he was actually working at the wall with them.


Just seeing people take activity to make the world a happier place encourages those around us to do the same. That’s really what #HappyActs is about. We’re hoping that it’s a pass-it-on kind of moment that you do something for someone. They do something for somebody else. You brighten the mood, the atmosphere wearing colorful clothes, whatever it is to make somebody smile. That they take that positivity with them to their next interaction because we carry with us the interactions we have all day. If you can have positive interactions, which is what #HappyActs is about, then you can, hopefully, pass that along to the next person who will then have more positive interactions. You become the center of a ripple of positive activity not just for that day but hopefully stretching into weeks and months and genuinely making the world a happier place.


[00:04:45] PF: Yes. It can seem trite or even cheesy if you say just do this one act of happiness, and you’re helping change the world. When it ripples like that, it truly does.


[00:04:55] DH: It does seem cheesy, and we’ve been accused of toxic positivity before. That’s not really what we’re talking about. We aren’t talking about be happy in the face of all discomfort, in the face of everything that ever – no, we’re talking about just doing the things you can do to make the world happier, the world you live in happier. It’s not a cure-all for everything, but it certainly makes finding those solutions easier if you come at it from a point of positivity.


[00:05:21] PF: You brought up something fantastic on your Built to Win podcast, where you explain that this isn’t the kind of happiness where it’s, “Hey, we’re riding a roller coaster and getting ice cream afterwards.” People tend to think, when we talk about happiness, they tend to think that’s what we’re saying. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?


[00:05:40] DH: Yes. I do think that the definition of happiness is important. I think one of my favorite definitions which I’ve heard is that happiness is the joy you feel when you’re striving towards your full potential, which is great when you’re looking at it from a business perspective. That Built to Win podcast that we do is really for business and entrepreneurs, but it’s really for everybody because it is about personal development. That would really apply there.


Happiness is also the joy you feel when you find congruence in your life, when you are the place that you’re supposed to be. Realize that what you’re doing is meaningful to you and has purpose in your life. You feel engaged, and you find those moments where you’re doing it, and you’re feeling great. Whether it’s being the best parent you can be, whether it’s engaged in your social groups or your church or whatever it is, you’re living a life of congruence. You’re not finding that little thing where it’s like, “I’m doing this, and it’s not really me.”


That’s the happiness we’re looking for is the part where this is really me and I really fit and I have joy in my life, which doesn’t mean don’t learn new things, by the way. New things make us uncomfortable, but that discomfort is good. That leverages a lot of other things. It really is finding the joy in the life that you’re living and living in congruence with your values, who you are, what drives you. That’s what we mean by happiness.


[00:07:10] PF: Very well said. The whole #HappyActs movement and campaign grew out of the International Day of Happiness. This is a two-part question. First, I’m going to ask you to explain to everyone what the International Day of Happiness is. Then I want to know how that became 31 days because I don’t think I even know exactly how we went from having one day of happiness to Live Happy saying, “You know what? We’re going to have 31 days of happiness.”


[00:07:37] DH: Well, the International Day of Happiness, which is March 20th, is the day that the United Nations declared in 2012 to be the International Day of Happiness. The Kingdom of Bhutan actually petitioned for that, and the UN granted that day as the International Day of Happiness. It’s sitting out there on the calendar. Well, that happens to coincide about with the same time that we were launching Live Happy. There were other companies in the happiness space that were looking at it. But we really said, “Look, if this is the International Day of Happiness, we need to do something on that day to drive forward the idea that you can choose to be happier and make more people aware of it.”


We still talk about #HappyActs as a social intervention project, meaning we’re trying to educate people that they can do things to make the world a happier place and, hopefully, promote them to take action to do so. We felt like the International Day of Happiness, as declared by the United Nations, was the perfect way to do that. I and my co-founder, Jeff Olson, have both had the privilege of speaking at the United Nations on the International Day of Happiness and talking about how human well-being is just as important as economic development when you’re looking at countries, companies, communities. We can’t just talk about whether people are monetarily successful. We have to talk about their quality of life.


That was really why the UN was focused on it. We went out of that position into, “But people can choose to be happier. How do we get them to take action in that direction?” That’s where #HappyActs was born. Then, of course, one day is not a lot of time to do that, so we spread it out over a month. We ask everybody just to kind of spend their month focused on doing happy acts. Really, studies show us. You and I have talked about this before, and if you’ve listened to this podcast for the past six years, seven years, eight years. How long have we been doing this?


[00:09:27] PF: Nine years.


[00:09:28] DH: Nine years? You’ve heard us say this before. Take those 30 days and do the #HappyActs because studies show us that if you do something for 21 days, it can change the way you think. It can change the way you view the world. There’s that great study on gratitude which says if you practice gratitude by recognizing three things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days and then you stop, even six months later, that activity for 21 days means that you are happier or you have a better, greater perceived well-being six months later than you did before you started those 21 days.


Having our 30 Days of #HappyActs is a way for you to build in a habit of doing happy acts and the benefits that come from that habit. Remember, the benefits come with intention, not accidental. You don’t get to say, “Oh.” Think back and go, “Oh, you know what? I did open a door for somebody today. That counts.” That’s not the way this works. Do it with intention for you to receive the benefit. Then, of course, we hope that we do it for the 31 days, and you continue to do it throughout your lifetime because that is the goal. To make the world a happier place, it’s going to take all of us doing little things every day.


[00:10:40] PF: Yes. We really can’t underestimate the power of one small act of happiness. We hear stories over and over about how that act came just at the perfect time when someone was going through something. Someone was having a horrible day, and we don’t know that. Just one act changed their day, which think about how that changed the next day for them. It’s really an incredible cascading effect.


[00:11:05] DH: It is and you don’t know. Making that phone call to someone you haven’t heard from for a long time or you haven’t spoken to her for a long time. Or calling your grandmother or reaching out to your neighbor and just saying hi and having a chat. That could be a life-changing moment for them or for you that you don’t even recognize until later.


There are so many people in this world that are lonely that need to be reached out to. There are so many people that feel like they’re on their own or that they’re not visible. They aren’t seen. See people. Share with them how they feel. I mean, share with them how you feel. Share with them something meaningful, even if it’s a cup of coffee. A cup of coffee can be meaningful. A side chat in the hallway at the office saying, “Hey, I heard what you said in that meeting, and I thought that was really insightful.” That can make somebody’s day. Those are the little things to do. They don’t take anything away from you.


It’s the great thing about happiness. It’s abundant. Giving thanks, giving gratitude, expressing appreciation, taking the time to talk to someone and really listen to them, we do all of those out of a place of abundance. You don’t run out of that. It’s not like if I talk to you, I can’t talk to somebody else.


[00:12:15] PF: Right. It’s like oxygen. We’re not going to just run out if we keep taking it in.


[00:12:19] DH: Exactly.


[00:12:20] PF: You have created the happiness walls that we’ve been doing for all these years, and they were physical walls. This year, 10-year anniversary, we’re doing things a little bit different. We’re getting digital. I want to hear all about the brand-new and improved digital walls.


[00:12:38] DH: I want to talk about those, but I also want to let our wall hosts, many of who I know listen to this podcast regularly, know that we are not discouraging physical walls. So many put up in schools, put up in offices. We want to continue to do that, but we also want to reach more people, and we want to reach more people around the world. This year, we are launching a digital #HappyActs wall. You can go and post stuff directly there. If you are hosting a physical wall, please go and post directly on our digital wall what you’re doing at your physical wall.


[00:13:14] PF: Or they can take a picture of the physical wall and post it on our digital wall.


[00:13:19] DH: Exactly. Or you can say, “Hey, we’re going to be hosting a wall at X and X school or at X and X business.” We don’t want to discourage physical walls, but we want to grow. In fact, we want to encourage that. Please, if you’ve been a wall host for several years, you know what kind of an experience it is. It’s a lot of work, but you get so much joy and so much emotional uplift and positive feedback, simply from being the wall host. You can interact with everybody all day and talk about happiness. What could be worse? It’s a great thing to do.


If you want to host a physical wall, you can go to livehappy.com, and there’s a menu called Happy Acts. Drop down. It’ll share with you how to host a physical wall. Please, we’re still doing those. But digital wall, we want to post and share our digital wall. Host to and share our digital wall as widely as possible. You’ll be able to see our digital wall at livehappy.com/wall. Add your contributions. Point out happy acts you’re seeing. Post a happy message. Take pictures of a physical wall and put it there. Announce that you’re hosting a physical wall. Create a happy message, a happy video, whatever it is you want to do. Post it on Facebook. Post it on Insta. Create a TikTok.


Whatever it is you do to celebrate the International Day of Happiness and celebrate happiness, we want to see it on the livehappy.com/wall. I think that it’s going to be an easy way for you to tag that wall and share it with people and say, “Check this out.” We want to build that wall globally. We want it to be as large as it can be. We’re going to launch that, or we launch that on March 1st, and we’re going to keep it up for a while. Really, take the time to go check out what other people are doing. Add your contribution. Be as creative as possible. Keep in mind we’re trying to spread joy. We’re trying to create happiness. We’re trying to share #HappyActs. It’s a new way to do a wall.


Also, make your commitment. Tell us how you are going to share happiness. Create your post on our virtual wall that says, “I will share happiness by.” It’s the same thing we do with the physical walls. Do it on our virtual wall. We don’t care if you’re doing it in video. We don’t care if you’re just typing it out. We don’t care if there’s a picture associated with it. Whatever we can do to share #HappyActs in the month of March and commit to sharing #HappyActs in the month of March, we want to see it.


[00:15:44] PF: I’m really excited to see what people come up with because I know we have some very creative listeners. I’m really eager to see what happens when they’re not confined to the space of a five-by-eight to tell us how they’re going to celebrate happiness. I’m really excited to see what this is going to do.


[00:16:01] DH: Me, too. I think that we have a very creative group of listeners and followers. I think we all know that because we see it all the time. I’m excited to see some of that creativity show through. Let’s just share happiness. By the way, if you’re looking for happy acts ideas, we have our 31 Ideas for #HappyActs calendar up already on our website. You can already download your 31 Ideas for #HappyActs. You don’t have to do them all, but download it. Print it. Put it on your refrigerator. Remind yourself to do something.


Then, of course, just share what you’re doing to make the world a happier place as widely as possible. Invite other people to join us. This is a social awareness campaign. People can choose to be happier. Most people don’t know that. There are things you can do to be happier. There are things you can do to improve the lives of your family and those around you. We just want as many people as possible to learn that they can make a difference in their own lives.


[00:16:58] PF: We have to admit that we might steal some of their ideas and use them for future #HappyAct suggestions.


[00:17:04] DH: We absolutely will. Absolutely will. A lot of the happy acts in our calendar are easy to do. Some of them are big. We have foster an animal on there. Please don’t if you’re not equipped to do that. If you are, it’s a good idea. Make sure that you’re sharing with us what you are doing, though, as we go through this.


[00:17:22] PF: Yes. This is going to be a lot of fun. I know we’ve got some new shirts coming into the store in time for International Day of Happiness. That’s a great thing. We’ll be posting on social media about those as we get them in. Is there anything else you want us to know as we head into March and we head into this, what we consider at Live Happy the season of happiness? Really, it’s our Christmas. Honestly, it’s like our big day, and we celebrate it. What do you want people to know as we enter this month?


[00:17:53] DH: I really just want them to know that this is a practice. We celebrate it every March, but it’s something that we want to promote every day. I want people to know that even though we’re not running in an International Day of Happiness campaign, we’re not doing #HappyActs campaign, what we’re about here at Live Happy is giving you the tools and the information that you need to build the life you want and to live a happier life. It doesn’t matter where you’re starting from in your own life. Wherever you are, you can do things to improve the community. You can do things to improve your own life. You can do things to live a happier life.


We’ve got resources here for you, but what we really want to see is you taking action. You can read about it all day long. You can listen to this podcast. I hope you go to livehappy.com and read. I hope you listen to this podcast every week. In reality, you have to take action. This is an opportunity to take action.


[00:18:50] PF: I love it. I can’t add anything else to that because you just nailed it. Deb, thank you so much for sitting down with me. I know how busy you are, and I appreciate you taking the time to sit down. I also know you love this topic, so I’m glad we were able to have this conversation again.


[00:19:07] DH: Me, too. I wish I could be on the podcast every week. Paula, you do such an amazing job. You don’t need me every week. It’s always a joy to be able to chat with you, and I hope to see everybody out there doing their happy acts. I want to see them on the wall.




[00:19:24] PF: That was Deborah Heisz, talking about Happiness Month, the International Day of Happiness, and #HappyActs. If you’d like to learn more about us, download your 31 Days of #HappyActs poster, learn about our happiness wall or literally anything else related to Happiness Month, visit us at livehappy.com and click on the podcast tab.


We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of Live Happy Now. If you don’t receive us every week, we invite you to subscribe wherever you get your podcast. While you’re there, feel free to drop us a review and let us know what you think.


That is all we have time for today. We’ll meet you back here again next week for an all-new episode. Until then, this is Paula Felps, reminding you to make every day a happy one.



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