Hollywood Scribe Turns Children's Author

Heather Hartt-Sussman on her happy bubble and living in the moment

Hollywood Scribe Turns Children's Author

YOUR HAPPY PLACE is a regular column in which celebrated and celebrity mummies share their vision of happiness, plus tactics for cheering themselves up when the going gets tough.

Name: Heather Hartt-Sussman

Occupation: Children's author. Heather has published  three books (one which was just released this month): Nana’s Getting Married (Tundra Books, February 2010), Noni Says No (Tundra Books, February 2011), and Here Comes Hortense (Tundra Books, April 2012).

At Home: Heather lives in Toronto with her husband and two sons.

Claim to Fame: Former entertainment journalist, Heather spent many years in LA where she was host of The Gossip Show on E! Entertainment Television, a reporter and assistant international editor for the Hollywood Reporter, and editor-in-chief of international news for TV Guide in French Canada, where she also wrote the popular column Heather Hartt in Hollywood.

Why we love her: Nana’s Getting Married is about a grandmother who falls in love later in life and the jealousy this brings up in her grandson. Said Heather in an interview with Open Book Toronto in 2010: "I wrote this for the child whose parent remarries. However, having it be the boy’s mother hit too close to home and would have sounded preachy...The NANA character allowed me to inject some humor into the situation because it’s even more wonky when your granny starts dating! So having Nana being the one dating allowed the sense of loss to be one step removed and made room for some funny moments as well."

Q: How would you describe your Happy Place?

These days I live in a Happy Place. It’s like a bubble that surrounds me. It protects me from negativity, as I am a sponge for other people’s emotions, needs and moods. However, it isn’t so dense that it can’t allow me to send happiness and love outward. I think a Happy Place has to be within you. As the old saying goes, “wherever you go, there you are.” Meditation is like my housekeeping of this Happy Place – it gets rid of any cobwebs of doubt, anger, fear, resentment, and keeps the space clean. Happiness is not static. In my opinion, it needs care and effort.

Q: What do you do to make yourself happy when life gets overwhelming?

Things that make me happy when life gets overwhelming:

Coffee with a friend
A bath
A nap
A workout
A short trip if possible (a change of scene can do wonders)
A walk in nature (it reminds you that the panic is manufactured. Nature doesn’t panic. There are busy cycles when things bud and bloom, and latent times when ideas, plans and desires must gestate! Nature puts everything into perspective for me.)
A conversation with a child. (they know much more than we do about so many things.)
I, for one, need something to look forward to. So, finally, when I am inundated with daily tasks, I set up one thing that I know will make it all worthwhile after I get my “stuff” done.

Q: Is there a Happy person you aspire to be more like?  What is it about him/her you'd like to emulate? 

I glean from all over the place. No one has everything, so there is no one who is necessarily happier than me. Sometimes the saddest people: poets, comedians and artists, make us happy when they, themselves, are not (necessarily). I tend to overcomplicate, over-think, overwork, so if I turn to anyone or anything it would be my kids and my dog. Kids (and dogs) live in the moment. They are fully present. We can learn a lot about happiness by clueing in to the secret of presence. I’ll repeat. In my humble estimation, it is not out there. It is in here. And what I do is turn to the most “present” beings I know as a reminder of how to be awake and alive, and therefore, more content. It’s not the celebrity haircut, the friend’s new handbag, the relative's recent lottery win that I want to emulate. It’s noticing an old couple holding hands. It’s watching my sons eat their food and fully enjoy it. It’s watching my dog look out the window, fully content, watching the world go by. It’s the lyrics to a song, a line in a book, a break in the clouds. All this reminds me that I am innately a happy person. It is my birthright (it is all of our birthrights), and I don’t need to aspire. I already am happy. I just have to remember that. The universe provides subtle, quirky and often funny reminders. I just have to open my eyes to notice them.



How To Get Happy Now!

Three Steps To Transform Your Mood

How To Get Happy Now!

If you’re like me, then it’s not unusual to wake up in a bad mood or to suddenly feel sad, angry, or frustrated for seemingly no reason. While I try to stay upbeat and positive, especially when my daughter is around, I’m hormonal and moody and totally unpredictable...most of the time. But, I’m lucky enough to have a dad who is a life coach. (While I was growing up, he was a Type A workaholic who ran a family business, but for the past ten years, I’ve been able to access free coaching whenever I need it!) Typically, when I’m faced with the stress and aggravation that comes from running my own business, my first response is to pick up the phone and seek out my dad’s advice.

So, after losing it on my daughter this morning (because she’s two and prefers to not listen to me!), I called my dad in hopes of turning today’s bad mood into a blog post. I figure we can all benefit from a simple recipe that could help transform a bad mood into a HAPPY one.

Step 1: Feel the emotion you’re feeling.

No matter if you’re sad, mad, grumpy, or stressed, there’s a reason you’re feeling the way that you are, and it’s important to express that emotion rather than suppress it. You see, according to my dad, emotions are energy in motion, and if you want to feel better, you have to let the lower and slower emotions (sadness, fear, anger, etc.) run their course. There's nothing wrong with sadness or anger—they may not feel as good as happiness or excitement, but they're valid just the same and deserve to be expressed. If you don't express them, what usually happens is that they get stuck somewhere inside of your body and turn into pent-up aggression and rage, which typically results in a blow up of some sort (i.e. me screaming at my two-year-old this morning, because she was drawing on her stomach with marker!) or, if left long enough, they can turn into an illnes or disease.

So, the first step in getting happy is actually expressing the emotion that’s preventing happiness. “Don’t judge yourself or beat yourself up for feeling down or afraid or stressed out,” my dad reminds me. “Instead, have a good cry, hit a pillow, yell and scream, write down all your fears, have a conversation about what you're feeling—anything to allow yourself to process the emotions.” Another technique that works well is breathing or meditation. Plant your feet on the ground, take a huge cleansing breath — in and out — and if you can, quiet your mind for a few minutes and just sit with the mood you’re in.

“There is nothing wrong with being angry, but holding on to that anger can have detrimental effects,” my dad tells me.

Step 2: Allow the shift to happen.

Now that you’ve expressed your feelings, it’s time to move toward a place of happiness. There are a lot of techniques that can help you do this. Here are just a few that work for us:

  • Find a way to laugh at whatever you’re going through. To get you laughing, watch this hilarious video by acclaimed speaker, author, and international stress management and humour consultant, Loretta LaRoche.
  • Be grateful for all the things that are going well in your life. The best way to do this is to make a list of everything you have to be thankful for. Writing it down really helps to solidify it in your consciousness.
  • Take time to have a coffee with someone who makes you happy.
  • Go for a walk outside — in nature, if possible.
  • Dig up some good news! Ditch CNN and check out my dad’s BE INSPIRED blog instead. He spends a lot of time scouring the web for good news stories that are inspiring and uplifting.
  • Say some positive affirmations. If you’ve never tried affirmations before, the best place to start is Louise Hay’s website. An affirmation is a simple saying, like: “I make today great!” but said with enough conviction, and repeated often enough, that its power can be incredible.
  • Plant a garden.
  • Go for a run.
  • Do a yoga class.
  • Eat a really delicious, healthy meal.
  • Take a hot bath.
  • Visualize yourself in your Happy Place.

Step 3: Be in the moment. 

Once you’re feeling happy, don’t immediately rush back into whatever task awaits you—be it a work deadline or a mountain of laundry. Instead, enjoy the feeling of being happy for a while—whether that means going to the park and playing with your kids, or letting a creative project (like a painting, song, poem, or craft) flow through you, or expressing your happiness by sharing it with someone else in your life, or doing something totally spontaneous and out of character, or doing something just for you, or checking off an item on your to-do list that you’ve been putting off for a while. Whatever action you take while coming from the energy of happiness, it will be that much more enjoyable and productive. Be in the moment.

Be Happy!

* If you want to learn more about my dad, Jefferey Eisen, and the work he does, you can find him online at www.awakeningtheself.com or on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AwakeningtheSelf.



The Cookbook Queen: Rose Reisman

On Food, Family, and what makes her happy

The Cookbook Queen: Rose Reisman

YOUR HAPPY PLACE is a regular column in which celebrated and celebrity mummies share their vision of happiness, plus tactics for cheering themselves up when the going gets tough.

Name: Rose Reisman

Occupation: Canada's go-to nutrition and wellness expert and executive director of Glow Fresh Grill in Toronto and owner of Rose Reisman Catering and Personal Gourmet.

Claim to Fame: Rose is the author of 17 best-selling books on nutrition and healthy cooking. She's a regular guest expert on Breakfast Television, Cityline, Canada AM, 680 News and the National Post.

At Home: Rose lives in Toronto with her husband and is a mummy of four children.

Why we love her: Rose's Personal Gourmet service delivers healthy, great tasting meals directly to your door. Just pop them in the oven and serve. If that's not happiness to a busy mummy's ears, I don't know what is. Plus, her new cookbook Rose Reisman's Family Favourites is filled with simple recipes and tips for juggling a hectic schedule and still making great family meals that can be enjoyed together.

Q: How would you describe your Happy Place?

A: My Happy Place is when all my four children are at my home for dinner. We actually practice this routine weekly. (I’ve made them sign a contract!). I will ask each for their favorite meals and make them all.  But as you know, a mother’s generosity can often be taken advantage of.  One hates red peppers, another doesn’t eat anything with a head on it, and one asks why I make the others' favorite dessert all the time!  I can never win. But despite these “hissy fits,” being together, discussing their personal issues, politics, and their school or work brings me to a Happy Place.

Q: What do you do to make yourself happy when life gets overwhelming?

A: When life gets overwhelming I try to be as super scheduled as humanly possible. This type of self-organization actually calms me down. Otherwise I will get stressed thinking about what I have to do. I also make sure to have two workouts a day when stressed out and spend lots of time with my two German Shepherds, otherwise known as my “hairy kids”! I have one “crazy” Shepherd who I’m in the process of training so he’ll be more dog-friendly. I’ve actually realized having this hobby gives me something other than work to focus on. One day I’m successful, the next day he wants to take the head off anything that moves in the park. But believe it or not, I’m making real headway with my dog.  Just think, if your dog looks like he's about to attack another dog, other thoughts quickly leave your mind!

Q: Is there a Happy person you aspire to be more like?  What is it about him/her you'd like to emulate? 

A: There is no one out there I’d like to be specifically. But I would love to have a more calm and confident state about myself. I’m always thinking about what tomorrow, next week, and next year will bring.  Maybe Buddhism is the answer! I’ve heard that Buddhists have a quiet aura about them all the time and live in the moment. They enjoy life in a different way than the rest of us. I would love to enjoy my days fully and travel more and enjoy time away more than I do now. In Buddhism, nothing is fixed or permanent and change in one’s self is possible....I can’t think of a more ideal way to live life!