About Kay Cook

Hello, I'm Kay. Welcome to the Happiness Kitbag . . . Reach inside to find practical tools and techniques to encourage happiness and help you tap into your inner joy. Find a forum to share your top tips for increasing wellbeing and resilience so that you can experience more success and meaning in your life .

An Attitude of Gratitude

Holiday travels have meant it’s been a long time since I posted, but here I sit on a dismal Bank Holiday Monday, gazing out at the torrential rain and feeling bereft of ideas.  My son’s left home and I miss him, it looks like autumn’s here before we’ve had a proper summer, and I’ve got a blog to write but no inspiration . . .

Distracting myself with Facebook, I notice a friend has posted this picture. I can’t help but smile – now there’s a challenge!

I check my e-mails and read my Daily Inspiration from Robert Holden: ‘Today is just another normal day full of miracles, gifts, and opportunities.’

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The Unsung Olympians

Our Olympic stars are getting a lot of well-deserved coverage at the moment and their efforts are truly inspiring.  Whether winning medals or not, the amount of time, effort and dedication put into training for their chosen sports and competing on the world stage seems far beyond the experience of us ordinary mortals.

So now’s a good time to spare a thought for the unsung heroes of physical endeavour – the ones who put their energies into mind-blowing feats in order to raise funds for charity.

A couple of nights ago I went to a camping barn on the wilds of Shap Fell for a fantastic night of live music organised by a local enthusiast.  (I’ve written here before about my love of live music and how it brings people together – the government may think it came up with the Big Society idea but we’ve already got it, alive and well in the pubs, folk clubs and music venues of the Lakes).   Continue reading

Experiencing happiness – past, present and future!

Do you enjoy planning and looking forward to a special event with a warm tingle of anticipation, setting an intention for future happiness?  Do you look back over favourite photo albums, listen to music you loved in the past, or reminisce about joyful memories, and re-experience the positive emotions they evoked at the time?  Or do you live in the moment and focus on simply being happy in the here and now?  Perhaps it’s a mixture of all three!

I’ve been musing on these questions while thumbing through a copy of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe brochure – as usual, satisfyingly thick and crammed with temptations – while planning my annual visit.  I first went in 2005 and loved the bustling city so much that I vowed I’d return every August to make up for all the years I hadn’t.  Pondering which of my unmissable favourites I need tickets for, and which undiscovered delights I might be swayed by – hmm, man in koala suit playing the ukulele? – started me wondering what it would be like if we weren’t able to visualise the future or remember the past.    Continue reading

In Praise of Imperfection


Allow me to introduce you to the Happy Wolf!  There, you’re smiling already, aren’t you?

I met the Happy Wolf quite recently, on a visit to Leeds City Museum.  As soon as I saw this wonderful creation I burst out laughing, which was no doubt very disrespectful of me when confronted by a work of art dating from the 3rd century. It’s a large floor mosaic discovered in the Yorkshire village of Aldborough, depicting the legend of twin brothers Romulus and Remus. They were the founders of Rome, who were abandoned as babies but found by a kindly she-wolf, who fed them and saved them from death.

If you get the chance, do go see the Happy Wolf.  You’ll be charmed, like me, by her round button eyes and broad friendly grin (despite the rows of pointy teeth).  I love the coquettish way she crosses her front legs.  I love the fact that her hind-quarters quite obviously belong to another animal altogether.  I love that the artists didn’t even attempt to depict any fussy wolf-teat / suckling business in tiny pieces of coloured stone – and who can blame them? – but instead opted to show the twins joyously jamming together on air-guitars.  In fact, I love everything about the Happy Wolf.

I wonder how the mosaic-makers felt on the completion of this masterpiece.  Did they step back to view their hybrid wolf-cat-pony with a puzzled frown, a little crestfallen that something wasn’t quite right? Oh for a Tardis to whizz back a few centuries and reassure them!  I’d love to say, ‘Please don’t change a thing – you have no idea how much someone a couple of thousand years into the future is going to love her exactly the way she is.  I’ve even got her picture set as a screensaver on my computer . . .’  No wait, think that last bit’s tricky even with a Latin dictionary.   Continue reading

The Happy Manifesto comes to Cumbria!

I’m delighted to be involved in organising an exciting and high-profile event taking place later this year, aimed at putting Cumbria at the forefront of raising happiness in the workplace.

Cumbria Coaching Network is pleased to welcome Henry Stewart, author of The Happy Manifestoas keynote speaker to their Coaching for Happiness Conference on Friday 21st September 2012 at Carus Green Golf Club, Kendal.  Henry Stewart is the founder and Chief Executive of Happy Ltd., the computer training company which has been rated as the best company in the UK for customer service (Management Today) and for five years running is one of the top 20 workplaces in the UK (Financial Times).  Henry was selected for the Guru Radar Thinkers 50 List, the definitive listing of the world’s most influential business thinkers.  He is leading the way on workforce happiness and productivity, and is also well known for his lively and engaging style of delivery as a trainer and public speaker.   Continue reading

Two inspiring blogsites

As a relative newcomer to the world of blogging and Twitter, I’d like to use this week’s post to propose a toast to social media – cheers!  We hear a lot of bad publicity about internet trolls, Facebook bullying and other drawbacks, but maybe not enough about the amazing power of the web to connect people across the world, highlight important issues, and raise money for charities.

One of the blogs I’ve enjoyed recently is NeverSeconds.  If you’re one of the few people who haven’t come across this yet, let me fill you in.  It was set up a couple of months ago by nine-year-old Scottish schoolgirl Martha Payne, who commented on and photographed the school lunches she received each day.  Now, they say a picture tells a thousand words and pretty soon a heck of a lot of people, including TV chef and school dinner champion Jamie Oliver, were visiting Martha’s site and expressing concern about the often inadequate quality and quantity of food in the photos.  Children from all over the world joined the discussion and sent Martha snapshots of their own lunches, and it was fantastic to see youngsters taking such a lively interest in food and nutrition.   Continue reading

The Pleasures of Outdoor Swimming

Yes, I know it’s the fashion to call it wild swimming these days, but it’s pretty tame the way I do it . . .

Struggling into a clammy wetsuit to brave the breakers on a chilly day is not for me.  I usually swim outdoors when the sun is shining and the water, though refreshing, has warmed up a few degrees.  It still takes a bit of courage to wade out into the cool green depths and overcome the initial goose-pimples, but it’s so worth it to experience the real freedom of immersing yourself in the environment.  Imagine breathing in the fresh scents of waterside plants; the sounds of birdsong and the wind rustling in the branches; the sight of surrounding crags and valleys; a plunging waterfall creating a natural jacuzzi – then tell me you’d swap that for a claustrophobic chlorinated indoor pool!

Afterwards, you feel so happy, invigorated and fully alive. There’s no finer way to feel at one with nature and see the world from a different perspective – what Roger Deakin in his book Waterlog called ‘a frog’s eye view’.   Continue reading

Childhood Dreams

Have you any as-yet-unfulfilled childhood dreams?  Perhaps it’s the recent popularity of books urging us towards ‘Fifty things to do / places to go before you die’ that’s got me thinking.  Or maybe it’s the comment I heard yesterday from positive psychologist Professor Neil Frude: ‘Life is a short-break holiday from being dead!’ Either way I guess it’s time to put my skates on and get on with a few of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I’ve always promised myself.  But first let’s see which ones I can tick off already . . .

As a child I was fascinated by the wonders of the night sky and loved to read books about astronomy – I was a geek! My dear old dad indulged this passion and although he wasn’t able to overrule my mother’s bedtime curfew and let me stay up to see legendary astronomer Patrick Moore on The Sky at Nighthe did occasionally secretly wake me from a nice warm bed to gaze sleepily up at the frost-sharpened January skies and pick out the jewels in Orion’s belt.     Continue reading

The Great Outdoors

One of the best remedies for a low mood or a touch of the blues has got to be to get outside, get moving and breathe some fresh air – it’s hard to stay grumpy in the great outdoors.   There’s something about escaping into nature that helps get things into perspective and brings mind and body into harmony, while simply noticing the sights, sounds and smells around you can be very uplifting.

I guess it’s easy for me to say as I live in England’s most scenic county (no arguing at the back).  I’m never far from a breath-taking view of our fells, lakes or forests, which have a different aspect each time depending on the weather and the season.  This weekend saw our annual pilgrimage to a secret wood where the bluebells bloom in profusion at this time of year, scenting the air with a delicious hyacinth perfume.  We got the camera out and retraced the same paths we’ve taken over the years, alone or with friends, with babies in backpacks and slow-paced toddlers, or growing boys running on ahead.  Each one a treasured snapshot of shared and joyful times.    Continue reading

Good Mood Food

I once knew a man who said he wished they’d hurry up and invent a spaceman-style nutrition pill which he could swallow three times a day in place of meals – he reckoned the whole business of shopping, cooking and eating was just a tiresome bother that a more advanced society would do away with.  Needless to say I thought he was already on another planet. To me food is a daily pleasure, and usually at the heart of the most relaxed and enjoyable times spent with family and friends.

I do realise not everyone shares my enthusiasm – I remember once being invited to lunch at the home of a new friend.  On the way I indulged in happy little fantasies of what she might have prepared – perhaps some delicious home-made soup . . . or a delicate herb-flecked omelette . . . or simply a platter of well-chosen treats from the deli, with a crusty artisan loaf  . . . I came sharply down to earth ten minutes later, when I was given a sliced white and processed cheese sandwich with a slightly stale packet of crisps.   Too late I realised that food just isn’t as important to some people as it is to me. Continue reading