Harry Potter and the End of Bigotry

Want your children to be less racist, xenophobic and homophobic? Have them read the Harry Potter series, which the author herself describes as “a prolonged argument for tolerance, a prolonged plea for an end to bigotry.

In the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, three studies conducted showed that students who read the novels while being taught the central themes of racism, slavery, and acceptance, showed that they identified with the eponymous hero and against the villain, Volde… I mean… He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

The study’s findings support what was already known about the effects of reading fiction: it makes you less racist.

In the stories, Harry not only battles against his archv-enemy, but a host of other coming-of-age issues. Harry’s schoolyard rival, the character Draco Malfoy, almost stereotypically embodies racist, bigoted, and ignorant ideologies.

Even if your child’s school has not read the books, parents should read the novels with their children and discuss the issues therein. Not only will it foster a love of reading, but it will allow them to work through coming of age issues that everyone faces at some time or another.








Happiness Revisited




This is a topic that I have blogged about before, but I feel like a more personal touch is necessary this time around. I have recently listened to a few podcasts (links below) which have focused on what the latest research on Happiness shows. Incidentally, the last major research on Happiness was conducted by Psychologists in 2009. Here are a few ways that we approach happiness and my personal views on each. 


Buying Items vs. Buying Experiences

Research has shown that when we purchase items we often experience momentary fleeting happiness. This causes us to get onto what is called the Hedonic Treadmill, the tendency of people to continuously buy items to get their “fix” of happiness. I have definitely been victim to this; I have bought books which I have not read, bought shoes which I end up feeling “meh” over, and bought gym memberships which I have not used. We all have been there. But that initial step makes us feel good. We need to actually stop purchasing items and purchase experiences.

An experience is much more long-lasting. When reading a book, playing with a football, or going to the amusement park, we accumulate new experiences which allow us to create new memories and have enjoyable experiences over a longer period of time. In many ways, in the above examples, I was attempting to purchase experiences, such as with the gym membership and the books, but I needed to follow through with them as well. Consider recently, I began reading a book which I had purchased a while back, Elizabeth Sims’ You’ve Got A Book In You, to help me with my writing. It has certainly put me back on the path of trying to write a novel, and I am very happy with that. I get in the zone when writing, which, when I am flowing, allows me to experience a Zen-like nothingness, and actually makes me happy. Of course, a word of caution: I also experience downs, like when writer’s block hits. Just because you are purchasing an experience to make yourself happy does not mean that you will always be happy during that experience (especially if it’s something you’re passionate about!)


Learning something new and being proud of your achievement

Ever try a How-To project by yourself or take a course for something that you always wanted to learn? I recently braved the website KhanAcademy.com to teach myself some long-forgotten basic high school math. Pre-Algebra and Algebra. I must say, I remember more than I thought I would. But I have also forgotten a lot, too. But once again, being in that Zen state, and learning and relearning stuff that I found torturous in school has its rewards. Go learn something new today!

Reading books

An interesting note on the study of happiness: if you wait a while before using your purchase you will find much more satisfaction from it. As I stated in the Buying Items vs. Experiences paragraph, I began to read a book which I had purchased at least 4 months ago. But I am glad that I picked it up. Reading is a great way to unwind and mentally stimulate yourself–not to mention, in many cases either learn something new or be entertained by a great story. 

Mind-Body connection


The Mind is typically seen as the one that controls the body; but the body’s health often has an effect on the mind. Exercise is a great way to keep fit (whatever your method of exercise may be), and be more energetic throughout the day. Eating healthier is another great trick to aid in this. 


Yoga and other forms of relaxation are linked to lower levels of stress hormones. Consider picking up a meditation or Yoga exercise DVD or join your local gym for classes. Om to the next point! Haha… get it? Sorry. Please keep reading…

Hiking/nature walks

A good hike combines physical activity and meditation into one relaxing day in nature. Human beings, as resourceful as we have evolved to be are not meant to stay cooped up indoors all the time. Talk a stroll down your local trails, or go a little out of your way to a national park for a weekend camping trip! 

Community Service

Another form of a quick pick me up is to help pick others up! Getting involved in the community could mean working at a soup kitchen, at your local school (teachers always need all the help they can get!), at a rec centre… so many possibilities of giving back! 


Friends, Family, and Lovers are a great sources of happiness. These relationships of course require give and take and you might not always find happiness from the same person from day to day. But they are there as a source of comfort, peace, and support. And if someone from one of these circles is not providing that, talk to them about what you feel is lacking; maybe there is a genuine misunderstanding between the two of you, or maybe you need to find better people!


Different from meditation, this is taking taking inventory of either daily or monthly or even yearly achievements. If we actually track how we are growing over the long term, we can truly appreciate ourselves.

(Not Really) Last Thoughts

We can conclude that happiness is not a sustained emotion, but rather a very fleeting state of being. many of these strategies are to help us maximize our rate of encountering it. I must also emphasize that these are my personal experiences; perhaps for you, buying items makes you happier than purchasing experience. We’re all unique and what works for one will not necessarily work for another. The important thing is that we continuously monitor our own levels of contentment and prioritize them; think about what hobbies you like to engage in and see how the above list can foster those hobbies. We will never be always happy all the time. That’s why we pursue it. But we can certainly be happy as often as possible. 


Stuff You Should Know Podcast: Do Objects or Experiences Make us Happier. http://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/podcasts/objects-experiences-happier/

Stuff to Blow Your Mind: The Mathematics of Happiness. http://www.stufftoblowyourmind.com/podcasts/the-mathematics-of-happiness/



Why Robin Williams’ Passing is a Lesson for us all

As a new blogger, one of my biggest hurdles to face is my own personal demons as I write each post. I get to touch upon some aspect of what makes me happy, sad, angry, bitter, content, excited, and all sorts of other human emotions. It is an emotional outlet for me.

Some people turn to family, friends, sports… whatever makes them at ease. Sometimes, these vices are overtly self-destructive and hazardous; drug and alcohol abuse is an overt expression of unhealthy ways to deal with emotion. But, strangely enough, these vices are likely less destructive than what, according to a recent Cracked.com article states is behind the death of Robin Williams, and so many others who seem happy-go-lucky: being funny.

It seems really counter-intuitive. Happy, humorous, socially adept people have for time immemorial, suffered from strong, devastating bouts of depression. 

On the surface, we can understand the irony of the situation, and perhaps even be initially confused by the seemingly contradictory emotions being present in one and the same person. After all, if you spent much of your childhood in the late 80s and early 90s, like myself, you can recall movies like Mrs Doubtfire, Hook, and Dead Poets Society, where Robin Williams plays a relatively chipper character. 

His Inside the Actors Studio interview was simultaneously the most entertaining and the most frustrating one I have ever watched. One anticipates James Lipton just about to burst saying “Damn it, man! Why must you torture me thus!” 

And yet, considering what has transpired, it isn’t surprising to see that even on a television show where actors are required to bare themselves he was still “on”.

And this brings us to the issue at hand, which is such a convincing case brought to us by Cracked.com: he used humor, or legalized insanity, as Williams put it, to deflect personal issues from being raised. Comics, alongside many people who have been praised for their strong artistic or academic skills, have used their gift–in this case, humor–to push people away. 

The scariest thing about this article, and what raises alarm bells, is that many of the funniest people in our own lives, past or present, are using these very same techniques to keep us at bay. We may think that some have their life figured out when in fact they are just at the brink of their own breaking point. They hide it because they are afraid of others’ reactions to their condition.

However, if you are one of those people who using humor to deflect, please talk to someone. Do not shrug it off or laugh it off. You, just like any other human being on this crazy planet, are not alone in your anguish; many times we feel like the victims, or make ourselves the martyrs for a greater cause (in Williams’ case, his depression stemming from perhaps the Parkinson’s that was debilitating him… or some other deep-seeded reason). 

Williams was a beloved actor, writer and comedian; but he was human. He was prone to the same shortcomings that we all are. Let’s remember to good he did, but not forget why he passed away, nor lose sight of the lesson his passing can impart on us. 

I am not someone who believe that everything happens for a greater good; but I do feel that we can make good out of a poor situation depending on the narrative we tell ourselves. Make it a point to reach out and talk to someone who keeps themselves guarded: and damn well be prepared for them when they open themselves up! 

When asked about death