What: A Happier Year is an illustrated calendar with 366 science-backed actions that foster happiness.
Author, illustrator, and creator: Trina Kushnerik
Where: The publication is being crowdfunded on Kickstarter
Kickstarter launch date: October 6, 2020
Kickstarter end date: November 13, 2020
Kickstarter goal: CAD$10,000
Kickstarter URL: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/trina/a-happier-year
Price: CAD$35 for one printed copy
Ships to: Canada, USA, Europe, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Thailand
Book details: 5×4 | 376 pages | Hardcover easel stand
Trina Kushnerik is a graduate from The University of British Columbia Okanagan with a B.A. (Honours) Psychology. She focused on positive psychology in her studies and research.
Passionate about sharing knowledge that can make a real impact, she currently hosts the podcast, Happycast: The Science of Happiness. The podcast covers the details of recently published scientific studies and discusses how to apply the information.
Trina currently resides in sunny Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada. She spends her free time rock climbing, and snowboarding. When she isn’t on a mountainside, she loves to travel and has been to over thirty countries across four continents. On a rainy day, you can find her inside creating music.
Q: What are some happiness tips you can give us right now?
A: Listen! Really listen to the people in your life. Listen with the intent to understand them first. Even if you disagree with them, try to understand where they are coming from first. Deep listening can help you understand someone’s emotions, intentions, feelings, and more. It seems so simple, but deep listening can really strengthen our social relationships. One of the strongest correlates of well-being is having thriving social relationships. Sometimes it is the little things that make the biggest difference.
Q: Why did you start this project?
A: I have always wanted to write a book. However, the pandemic came and flipped the world as we know it upside down. I realized a lot of people needed some positivity in their lives. The pandemic has been hard on everyone. Even if people don’t realize it, the pandemic has had a negative effect on the well-being of most people. They’ve published studies on this surprisingly quick (Sibley et al., 2020). While everything was locked down here in Canada, I got to work and started typing and illustrating.
Q: Why did you make a calendar instead of a book?
A: Even though I had this trove of knowledge about what makes us happy, I wasn’t necessarily putting it to use myself. It’s one thing to read all these scientific papers and know what you could be doing to make yourself happier, but it is completely different to actually put it to use. Honestly, that’s what steered me away from writing a book and making this calendar instead.
I’ve noticed a lot of books are starting to have “actionable” content at the end of a chapter where they give you a task or action. However, when I’m reading a book, I tend to skip those activities or I don’t put much effort into them. When I finish the book, it ends up on my bookshelf and then I’m definitely not doing those activities I told myself I’d do later. The calendar solves that problem. It sits somewhere in your home or office, and you look at it everyday. You get one action a day, so all you have to do is focus on one thing. Each activity doesn’t take much time either, so you don’t have much of an excuse not to do it.
Q: Why is A Happier Year more than a calendar?
A: The calendar format is just a tool, it keeps you flipping the pages each day and keeps you on track. You aren’t going to leave your calendar on May 2nd if it’s May 3rd. Instinctively, you are going to flip the page each day. Each day you get a short blurb with a new action. There is so much research out there that can help us be happier. Big changes are scary, but small actions are doable. Small habits and changes in thought can make you happier.
It’s a workbook in a sense too. I left a spot for you to write down answers to questions I ask, or to keep track of what action you did that day.
Q: Where do you get your ideas and information?
A: I studied psychology and did research on positive psychology when I was in university. After graduation, I kept reading the literature and I created a podcast on the topic. I just had so much knowledge buzzing around my brain, I had to get it out.
My go to journals for reading are: The Journal of Positive Psychology, The Journal of Happiness Studies, and Applied Psychology: Health and Well-being. All the information is out there, I just had to make it accessible. No one wants to read a peer reviewed article each morning and try to find out how to apply it to their life. However, I added some art and found key takeaways for you!
These activities aren’t just fluffy self-help, there is scientific backing to them. Every activity has a reference to an academic, peer-reviewed paper that supports it. Researchers dedicate their lives to studying these topics in depth.
Q: Where did you get inspiration for your illustrations?
For the illustrations, I was really inspired by the natural environment around me. I’ve included cactus, koi fish, ferns, foliage, bees, fruit, dragon flies, etc. They all have a soft watercolour aesthetic to them. I had a lot of friends suggest ideas of illustrations they wanted to see in the publication too.
Q: Why are you so passionate about this project?
A: It was a great opportunity to put the creative and academic part of my brain together. Positive psychology has made a huge impact on my own life and I wanted to make sure that everyone had access to the knowledge, regardless of their educational background.
Q: What is Kickstarter?
A: Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform where you can share your creative ideas. People pledge a dollar amount to fund your project, and in return you send them rewards. In my case, for CAD$35, people get a copy of A Happier Year. There are other rewards for those that contribute more or less. The goal is to reach CAD$10 000 in funding. However, Kickstarter is all or nothing, so if we don’t reach that goal, the project doesn’t happen.
Q: Why did you choose Kickstarter to publish A Happier Year?
A: Kickstarter gives you the ability to self-publish your work without taking a loan out and putting up all the money upfront. I love that you can put your ideas out there and people can support you in exchange for the thing you are making.
Q: What challenges have you had launching this Kickstarter?
A: It’s not as easy as making a book and putting it on Kickstarter. There were more steps than I realized and I had to wear many hats. I had to be my own graphic designer, videographer, logistics coordinator, PR consultant, copywriter, web designer, CRM specialist, and more. All the work has to be done before the campaign even launches.
Q: What stage of creation is A Happier Year in?
A: The writing, illustration, and design is done. I already have found a printing company to work with too. All I have to do after I run a successful campaign is tell the manufacturer to press print
Website: AHappierYear.com, Happycast.ca