Mandy Kurfurst

Happiness, though not always easy to come by, enables people to enjoy better overall health and live longer than their less happy peers. To celebrate its 30th anniversary last year, One Community Health started Gorge Happiness Month, 31 days of activities in October, based on the science of happiness, designed to make our community healthier. Now in its second year, here is the story of one person who undertook the Daily Three habits as prescribed by the program: Gratitudes, Acts of Kindness and Moments of Silence.

By Don Campbell


Mandy Kurfurst is an HR Generalist with One Community Health, sponsor of Gorge Happiness Month. On the job for 18 months, she’s felt plenty of need to observe the program’s tenets and the Daily Three.


Moving from the corporate world of The Oregonian to One Community Health, she said, has been “a great experience, a lot of learning. HR and how it relates to health care is a different animal than what I’ve done before.”


Add to that the normal daily activities of herding four kids, two dogs and a husband, as well as commuting from her hometown of Washougal, Wash., almost daily to the Hood River OCH office, and the days can quickly become hectic.


Happiness Month enabled her to make sure “I’m looking at gratitude in a whole other light,” she said, “giving thanks to those who need it.” The moments of silence she was practicing anyway. Choosing work in the gorge, and not downtown Portland, she made a life change to de-stress, take time for herself, to not work through lunch, and not eat lunch at her desk. “I take an hour in the middle of the day to decompress, walk away, put my pencil down. That helps me tackle projects at work more effectively.”


Though already practicing the moments of silence, Gorge Happiness, she said, has provided “a great process that I enjoy sharing. It shows what it can do for you outside of an organization. It’s a good feeling.


A paper quill artist as well, she’s rendered work that included a portrait of one of her dogs, Gordie Howe, which, in an act of Gorge Happiness Month kindness, she donated to the Southwest Washington Humane Society for an auction, and raised over $100.


Another act included helping her high-school freshman daughter who was stressing over a teacher and her daily workload at school. “The impact of Gorge Happiness,” she said, “ was taking what I learned from it and applying it to her. I told her to take five minutes before a test, to just breathe, to center yourself. That helped her improve in school.”


On a board at OCH’s breakroom, she’s written down her gratitudes and thank-yous. She admits she could be better about daily acts of kindness, but also admits to paying toll bridge fees for car occupants behind her, and her art donations. “I felt really good about doing those things,” she said.


In all, it’s been a genuinely positive program for her, her work colleagues, and her family. Dealing with her personal stressors, as well as those of her clients at OCH, using Gorge Happiness tenets, has helped her to “remember to breathe through those things,” she said, “to put my thoughts away, center myself. Those are things I’ve gotten through Gorge Happiness, to observe moments of silence, to meditate. It centers me against things going wrong or stress, that I need to stop, put myself in a quiet place and re-center, restructure my thought around the problem. That helps me build an action plan.”