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My Life the Shit Show: No, I wouldn’t change it

Today I read a memoir piece in my writing workshop that wasn’t about living with depression (surprise!). It was about – undoubtedly a likely contributor to my depression – my father and growing up in his scary, drunken shadow. It was yet another example of my life the shit show. Continue reading

Learning Hope is a Life Skill

When I was suffering in the darkest days of my depression, I was utterly hopeless. Despondent and helpless, I honestly felt that I was powerless to manifest any meaningful change in my life.

Hopelessness was my filter, the lens through which I interpreted everything that happened to me and about me. Life sucked. I sucked. And nothing was ever going to get better.

But as I move out of this darkness, I’m learning hope; it’s my new filter, the lens that is helping me become and see myself as emotionally competent.

In the journey of life, learning hope is a valuable skill.

In the journey of life, learning hope is a valuable skill.

Learning hope does not mean having blind optimism. I am not 100% confident that everything will work out the way I want. Nor do I think that I’m immune from sadness, heartache, or loss. Those emotions and experiences are simply part of living. They don’t just happen to me. They happen to everyone.

Learning hope means developing emotional flexibility, being able to bounce back from difficulty rather than allowing it to overwhelm me. It means knowing that although I’ll experience tough times, I won’t generalize about them. I won’t say things like, “This [shit] always happens to me,” when something goes awry.

Learning hope means embodying the adage that, ‘This too shall pass.’ I have to remember that the journey of life is a marathon, not a sprint. Circumstances change. Emotions change. People change. I have to be able to adjust my outlook and behavior. I have to course correct to make the long haul.

This is the essence of learning hope. It’s not an attitude. It’s a practice and a life skill.


Image courtesy of flickr user pol sifter

Weekly Musings

Weekly Musings is my summary of the week’s highs, lows, and in betweens. There’s always some of each.


Spring Break 2016

I went on vacation for 2 weeks, and it was fabulous.

After a week in Colorado, where I traveled for work and ended up getting sick with allergies (or a cold or the flu, or I don’t know what), I returned to Germany and, almost immediately, the whole family flew off and spent 13 days gallivanting about the UK. The length of the trip was due in large part to the enormous savings we initially made by staying with our generous friends in London and York for a total of 8 nights. (Thank you, Darcy and Emma’s family!) Of course we made up for those savings later by staying in an 11th century castle (now hotel) and a 17th century prison (now hotel). Let’s just say that the upgrade from peeing in a bucket to peeing in a flushing toilet brings the price of a room up dramatically.

The good news is that the hubs and I only got into 1 fight on this trip, which is quite possibly a new record. It happened half way through the trip when I was starving, and, instead of feeding me, we went on one of those double decker tour buses. For an hour. In the wind. And the cold. Did I mention I was starving before we left?

When we got back to the hotel, my husband worked on trying to find a great fish and chips place, which led to us wandering for blocks between our hotel and one pub then the next (NOTE: the pubs in the UK, while seemingly restaurants, do not allow children after certain hours, like 6pm!). I got hangry. Super hangry. And then before my full fledged breakdown on the streets of Dublin happened, we ended up at an “American” diner with a menu that could have been straight from a TGI Friday’s. We ate burgers and fries and didn’t speak to each other during the entire meal.

But, it’s all good. We made up the next day once my husband came to the realization that one cannot rationalize with a hangry wife. Just gotta stuff some food in her face right then and there.

My parents took me to see castles and cathedrals for Spring Break, but all I really wanted to do was cartwheels in the park!

My parents took me to see castles and cathedrals for Spring Break, but all I really wanted to do was cartwheels in the park!


What I’m Into Right Now

I’m reading 2 books – No Mud, No Lotus by Thich Nhat Hanh and Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff. I’m also participating in the Deepak/Oprah 21 Day Meditation Experience on Shedding the Weight – Mind, Body, and Spirit. The overall message is the same, and it has to do with suffering, which doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve been diagnosed with cancer or somebody died. It can mean you’re mad at your spouse or you’re upset about screwing up something at work or you’re just feeling restless and off.

Both authors (and the meditation series) are clear about 1 thing. All peace comes from within; it isn’t dependent upon external factors. Therefore, every person can transform his or her own suffering. Obviously, it takes work, but here’s how you can start. First, acknowledge the suffering, as opposed to ignoring or resisting it. Second, recognize that suffering does happen. No one is immune or leads a charmed life where it doesn’t happen; it’s something that we all experience. It’s part of being human. Finally, when you are suffering, practice self-compassion. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Treat yourself kindly.

In addition to those 3 steps, here are two mantras I really like that you can repeat to yourself to help you. The first is for inspiration/intention at the beginning of the day and the other is for whenever you need some self-love.

Waking up this morning, I smile.

I have twenty-four hours to live.

May I live them deeply.

May I learn to look at the beings around me with the eyes of compassion.

Thich Nhat Hanh

This is a moment of suffering.

Suffering is part of life.

May I be kind to myself in this moment.

May I give myself the compassion I need.

Kristin Neff


Those are my weekly musings, and what about you?

What did you tell yourself this week to inspire you, motivate you, or help you on your path?What words of wisdom has someone else (through reading, a podcast, a talk) shared with you?What are you grateful for in your life?


March is Learning to Be Patient Month!

Learning to be patient is the perfect follow up to practicing acceptance, because if you can’t accept your reality as it is, you will never have patience.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, patience is the ability to accept delay, suffering, or annoyance without complaining or becoming angry. In other words, if you’re patient, you tolerate things that bother you. If you’re impatient, you get all worked up and bent out of shape, because you’re not getting what you want, right this second. Watch out, World! Meltdown imminent!

Learning to be Patient: St. Monica of Hippo, the Roman Catholic patron saint of mothers. And patience. Go figure! (image courtesy of wikimedia)

Learning to be Patient: St. Monica of Hippo, the Roman Catholic patron saint of mothers.
And patience. Go figure! (image courtesy of wikimedia)

Impatience Example #1: Every December, I order a bunch of Christmas presents on Amazon US and use my German credit card to pay for them. When the German credit card company notes suspicious activity (ordering things in the US when I live in Germany, for example), they don’t call or text or email me. They just deactivate my card. So the 30 minutes I just spent on Amazon is now all for naught. I can’t buy Christmas gifts for my US friends and family, which is ALL my friends and family, until I get on the phone, navigate the German language, non-human customer service menu, and, eventually, get someone who speaks English and can reactivate my card. By the time I hang up the phone, my heart has shrunk two sizes, and I’m spewing profanity. Let the holiday season begin!

Impatience Example #2: I ask Emmy to put on her pajamas and brush her teeth a full 30 minutes before her bedtime. “Brush your teeth, please.” And then 20 minutes before. “Em, go brush your teeth.” And, 15 minutes before. “Have you brushed your teeth yet?!” Finally, 7 minutes before bedtime, I start to get all mean mommy and yell, “Why haven’t you brushed your teeth?! Go do it. NOW!” She starts to cry and hands me the card she’s been working on for the last 23 minutes. The card with hearts and flowers that says, “Mommy, I love you.” Way to go, Mom.

Impatient Silke is not exactly (or even remotely close to) My Best Self. For one, she’s not very nice, and she’s not very calm. In fact, she’s loud, rude, and highly stressed. Also, I’m pretty sure no one likes her. So, why do I allow her to come out and interact with others when clearly she needs a muzzle and possibly a restraining order?

As I already mentioned, impatience emerges when you don’t get your wants met immediately. Your self-importance inflates automatically, and you react out of the emotion you’re feeling – frustration, annoyance, or anger, because you’re not getting what you want. The injustice! Behavior born from frustration, annoyance, or anger typically isn’t mindful, thoughtful or considerate. It is usually regrettable, however.

Given that both of my examples are just 2 from a long, long list, this month, I’m learning to be patient.

To work on developing patience, I will continue to work on acceptance. Specifically, I will be more aware of the physical manifestation of my impatience. When I start to feel frustration surface, I will focus on what is happening in my body. I will name it. ‘Feeling tension in my shoulders, breathing more rapidly.’ I will respond to the impatience with compassion. ‘Breathe deeply. Put yourself in a time-out for 5 minutes and chill.’ I’m hoping that these techniques will help me to stay slightly more balanced and peaceful.

Patience is a virtue after all. And if Monica of Hippo could endure with dignity for her entire life, well, I can at least try to do it for one month.

February is Acceptance Month!

I’ve decided I’m going all Gretchen Rubin Happiness Project this year. Each month, over the course of the year, I am going to focus on a topic that I want to develop in myself. And during that month, I’ll read about, write about, think about, and (hopefully) put that topic into practice.

For February, I’m all about ACCEPTANCE, which, defined by Merriam Webster, is “the act of receiving or taking something offered.”

But I’m not talking about accepting a gift – for which I am almost always grateful, even when it’s not something I would have picked out for myself (or even given to anyone I know). I’m talking about accepting life on its terms, as it is, full of its unfiltered and sometimes unwelcome messiness. This is in contrast to accepting life on your terms in which case when it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient, you choose to ignore it (suppress/deny what doesn’t feel good) or let your emotional response overwhelm you (get angry – or depressed or anxious or whatever – at the supposed source of the discomfort/inconvenience).

This doesn’t mean you passively resign yourself to shitty situations (“Okay, this is how it is, but I have to live with it even though it totally sucks”). Nor does it mean that you disengage (“Okay, this is how it is, but I’m just going to pretend it’s not happening, because it totally sucks”). It means, you acknowledge the situation as it is (This totally sucks!) and you allow yourself to feel what you feel without the emotional response becoming you. You give yourself breathing room to feel uncomfortable and inconvenienced but you don’t let it take over.

So, here’s how I’m going to cultivate acceptance this month.

Body Awareness. I’m going to try to be more aware of my emotional and physical states, that is, how I respond to certain situations. I will allow (read: force) myself to feel without either getting totally sucked into or avoiding the feeling. When I get sucked in or try to avoid altogether, I give the emotion more power. It becomes bigger and badder, when really it’s just a temporary state that will eventually go away. It’s okay for me to feel angry or sad or anxious. It’s not okay for me to embody that feeling and become mean, depressed, or overwhelmed because of it.

Less Judging, More Compassion. I’m going to try to catch myself when I start to judge – blaming myself or someone else because life doesn’t always work out how I want it to – and respond with compassion. This means de-personalizing, because I am…ahem…truly not the center of the Universe. So just because someone did something that upsets my rhythm or makes my life temporarily challenging, I don’t have to take it personal and declare them a jerk. And, if it is personal, then I’m going to have to operate under the assumption that I don’t know the whole story. As Victoria Fedden writes, “We must have compassion for A**holes.” Sometimes the A**hole is someone else, and sometimes that A**hole is me.

Finally, I’m going to try to be less attached to the idea that my well-being and happiness are dependent on things going as I imagine them in my head. This is the most difficult part of acceptance for me. My mind is conditioned to the idea that life has to be a certain way, and when it’s not, things are wrong, and I can’t be happy. But, life is how it is, and for much of it, I have zero control. Moreover, my well-being and happiness are not going to come from always being comfortable or having every convenience, and I just end up getting mental rope burns by hanging on to that delusion. So, I need to work on detaching myself from expecting that life be a certain way.

Big sigh. I have my work cut out for me. This makes eating without my cell phone at hand and keeping a daily gratitude list easy in comparison.

Wish me, luck, because here I go, cultivating acceptance.

Cultivating Acceptance


How To Cultivate Appreciation

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~Thornton Wilder

“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” ~Alphonse Karr

“…a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.” ~Abraham Maslow

When I made my “January Is Appreciation Month!” proclamation earlier this week, I wrote that I would be thinking, reading, and writing about appreciation on a daily basis in an effort to help me grow this quality in my own life. I made an actionable goal for each of the 3 definitions of appreciation (being grateful, understanding worth, being aware), and I put these goals out into the Universe (that is, I posted them on the blog) so that you all can hold me accountable.

Now it’s time to do the work. So, I made a virtual visit to the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley and got referred to this interesting article by Rutgers psychologist Nancy Fagley who found that being appreciative predicts life satisfaction more than being grateful or being an agreeable, open-to-new-experiences, conscientious kind of person. While you can read the entire paper here, I was particularly struck by a table in the paper, which listed eight aspects of appreciation.

[Note: One of the eight aspects I didn’t care for. It was comparing your situation to others to help you be thankful about your own status. Since I pick and choose what works for me and what doesn’t, I declined to include this aspect of appreciation here. The thought of saying, “Well at least I’m not in Somalia where 97% of the female population is being circumcised,” does not make me appreciate my (non-genitally mutilated) life more. It actually makes me feel pretty horribly about all those girls in Somalia. So, I’m not including this, “There but for the grace of God go I” aspect. Okay, back to the other seven.]

Here’s my modified list of Dr. Fagley’s Aspects of Appreciation, or, as I refer to them, tips for  cultivating appreciation in your life.

Get Awe struck. Looking over the Grand Canyon or sitting beneath a star filled sky. Listening to a Bach concerto or kneeling in a pew at Notre Dame. Whatever it is that makes you say, “Wow, this is something beautiful and infinite that I am experiencing,” whatever it is that makes you feel a small part of something so vast and mysterious that you cannot explain its wonder, whatever it is that makes you cry tears of joy and laugh out loud at the same time because it’s so moving. That, friends, is something awesome. Be in awe!

Connect with others. Take stock of the meaningful relationships in your life. Let the people who matter most know it. Tell them you love them. Tell them what their presence means to you. I did something like this before Xmas. It was scary as hell in the moment, but I sent a handwritten letter to my former boss thanking him for the professional opportunities and support he gave and continues to give to me. For all the bitching I do about him, he has been one of my biggest supporters and my career path changed direction when he hired me, and it’s been 100% better as a result. I’d never told him how much I appreciated all that. But then I did and happened to be at his office a week or so later. I saw he’d put up my letter like a Christmas card!

Focus on the good. Use your energy to note what you have (rather than what you don’t have). You perpetuate your challenges (take it from me!) if that’s all you think about and talk about. So, focus on the good stuff not the bad stuff. Here’s an example. Last year my sister created a 100 Days of Gratitude FB page for posting something we were grateful for every day for 100 days. One day, after she’d been to the doctor and found out she was allergic to cold (yes, you read that right – allergic to cold), she searched for something to be grateful for. She ended up writing, “Well, if I hadn’t gone to the doctor and found out I had this allergy then I could have died taking my daughter into the pool. So I’m grateful that I know I have this allergy. ” She made some lemonade from that lemon, for sure.

Practice Gratitude. Recognize and acknowledge the good things in your life. Say thank you to people who extend kindnesses to you. Be cognizant of the blessings in your life. Heart transplant recipient and college professor Elizabeth Bartlett calls this doing thanks (I love that phrase!). Bartlett says, “Give thanks. Give things. Give thoughts. Give love. So gratitude becomes the gift, creating a cycle of giving and receiving, the endless waterfall. Filling up and spilling over…perhaps not even to the giver but to someone else, to whoever crosses one’s path. It is the simple passing on of the gift.”

Don’t forget the Hard Times. We all know that life can be difficult from time to time, but that doesn’t mean when things are going well you should forget what you experienced, pretending like it didn’t happen. Instead, when you start to feel habituated to your good life (that is, taking things for granted), take a moment, take a long pause, and reflect on those tough times. They will ground you and remind you of what is good in your life right now.

Stay in the Present Moment. Buddhists say that the past is gone and the future is not yet here. The only moment you have to live in is right now. In other words, stop thinking about the sucky things that happened yesterday (or last month or last year). Don’t worry about mistakes you made in the past. Let go of your anger about how someone treated you rudely, and don’t fret about what might happen in the future. What good does it do to put your energy into things you can’t change right now? Get out of those mental machinations and plant yourself in the present. What is working for you right now? What is good in your life right now?

Create an appreciative Ritual. Start each day listing the blessings in your life. Every day, take time to recognize and acknowledge someone who would otherwise go unnoticed – the doorman, the delivery guy, the homeless person you never make eye contact with. Give thanks for your food before you eat. End each day thinking of the best thing that happened to you that day. Make appreciation a habit, and you will become more appreciative.

If you start incorporating these aspects of appreciation into your daily life, you will experience greater subjective well being. That’s actually what Dr. Fagley found in her study. Appreciation breeds feelings of joy and fulfillment. I’m totally down with that.

January is Appreciation Month!


Want to cultivate appreciation in your life? Here are some tips.

Want to cultivate appreciation? Here are some tips for doing it.


Fagley NS (2012). Appreciation uniquely predicts life satisfaction, above demographics, the Big 5 personality factors, and gratitude. Pers Individ Diff 53:59-63.

Life Lessons Learned (in 2015)

As the year comes to a close, I am reflecting on some of the most important life lessons I learned in 2015.

  1. I own my emotions. No one is responsible for making me “feel” anything. No one else makes me angry; that’s my choice. No one else makes me frustrated; that’s my choice. No one else makes me sad; that’s my choice. I am accountable for my own happiness, anger, or misery. I own my emotions.
  1. I advocate for myself. It’s great to have the support of friends and family, but ultimately, I can’t rely on that outside support to carry me through all the tough times in life. I have to support and believe in myself first and foremost (see Life Lesson #1). When I am uncertain or going through a difficult time or even a personal failure, I have to trust that I can come out of that experience okay, that I have the mental reserves to succeed. I advocate for myself.
  1. I accept who I am. If working on this blog has taught me anything, it’s that we are all beautiful, imperfect messes. We all make mistakes. We all have scars. It’s just that some of us are better at hiding these imperfections from the rest of the world while others of us (read: ME!) are not. I don’t want to hide my mistakes and scars anymore; they are part of me. They are in and of themselves my life lessons. I accept myself as I am.
  1. I live in the moment. Part of what got my stuck in my depression in the past was clinging to all the injustices done to me. But, you know what? The past is gone. That shit is over. Time to move on. All I have is right now, this very moment, to live my life. When I recognize this, every day, every moment, becomes the most important one.
  1. I take the good and the bad. I would never know how wonderful the sun feels if I didn’t live through some seriously dark times. But when it’s always sunny, clouds provide relief. That’s life. It’s black, and it’s white, and you don’t get through it without experiencing both. There’s no point in trying to cling only to the happy, sunny times, because they will change.


This is what I learned in 2015. I’d love to hear from you about what life lessons you learned this year. On that note, here’s to a marvelous 2016. May we all do some living and learning.

Mental Toothbrush

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults exercise for 150 minutes a week in bursts of at least 10 minutes. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that we brush our teeth for 2 minutes at least twice a day. The exercise guidelines help control weight, strengthen your heart, and reduce the risk of disease and death. The dental guidelines help prevent cavities and gum disease.

Okay, so I’m occasionally lazy, but, as a rule, I follow the advice of the WHO and the ADA. Exercise and brushing my teeth are simply part of my everyday routine. It’s what I do to take care of myself. My physical self.

I recently heard writer Pico Iyer and psychologist Guy Winch use the terms mental gym and emotional hygiene, respectively. Iyer and Winch believe we should have similar recommendations and routines for maintaining our mental health as we do for our physical health. We should all engage in preventative psychological habits, habits that build our emotional resilience, boost our self-worth, allow us to connect with our best selves. It makes total sense. We need mental toothbrushes and we need to use them every day like we do our regular toothbrushes.

The mental toothbrush - it's a preventative habit for your mental health.

The mental toothbrush – it’s a preventative habit for your mental health.

We go see the doctor or dentist for regular check ups or at least anytime there is cause for concern. We exercise and watch what we eat (or at least we all know that we should be doing those things). We brush our teeth after meals, wash our hands after using the bathroom, and don’t fall asleep with make up on. But does our psychological well-being get the same investment? And, if not, what can we do to create the mental toothbrush habit?

This is what I’ve decided to do. For the month of December, I’ve committed myself to some basic guidelines for maintaining my emotional health. Taking the WHO’s exercise recommendation, I’ve set a goal of spending 150 minutes a week (in at least 10 minute chunks) on mental health activities. For me this means meditation, being in nature, creating gratitude lists, and journaling. For you it might be some of those or other activities – a walk outdoors, sitting in the sun or staring at the night sky, working in your garden, petting your dog. There isn’t one way to maintain mental health just like there isn’t one way to exercise. Yet, all these solitary and silent acts work toward the same end goal, settling our minds, connecting us to something greater than ourselves, and helping us find inner peace. These activities are our mental toothbrush, and time spent doing them is time well spent.

Don’t take your psychological well-being for granted. Like exercising and brushing your teeth, it’s a habit you have to develop and maintain in order to reap its benefits. So consider this. What is your mental toothbrush, how often do you use it. Make it a habit to brush your brain every day.











Resilience – This too will pass

These dark clouds will pass. And the sun will shine again. Image courtesy of morguefile.com

These dark clouds will pass. And the sun will shine again.
Image courtesy of morguefile.com


I value resilience. Let’s be honest; shit happens. That’s actually one of my meditation mantras, because it reminds me that adversity is part of life. Life is messy and complicated, and sometimes it just plain sucks. But it never stays that way. So far I’ve been pretty bad at realizing this and getting through the tough times knowing that eventually they’ll end. Truthfully, I’ve given up, albeit unsuccessfully, a few times already. (Note to readers: do not treat a temporary problem with a permanent solution. Truly, all problems are temporary.) But, I’m working really hard to learn to experience feelings without letting them overwhelm me. I’m learning to accept that shit happens, but it doesn’t last forever.

I wrote the paragraph above in my post about trying to live with integrity. Resilience is one of my values, and I wanted to work on developing this value, because so far in life I pretty much sucked at dealing with difficulty.

Getting divorced. Losing an important friendship. Losing a job. Suffering the death of a loved one. Being diagnosed with a serious illness. This stuff happens. To all of us. But what do you do when it happens to you? You can be overwhelmed and give up (my pattern for over 40 years). Or you can stay strong and carry on as best you can (work in progress). This is resilience.

Being resilient doesn’t make you immune to adversity. And it doesn’t mean you no longer experience the sadness, anger, or the other emotions that occur when you are going through something catastrophic. It just means that you can deal with the stress. You can weather the storm and come out of it intact.

According to psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, resilient people employ emotional coping strategies such as monitoring emotions and calling up positive ones to use advantageously. Psychiatrist Frederic Flach maintained that resilient people are able to develop novel perspectives when facing negative life events. Resilience means adapting and giving the negative event some meaning. In effect, resilient people use positive emotions as a buffer against the negative ones, and they are able to persevere as a result.

This is all great, but if, like me, you didn’t grow up with these emotional coping strategies, then you must develop them. Looking at the research (see the references below), I’ve boiled down the expert’s advice to three main things you can do to develop resilience: cultivate relationships, adjust your outlook, and nurture yourself.

Cultivate relationships. When you are part of a loving, supportive community, you are connected. Having a tribe – as I call it – gives you someone to talk to, someone to give advice from a more objective (not in the middle of the crisis like you) place. It’s important to maintain your relationships rather than withdraw from them during crises. Even if you feel like getting in the fetal position under the covers all by yourself, send someone an email or a text saying that’s how you feel. Allow yourself to be cared for when you need it.

Adjust your outlook. Sometimes, life is up and sometimes it’s down. And while you can’t change the fact that bad shit happens, you can change how you approach it when you’re in the midst of it. Know that during the down times problems are not insurmountable. Know that the down times are merely part of a cycle. Good then bad then good. Sun then clouds then sun. This (bad shit), too, will pass. And this too. And that also (because sometimes it seems to go on and on and on).

Take care of yourself. Sleep well. Eat well. Exercise. Practice stress-relieving activities (yoga, meditation, walks in nature, petting your dog, whatever works for you). Prioritize self-care because unless you pay someone else to do it (personal chef, personal trainer, masseuse, life coach – all on my list when I when the lottery), it’s not going to happen. Writer Pico Iyer calls this going to the mental health gym. Psychologist Guy Winch refers to it as practicing emotional hygiene. It’s work that you have to do in order to replenish your stores and develop your whole self – body, mind, and spirit.

Remember what Maya Angelou said and take it to heart. “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. Your difficulties do not define you. They simply strengthen your ability to overcome.”

Work on resilience, because, this too will pass.










Thanks and Giving

Let your thanks and giving be perpetual.

Let your thanks and giving be perpetual.


Here’s the truth. On average (meaning the overwhelming majority of the time), I am not grateful for the amazing gifts in my life. There are the obvious modern conveniences of 1st world living, which so many people don’t have – on demand electricity and clean (and hot) running water, unlimited access to food (all kinds, out of season and/or grown on another continent), and physical safety. And there are the small things I (also) gloss over as I go about my life – a sunny day, a tree dusted with snow, a helpful gesture from a stranger, a moment of silence in an otherwise chaotic day – things that bring me happiness if I’d only stop for 10 seconds to acknowledge them.


I have a good job. I have my health, mental (for now anyway) and physical (ditto). I have family and friends who love and support me. I have more things than I need. I have activities I enjoy doing in my spare time. When I appreciate my good fortune, the abundance in my life, all the “I have” statements I just wrote, well it seems stingy to keep such abundance to myself. Being generous, giving what I have (certainly money but lots of other things)  brings me happiness, much like giving thanks does.

Thanks and Giving.

I believe that gratitude and generosity are mental health practices. The more you do them, the happier and the healthier you become. I’m not being Pollyanna; research has my back on this. Your mental and physical health improve and your sense of social connection grows when do more thanks and giving.

Let’s challenge ourselves to do just that.

Thanks. Every day, give thanks. Take the focus off yourself. My job sucks! I don’t have enough time to (fill in the blank)! I need (fill in the blank) to be happier! Whatever your complaints, they are likely fairly minor in the grand scheme of things. I’m not saying you don’t deserve to bitch and moan on occasion. We all need to vent, but, let’s not waste all our precious energy on ourselves and our problems. Let’s use more of that energy to be grateful instead.

Giving. Every day, share what you have. It doesn’t have to be money (which doesn’t grow on trees, it turns out, so there is a finite supply of it). Give a smile or a kind word to someone who is down. Give your time or your talent to help someone who needs it. Give what it is that you have to give, what is abundant in your life. Someone can and will benefit from your gift, whatever it is.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Here’s to more Thanks and Giving in our lives.


The Science of Gratitude and Generosity