Gratitude – Not Just for Thanksgiving

Today is Memorial Day. I’m sure we all are grateful to the members of the military who work hard, often in dangerous and unpleasant conditions, to keep our enemies away from us. Sometimes it’s easy to take peace (in our country, anyway) for granted, and it’s good to have a day to remind us that everything has a price.

I am always interested in psychological studies, and ‘gratitude’ is a subject receiving some attention in the field of “positive psychology”. What they are finding is that maintaining a positive attitude of gratitude can improve your psychological, emotional and physical well-being.

Wow. That’s a lot of benefits from a simple thing that anyone can do at any time. I won’t cite all the facts and figures because they can get dull. But they say that people who have a positive mindset of gratitude are happier, healthier, more successful and have more friends. I’ll take a large helping of that.

How can you make gratitude more a part of your life?

Every day, write down something that happened that day which you are grateful for. Hey, this one is easy for us, right? We’re writers. Be specific. Not: I’m still grateful to be alive, but I’m grateful my husband greeted me with a kiss this morning.

Try sharing things you’re grateful for with your friends, rather than sharing only complaints.

You can join an online gratitude group (Facebook, Myspace, etc.). There’s also an iPod app.

Most importantly, adopt a more positive mental attitude. Focus on the good things people have done for you, rather than the not-so-good.

The final benefit? I think it may be the biggest. While you are expressing gratitude to those around you, you are also improving their well-being. That’s what psychologists call a win-win situation.

So think about it. What are you grateful for today?

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Graduation!

In the springtime, the events keep coming right up, don’t they? Yesterday, my oldest child graduated from college! It’s a big day, representing basically a lifetime-to-date of hard work.

College graduation is a life-defining moment for the whole family. This particular bird is leaving the nest for good. Though we are delighted that she found a good job and an apartment with roommates, it is a moment of finality. I find it difficult to let go, though I’m not worried about her ability to live on her own and provide for herself. She got the job. She got the apartment. For some reason, I find it difficult to stop buying things for her, though I think it’s important for her to become financially independent.

In what I consider to be her first adult act, she and her housemates organized and executed a lovely dinner party for all of their families on Saturday night. She didn’t ask us for one penny. My husband and I were touched by her desire to offer this contribution to our weekend of celebration.

Of course, we know many of her friends after their four years together, and it was fun to see them graduate as well. I have a nephew who also graduated from college yesterday, and a niece who graduated from a graduate program in business. Plus one more niece will graduate next week. Whew. It’s hard to keep track.

What are you celebrating this spring?

Mother’s Day 2011

 Happy Mother’s Day to everyone!!

Today I went to visit my mother who lives, unfortunately, in a senior citizens home. But the seniors made it such a life-affirming experience.

A man was performing, singing and playing an electric piano. He had serious hearing aids in each ear, but here he was, joyfully making music. He said he’s loved the same woman for 49 years. So he wasn’t young. But he had a smile on his face the entire time, performed for 1 and a half hours, told jokes, said a few bits about each song. He had a beautiful voice and gave us a great show.

The last song he played was ‘America, the Beautiful’. These seniors, at least half of them in wheelchairs, all of them infirm in some way, sang along. Many held a hand to their heart. One gentleman in a wheelchair saluted.

Honestly, it was so touching I started to cry. (I’m not known for being sentimental.)

On the way home, I heard one of my all-time favorite songs on the radio. Louis Armstrong, singing ‘It’s a Wonderful World’. He sang these words:

“I see friends shaking hands
Saying how do you do,
They’re really saying,
I love you.”

Those are wonderful words. Louis Armstrong lived during a time of pervasive racism. Yet he could sing this song with beauty and  meaning. That, to me, is a testament to the human spirit.

I wish all of you a wonderful day commemorating a day that is a testament to mothers everywhere. We know what we do.

Frog Dissection-Has Feminism Made Any Progress?

Romance novels have, in my opinion, made great strides in portraying females as strong people who must participate in saving the day. We rarely see helpless heroines saved by manly men. But have people changed so much in real life?

I try very hard to raise my children without stereotypes and to encourage my girls to be interested in all avenues of study and to consider all types of careers. But…

Yesterday, was the day in freshman biology that my daughter had been dreading all year. They had to dissect a frog. There are 8 girls in the class and 6 boys. They always choose their own partners for lab. The boys had paired up among themselves weeks ago for the frog lab. (They weren’t going to do all the work for these squeamish girls.) The girls had wailed and moaned for weeks.

My daughter threw up before class, just to get ready. (She actually brought a toothbrush and toothpaste to school, giving new meaning to the phrase ‘prepared for class’.)

She arrived in class and decided to ask the one boy who’s her friend to be her partner. (Never mind that everyone was already paired up.) He said sure, but he had to admit he might get queasy and need help. She ditched him pronto (and reported that he did get lightheaded later on, thereby embarrassing himself).

She contemplated another boy, Joe. Even though she’s barely ever spoken to Joe, and he’s a nerd, she knew he was the one boy who would do the work on his own. Desperate times call for desperate measures. She asked him to be her partner. (At least she’s not a shrinking violet in the boy department.) He agreed.

Joe’s original partner said, “Hey, what about me?”

Joe said, “Sorry, I’m working with her.” (Girls rule.)

Meanwhile, my daughter had abandoned her friend, a girl with whom she’d been partnered for every lab the entire year. (Did I raise her?) That girl and another began crying (!?!) when they realized they had no one to lean on. The teacher finally had to assign them to a couple of boys and allow groups of three.

The class started the job. My daughter said her goal was to do nothing and look at nothing. (This is honors biology, BTW.)

The next exciting moment arrived when a girl fainted, sliding down to the floor in a swoon worthy of a 19th century heroine. (No stigma of shame assigned to her.) They revived the girl and she and her female partner decamped for the nurse.

Now as my daughter is telling this tale, I’m thinking, Whatever happened to women’s lib? It’s 2011 and these girls are behaving no better than I did back in the dark ages, when, I am sorry to report, I somehow managed to escape dissecting the frog. How hard can I be on my daughter, when I know exactly how she feels? But I have to try. Women need to be positive about science.

I say to her, “The girls didn’t make a good showing for themselves.”
She says, “At least I helped Joe pin the frog to the board.”
I say, “That’s good.”
She adds, “By handing him the pins.”


The frog had still better be the prince, and not the biology lesson.