Vote Smarter Not Harder

research your ballot

Even as someone who avoids the news, I am very aware that there is an election coming up in November.  One race is a big topic on everyone’s mind, but that is not the only item on our ballots. So in today’s post, I would like to encourage you to vote smarter not harder – to take a little time to really look into who and what you are voting for on your entire ballot so that you can make an informed decision on each candidate and ballot initiative.

vote smarter not harder

Researching my ballot is not my favorite way to spend my time and I don’t doubt there are lots of other things that you would rather be doing. But I assure you that it is time well spent. By putting that effort in, I can feel comfortable that I’m voting for the candidate who will potentially cause the least amount of harm or that I’m not supporting a ballot initiative that would cost more than its purported benefit. In the March primary election, one guy running for district court judge actually changed his first name to Judge. At first glance, I thought, “Oh, this guy is already a judge,” but no, he was actually not at all qualified and being intentionally misleading!

How to research your ballot

It can be tricky to find good sources of information about local and state races. I will sit down with my ballot and Google each item. You can search by district (ex: CA 47th Congressional District), by candidate (they all pretty much have their own website these days – it’s a good way to get an idea of their education and professional background), or by region (ex: LA County Voter Guide). Your local bar association will put out a list rating candidates for judicial positions as “well qualified,” “qualified,” or “not qualified.” I’m a big fan of the voter guide put out by the Southern California Public Radio website LAist; I hope that other public radio stations put out similar information. I like to compare what a candidate’s website, LAist, and my local newspapers have to say about things.

The League of Women Voters (LWV) also puts out a voter guide. I love the LWV; it is a non-partisan organization that was founded in 1920 (the year the 19th Amendment was ratified) to help women carry out their responsibilities as voters and today is an organization dedicated to encouraging the active and informed participation of all citizens. The LWV doesn’t take a position on initiatives, it simply presents them as written and explains potential impacts, who is supporting and opposing each one, and what a “yes” vote or a “no” vote would mean. They have a resource called Vote 411 where you can put in your address and get personalized voting information.

A new resource that I just found is Ballotpedia. The website states that its mission is to deliver, “unbiased information to educate and inspire American voters” and it seems to have a lot of straightforward information. I think that I will be incorporating this site into my ballot research.

If you haven’t already received your California voting guide in the mail, here is a link to an online version: California Voting Guide.

Who and what you decide to vote for is none of my business and I wouldn’t presume to offer you my opinions on any of the races or measures. But I do hope that you will consider committing a little bit of your time to looking up the candidates and propositions before you mail you ballot in early or head to the polls. Remember to vote smarter not harder.

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

junior pirates

When I was thinking about posting about International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I consulted my sister – who is an expert in all things piratical – to ask where such a topic would fit in my posting schedule.  She quickly and firmly responded: Health & Wellness Monday. So, today’s post will focus on the health and emotional benefits of talking like a pirate (at least for a day).

International Talk Like a Pirate Day (TLAP) is held annually on September 19.  Established in 2002 by a couple of guys – Ol’ Chumbucket and Cap’n Slappy, they chose September 19 because it was Cap’n Slappy’s ex-wife’s birthday.

The idea for TLAP Day arose out of a handball injury.  One of the guys tweaked something, and exclaimed, “Arrrrrr!” This became an inside joke which evolved into an internationally recognized holiday.

When I learned that delightful tidbit, it reminded me of many years ago when I would play tennis with a group of ladies after work. One of the gals had been a tennis instructor and she was working with me on my hitting.  She kept coaching me to say, “grrrr!” when I hit the ball, but it wasn’t until I switched to “argh!” that my stroke improved. In that moment Pirate Tennis was born. One of the other gals even made us a little logo – a skull (with lovely eyelashes) and crossed tennis rackets (I wish I still had a copy of it to show you!).

How does one celebrate TLAP Day?  However you see fit! You don’t need to partake in excessive amounts of grog or have an elaborate pirate costume; but if any of that is your jam, go for it. Ol’ Chumbucket and Cap’n Slappy are very clear that this is TALK like a pirate day, not ACT like a pirate day. They don’t condone acts of piracy. What it is all about is expressing your pirattitude.

Pirattitude is defined by the Urban Dictionary as the natural attitude that comes from embracing one’s inner pirate. I feel that it has to do with expressing oneself in a bold manner, not worrying about holding back or staying quiet to try to be polite.

So here we can get into the wellness benefits of talking like a pirate – sometimes you just have to let it out!  Don’t be afraid to “Arrrr!” or “Argh!” or however else you feel like you need to exclaim. I mean, I do whisper sweet nothings to the kittens all day long, but some days speaking clearly and articulately is a challenge. The other week, I was going to give a speech at my Toastmasters meeting (online), and it took me four times reading my speech out loud to find my voice. It can feel strange to speak up when you are at home alone.  But try it. Not in that soft, sing-song way that you talk to yourself, in a bold, loud, clear way.

Whether or not you decide to celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day on Saturday, I hope you will take an opportunity to express your pirattitude (even if it is just to your cats).

Loving-Kindness Meditation

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I’m feeling so sad for the world today.

Sometimes, when I’m having a hard time getting a grip on my feelings or keeping my energy focused where I want it, I find a little meditation can be very helpful.

I’m not a regular meditator, but I always feel better when I do. If I meditate on my own, I generally will do a mindfulness meditation, just focusing on my breath and being where I am.  But today’s feelings seem to merit a different kind of meditation. A loving-kindness meditation.

Loving-Kindness meditation, also known as a Metta meditation, is a form that focuses on both self-love and compassion for others. As with most things, there are several versions of the “right” way to do Metta meditation, but I feel comfortable in saying that part of this practice is showing yourself the compassion to accept that however you choose to practice it is the right way for you.

The basic structure of this meditation is that you first focus on yourself, then on one, specific other person, then on the collective.  You can do multiple variations of the specific other. You can also identify the collective as all humanity, or the whole world, or even the universe – or you can do multiple variations here too.

Insight Timer has a bunch of free, guided loving-kindness meditations. I tried this 10-minute meditation with Mark Zelinsky that I thought was nice.

If you want to try it on your own, here is my take on a loving-kindness meditation:

May I be happy
May I be well
May I be safe
May I be peaceful

(now for another – think of someone specific)

May you be happy
May you be well
May you be safe
May you be peaceful

(now think about the whole world)

May we be happy
May we be well
May we be safe
May we be peaceful

Namaste.

Are You Moving Enough?

Well folks, we’ve been participating in the national hermitage movement for a while now (has it been 4 weeks already?). I feel like so far it’s been one of those, this is only temporary kinds of things.  But now that hermitage has been extended until mid-May, we may need to start thinking about how to adopt a more sustainable routine. No matter what, I find that everything is better if I’m moving my body. How about you, are you moving enough?

One thing that has been cramping my style here is that it has been raining.  That makes it very easy for me to blow off any notion that I may have about going outside for a walk.  But regardless of whether I’m out there getting my steps, I still feel like I need a bit more movement in my days and I’ve come to terms with the fact that I need to workout at home.

There are so many options for home workouts these days. I bet we all still have a few workout DVDs laying around (I even found my old favorite, Callanetics on VHS in the garage a while ago – too bad we don’t have a VHS player anymore). I’ve seen a lot of paid content on offer – zoom yoga classes and stuff, but there is also so much free stuff out there, it seems crazy not to take advantage of some of it.

I started just doing yoga on my own a few weeks ago. It’s been good. I have a little routine that I put together for myself. I get to spend more time on poses that focus on my problem areas, I get to move at my own pace, and I get to include poses that aren’t that fashionable these days (like plow and fish). The little series that I have been practicing takes me between 30-40 minutes and afterwards I feel great – taller and aligned and ready for my day.

Not my current yoga situation

But the other morning I just WAS NOT IN THE MOOD. I knew that I need to move but I wasn’t feeling the yoga vibe. So, I dug out my Pilates notebook from college and had my own little mat Pilates session. About 15 minutes later, I was a new woman.

Then I was feeling motivated, so I did something that I have been contemplating for quite a while: I took a ballet class! I searched on YouTube and there were a bunch of options. Sure, my barre was my dining table, but it was a real ballet class with an accompanist, and I wore ballet slippers, so it totally counts.

Ever since San Francisco Ballet had to cancel their season, I’ve been seeing their clips of the dancers taking company class at home. If they can do it, I probably can too.

I was so delighted to find this ballet barre class from the Dutch National Ballet that was classic and straightforward enough that I could attempt to replicate the combinations.

My goodness, it sure was fun!  Ernst (the instructor) would demonstrate and then do the first side with you.  For the second side, you were all alone with Rex (the accompanist).  My brain thought that I totally got it, but my body was not so sure (especially my feet).

Somehow, I survived.  And somewhere deep, down, that little ballerina who lives inside of me woke up a little bit. She is excited at the prospect of inhabiting this body of mine again (I am too). Fortunately, there are no mirrors in my dining room to make either of us aware of how far away we are from the body that she used to inhabit.  It’ll be ok, we will just continue to show up for class with Ernst and Rex every other day or so and maybe eventually we will get my feet to start working again.

So that is my story about finding ways to move more at home.  How about you?  What are you doing?  Are you trying something new?  Something old?

More Enneagram – What’s YOUR Number?

Ok, time for more enneagram. Let’s talk about our results. What did you get?  What do you think about it?

I told you about how I took four different tests and got a different result every time. Here is what my results were:

Fast Accurate Enneagram gave me three types to choose from: type 3 (the Achiever), type 5 (the Investigator), and type 8 (the Challenger).  It offered brief descriptions of each one and left it up to me to decide.

Your Enneagram Coach told me that I was a type 3 (the Successful Achiever). On this test, I got a tied score for 3 and 8 (the Protective Challenger), but the follow up questions tipped the results to a 3. I also scored high on type 5 (the Investigative Thinker).

Truity told me that I was a type one (the Perfectionist).  I also scored high for type 5 and for type 7 in this assessment.

Eclectic Energies typed me as a 5.  My second result was a type 3.  I scored so low on type 8 in this assessment that it didn’t even show up in the results. At all.

So, after all that, I went back to the Rebel Heart Radio podcast.  I paid special attention to what they were saying about types 8, 5, and 3.  Here is what resonated with me:

Type 8, the Challenger (or Protective Challenger)

I have some of these tendencies – I can be very direct for sure. Most of the qualities of this type that resonated with me were negative behaviors not the strengths and good qualities. I kind-of interpret this type as my Virgo rising – it’s the thing where people will ask me what I think and for better or worse, I tell them.

Type 5, the Investigator (Investigative Thinker)

I got this result because I do love to learn about new things, I will get interested in something and spend time researching it.  But I don’t think that my interest in anything goes as far as the way that type 5s are described.  For example, after I finish this post, I’m probably going to be done thinking about the enneagram. I’m also not as analytical as 5s seem to get credit for. And I’m just mildly, not overwhelmingly introverted.

Type 3, the Achiever (Successful Achiever)

The description of this type resonated with me the most. Type 3s are described as adaptable, driven, image-consciousness, optimistic, industrious, self-motivated, efficient, energetic, leaders, and can be workaholics.

The core fears for this type are failing, appearing incompetent and inefficient. Their core desire is to be valuable, admired, and respected. They want to appear successful, focused and productive and tend not to stop to appreciate what they have accomplished. Sometimes it is hard for a 3 to know who they really are because they have created so many personas to fit into different situations.

I feel like I can relate to a lot of the positive and negative traits of the 3, more than any other type.

So that is my exploration of the enneagram. The big selling point for any personality typing was that if you know your type and you know the types of the people around you, you are better able to interact with them in a more positive and productive way. So now that I’ve shared, you should too.

Did you get around to trying any of the assessments from last week?  What results did you get?  What do you think about my results?  Am I more type 5 or type 8 than I’m giving myself credit for? Do you want more enneagram?Let me know what you think!

Any Enneagram

I was thinking that I wanted to post something fun and not-so-current-events related for us all this week. So, I thought we could talk about the enneagram. Any enneagram.

Enneagram is a style of personality-typing.  Like Myer-Briggs only different. I’ve been listening to a podcast where they’ve been talking about it (Rebel Heart Radio).  They are REALLY into it. But in a fun way. I’m on the third of TEN episodes where they talk about it. Because it’s complicated.

There are nine enneagram types (numbers 1-9), then there are “wings” and “levels of integration” and all sorts of other nuances. As I have been listening to the podcast, I’ve been trying to guess my type based on how they are describing each one. They started with nine, so at first, I thought I was a nine, wing one.  Then I was sure that I was a three, wing four but not a straight three. It seems like at some point it all turns to mush, and you might be any enneagram. But I hadn’t gotten that deep into it, was it just dabbler’s skepticism?

I’m not about to let a little skepticism keep me away from a free, online personality test, so today I decided to take an enneagram test to find out.

There are a bunch of free enneagram tests online.  I started with the yourenneagramcoach.com version. The questions are pretty complicated and dense. I got the result that I thought I would, but I had just been listening to the podcast and was familiar with the language that this school uses to describe each type. I decided that I would take another version to confirm my results.

Next, I tried the truity.com test.  I liked these questions better. They were a bit more simply constructed.  I expected to get the same result as the other test, but I wound up somewhere completely different!

Ok, let’s try a third version, that will be the tiebreaker, right?  Not so fast my friend.  I took the version on eclecticenergies.com and got an another completely different answer. And I really didn’t think that I was that version. Maybe I was just getting personality test fatigue (or maybe I have an undiagnosed multiple personality disorder).  I liked the questions in this version best, they were the most straightforward.  I also liked that they give you scores on your wing.

After a break, I couldn’t help it, I decided to try again.  I tried enneagramtest.net and guess what? This time I got all the three types that I had gotten in the other three tests (this test gives you your top three and tells you to choose from the descriptions).

You can read up on enneagrams, but I think it’s more fun to take one (or more) of these tests and let them tell you:

Let me know if you decide to try any enneagram test(s) you take and what you result(s) got.  I’ll post my results in the comments in a bit.

Wash Your Hands

Well, since it’s Health and Wellness Monday, I felt like I couldn’t skip the opportunity to tell you to wash your hands and to discuss current events.  Even though I don’t want to. I mean, this is pretty crazy guys. The word unprecedented has been going around, I certainly feel like it is. On so many levels – there is the virus itself, the public policy response, the social impact, and the unforeseen long-term economic impact.

I’m not an expert on any of these areas and I don’t want to potentially spread any misinformation, but I would like to take this opportunity to contemplate these four points. Maybe you have some better information that you can share with me in the comments.

The Virus

COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that was unknown before the outbreak in China in December 2019. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses (CoV):

… are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.  Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.

https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus

The risk of catching COVID-19 is still low for most people in most locations. Illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults. Once someone catches a virus, their body will create antibodies and they won’t be as susceptible to the same illness again.

Most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around 5 days. It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses (a few hours up to several days).

The issue with this virus is that about 1 in every 5 people who catch it will become seriously ill and need hospital care. Older persons and persons with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes) appear to develop serious illness more often than others.

The virus that causes COVID-19 and the one that caused the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 are related to each other genetically, but the diseases they cause are quite different. SARS was more deadly but much less infectious than COVID-19. There have been no outbreaks of SARS anywhere in the world since 2003. I think this is notable because it implies that this will probably be a similarly short-term world health concern.

Public Policy Response

Let’s agree to that the ultimate objective of the public policy response to the COVID-19 outbreak is intended as a means to curb the spread of the virus in order to protect those most vulnerable to serious illness. Based on various things I’ve read, it seems like everyone will probably catch this, not everyone will get very sick, but those who are susceptible will get seriously ill.

The capacity of the healthcare system is limited, so the best option is to take measures to slow the spread of the virus so that there are hopefully fewer seriously ill people at any given time in an attempt to not overwhelm the healthcare system.

I’m not a public health authority by any means, I am not even a public health amateur. That being said, I am surprised by the delay and haphazard implementation of institutional response. Last week, when the ballet performance that I was planning to attend was canceled, professional sports were still playing to stadiums and arenas full of thousands of people.

As I write this, it’s as if the whole world is canceled – including entire seasons of various sports, events ranging from Coachella to the meetings of my Toastmaster’s club; schools are closed, so are museums and performing arts venues.

Social Impact

This leads to the social impact. I really wonder how the crazy grocery shopping makes any sense in terms of “social distancing.” If you are really worried about exposure, why do you have to go to the store to buy ALL THE FOOD right this moment?  When everyone else is as well. Everyone is in a hurry to get all the stuff that they need to lock themselves in their house for the next month. It strikes me as an unfortunate time to cultivate an “us against them” mentality.

This morning, as I was walking in my neighborhood, I was crossing the street when a mom and her little boy were approaching the corner.  Generally, my neighbors are friendly, and it is common to great people with a smile and a “hello.” This time was different. She not only glared at me, but she turned her back as if to shield her son from me.  Keep in mind, I was probably 20 feet away from them as I passed.

Are we going to start viewing everyone as a potential threat?  I hope not. I hope that we will remember that most of us will probably get sick, but the reason that we are practicing “social distancing” is to help the healthcare system retain its capability to provide services for those of us who have a severe response to the virus.

Long-term Economic Impact

This is what really concerns me.  Let’s say that everyone stays home for the next three, four, five, eight weeks. Healthcare organizations get a grip on things and life gets back to normal. There are still going to be economic repercussions that we can’t begin to imagine.

Here’s an example: I had some freelance work lined up for next week. It was a small project, everything is done remotely, no big deal. There is no reason that what is going on should affect this job, right?  Not so fast my friend. The publication is distributed as part of an event, which was canceled.  So, no need to worry about the print deadline. Will they reschedule the event?  Probably.  Will they still want my help on the publication?  Maybe, maybe not. Maybe now they have the time to do the work that they were going to outsource to me themselves.  I would if I was them.

That is just one example of the kinds of economic ripples I think we are going to be seeing. I don’t imagine that the majority of individuals or organizations who are having their income stream disrupted have 30, 60, 90 days of resources available. I think we are going to see all sorts of domino effects in terms of the economy in the near future.

Wrapping Up

So those are the sorts of things that I have been thinking about in terms of the current situation.

As someone who has been practicing social distancing for a while, I would like to encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to do something that you haven’t felt like you have time for in your normal life.  If you are working from home, think of the time that you aren’t spending commuting as a gift. Don’t spend your energy reading all of the things about the pandemic or binging on reality TV. Do one of those things from your “if only” pile.  Read that stack of books, clean you closets, learn about astrology or enneagrams or Norse mythology, garden, meditate, make something, write something. If you want to write a guest post for this blog, let me know.

Wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and don’t forget to be compassionate toward your fellow humans. We’re all in this together.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

In last week’s ballet review, I found an opportunity to bring up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. When I was thinking about what to post this week, I came across a draft about Maslow’s hierarchy that I had started a while ago.  Seems like the perfect time to dive in, wouldn’t you agree?

Abraham Maslow was a 20th-century American psychologist. He was one of the fathers of the humanistic psychology paradigm, which centers the concept of self.  The individual perceives the world according to their own experiences and this shapes their personality and behavior. For Maslow, foundational needs must be satisfied before an individual can seek to fulfill higher levels of existence.

MaslowsHierarchyOfNeeds.svg
By FireflySixtySeven – Own work using Inkscape, based on Maslow’s paper, A Theory of Human Motivation., CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

The bottom tier of Maslow’s hierarchy is physiological needs – food and shelter, followed by safety, then love and belonging (personal relationships, sense of community, and affiliation with both formal and informal social groups). Esteem, the fourth level in the hierarchy has to do with self-respect and self-confidence as well as the desire to be valued and recognized by others.

The hierarchy is not rigid, one does not need to be completely fulfilled one tier in order to move on to the next level. It is also not absolute – someone may be at the point at which they are striving to fulfill their self-actualization needs and may experience a deficiency in their love/belonging or even physiological needs.

The top tier if Maslow’s hierarchy is self-actualization. This has to do with striving to achieve our potential and satisfying out creative goals. For Maslow, self-actualization is a state in which one is able to transcend ego (this reminds me of our chakra series). It is an interesting paradox.

Scott Barry Kaufman, a professor at Columbia University has revisited and been researching Maslow’s concept of self-actualization.  On his “about” page, I noticed that he refers to his “past life” which made me smile, because I have taken to speaking about the years that I was dancing as my past life.

You can take Dr. Kaufman’s Characteristics of Self-Actualization test (in case you don’t like my hyperlinks, here is the url: https://www.scottbarrykaufman.com/characteristics-of-self-actualization-scale/). I mean, who doesn’t love a good internet personality test? This one is free and anonymous; you don’t have to put in your email address to get the results or anything. I really liked what the questions made me think about.

For Dr. Kaufman, the characteristics of self-actualization are:

  1. Continued freshness of appreciation
  2. Acceptance
  3. Authenticity
  4. Equanimity
  5. Purpose
  6. Efficient perception of reality
  7. Humanitarianism
  8. Peak experiences
  9. Good moral intuition
  10. Creative spirit

You don’t have to have a high score on most (or even many) of these characteristics to be self-actualized.  Different things are more or less important to different people, I can think of lots of people (or maybe it’s just me) who aren’t even interested in having an efficient perception of reality. But someone who scores low on all of these characteristics may be functioning in the little hunger zone, rather than taking advantage of an opportunity to address their big hunger.

Anyway, I thought this was something fun to think about on a Monday.

New Year, Same Suggestions

After the lukewarm success of last year’s new year suggestion categories, I decided to retain the format and keep the same list (for the most part). I’m calling it a lukewarm success because I didn’t really feel any huge sense of accomplishment, but I did feel like it provided a gentle reinforcement for the habits that I wanted to cultivate.  So even though it’s a new year, I’m mostly sticking with the same suggestions because most of what I want to do this year are all the same things that I wanted to do last year.

I still like the keep doing, do more, do better, do less/don’t do paradigm. I think that it works well for continuing productive habits. One category that I think that I have underutilized is do less/don’t do.  There are a few things that have sort of naturally fallen into this category – things like shopping and drinking that don’t necessarily need to go on a new year suggestions list. But I do feel like I need to think about how I can utilize this category better (do better: utilize don’t do category).

I was pleasantly surprised to notice the do better category. I think that I completely forgot about it.  That is a motivating way to keep a lot of my keep doing things in the mix.

2019 Suggestion 2020 Version
Keep getting to the gym 5+ times a week Keep doing – getting to the gym 5+ times a week (it’s not like I’m in good shape, but enough is enough)
Keep working on my writing Keep doing/do more/do better – writing; specifically: blog 2x/week, write 6+ short stories/flash fiction, continue daily morning pages, find new writing exercises and challenges
Do more – get my steps in Do better – meet 10k daily step goal
Do more – call people Keep doing – call people
Do better – use my time more effectively Do better – use my time more effectively (I wish I could move this to keep doing, but I’m not there yet)
   

New for 2020

Do better: thinking about what I eat.  Before I eat it. Not in that obsessive, what’s for lunch as soon as breakfast is finished way, but in a thoughtful, is this really what I want to put in my body right now way.

Do less: keeping things that I don’t need.  I’m talking to you, collection of espadrilles that I haven’t worn since 2018.  Sometimes it is just hard to get rid of something nice, that you like, that is in perfectly good condition, just because it no longer serves you. I don’t think I’m ready for a complete don’t do in terms of keeping things, but if I can let go of a few of these types of things throughout the course of the year, it will feel like a win.

And then, just to be contrary, since everyone is on the intention train, I do have a one silly arbitrary resolution that I want to throw in the mix:

I would like to be able to fold in half again (face to shins with my legs straight out in front of me).

Anything new for your keep doing, do more, do better, do less/don’t do list?  Any old-fashioned arbitrary resolutions?

Practicing Gratitude

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How was your Thanksgiving?  I hope that in addition to enjoying food, friends, and family, you also took a moment to be thankful for the nice things in your life.

For example, I am thankful for you reading, commenting, and sharing this blog.

Gratitude has become a big topic in the zeitgeist these days.  I don’t remember it being such a “thing” when I was younger.  Of course, you were supposed to practice gratitude on Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t a trendy, daily practice type thing. When I stopped to think about it, it is something that seems like it has been building over maybe the past ten years into something that is now ubiquitous.

Maybe seven years ago, I met a neuroscientist who was doing research on the health impacts of gratitude.  I don’t remember all of the methodologies, but the punchline was that there was some sort of measurable, physical benefit.  Apparently, it was a big up-and-coming area of study because now it seems like there is all sorts of scientific research about the positive impacts of practicing gratitude.

I was recently in charge of the impromptu speaking portion of my Toastmasters meeting.  The theme for the meeting was gratitude.  I did a quick google search of gratitude practices and came across the practice of a gratitude jar.  I’m not sure how you’re really supposed to do it, but for my purposes, I cut a bunch of scraps of paper and wrote random things that I would be grateful for.  Then, everyone had to draw a scrap from the jar and speak for one minute about how they are grateful for whatever it was.

I’ll tell you what, I did not expect it to be such a challenge!  I mean there were things like “books,” and “friends,” and “vacation” in the jar.  Two things that really got recipients flummoxed were “apples,” and “cats.” 

I love apples.  I am very grateful for the delicious taste sensation of sliced apple with cheese. But there are so many delightful apple applications to be grateful for – not the least of which is apple pie.  Don’t you agree?  Somehow, this was a stumper.

And cats goes without saying.  If you can’t even pretend to be grateful for cats, I’m not sure what to tell you.

My favorite thanksgiving gratitude practice is taking a yoga class and I have a favorite memory from a few years ago.  It was a usual, beautiful southern California day and I rode my bike down to yoga on the bluff.  I was just telling Mr. Man about how the memory of that day reminds me of so many things that I am grateful for: my pink bike, beautiful California weather, and practicing yoga outside with a whole mess of characters from every walk of life while looking out at the Pacific Ocean.

Like everything else, it is important not to overdo it on gratitude on Thanksgiving and then neglect to practice it for the rest of the year. A moderate amount of gratitude on a regular basis is what is recommended for optimum results.  Try to find one little thing every day, see if you feel a difference.