Thanksgiving is a way of life.

Today is Thanksgiving and it brings with it a plethora of emotions. I have been interviewed many times by magazines and holiday stress has always been the number one topic. It seems ironic that a period of time that is supposed to be focused on experiencing gratitude, joy, and connection with family and friends is often fraught with anxiety.

The biggest culprit is the expectation that things could be different this year. But, as I have learned, nothing changes in and of itself. It takes a certain degree of effort to create a different paradigm. Unfortunately most of us have ways of seeing situations in certain ways and it takes work to see them differently. We may have grudges against a relative or relatives, be trying to recover from grief, dealing with pain, or in a difficult relationship. Suddenly, the messages surrounding us from the media are to be grateful, be happy, forget the past and just hold hands and sing “We are the World”.

Would Thanksgiving be less of a hassle if grateful living were its predecessor? Could we get along with some of the most irritating and difficult people at the dinner table if we could see the potential in learning more patience and understanding? I know this sounds like a page out of a self-help book, but it definitely has some merit. Consider how much energy we put into discussing how someone or somethings drives us nuts versus how often we share how many things we’re grateful for. Think about how much less stress we would have if we could simply stop repeating stories about old grievances. This is not an easy task since it takes awareness and the desire to change our perspective. Letting go can also help our immune system.

Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is tough. We live in a society based on striving. Our busy, techno driven culture takes a lot of our attention. However, gratefulness is not necessarily about having to stop throughout the day to write in a journal. It is really about letting go of a victim mentality, a sense of entitlement and deservedness. I suggest you read Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Dr. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, one of the foremost authorities on the topic of gratitude in North America.

Perhaps this year you may want to start your meal by asking everyone seated at the table what they are grateful for. Beginning your meal with this conversation could dampen any need to discuss “old stuff”. You might want to have everyone write in a gratitude journal as well. This could help you to counter some negative feelings you have about its author.

You could discover that practicing gratitude as a way of life may make your life happier, healthier and less stressful


Children are losing their imaginations to computers, “Nature Deprived Syndrome”

I have spent the last half hour sitting on my deck steeping myself in the wonders of Spring. “At Last”, a song made famous by Etta James, should be played on the New England airwaves hourly. I have waited, as I’m sure many others have who live in this neck of the woods, for the snow, ice, and bitter cold to finally give us a respite. I was beginning to think I should build an Igloo. It has been an unusually long and tough winter.

This time of year is especially exciting for me because I love my garden, and all it has to offer. As each new plant inches its way out of its’ winter hibernation, I feel a sense of awe and delight. This is not a new feeling, as I have felt this way since I was a child. The outdoors always was magical for me and a great deal of my playmates. We would spend hours trekking through lots seeking hidden treasures and building forts out of old lumber, branches and twigs. Our greatest moments were sitting, huddled inside our fort telling scary stories or pretending that we were part of a medieval kingdom. I always wanted to be the queen, but more than not I was relegated to being a Lady in Waiting or a Knight, which was fine with me. If I was the Lady in Waiting I would wrap myself in my mothers’ old lace curtains and weave some flowers for a headdress. As a Knight I fashioned a bow and arrow out of twigs and put my grandmothers’ colander on my head. I believe that probably was the origins of the career I have today. The ability to simply use my innate creativity and have so much fun doing it was like taking a class in improvisation.

I feel badly for children today since I don’t think many of them are going to have these types of experiences. I hardly ever see kids playing outside anymore. The American Pediatric Society has said that children are starting to lose their ability to imagine in lieu of all the computer games that do it for them. They have even coined a new disorder “Nature Deprived Syndrome” since so many kids don’t get to immerse themselves in the joys that the outdoors can offer them. They also see this as one of the reasons there are so many obese children. DUH! Parents have been given so many fear messages by the media about so many things, that going outside has become something to be feared.  I know there are still parents who have instilled a love of nature in their children, but for those who haven’t, please give your kids the opportunity to enjoy and respect what is possibly the greatest gift we’ve been given.

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