What changes your outlook?

Sonoran desert view in Arizona.
View from my backyard.

I can’t tell you why, but the past few days I feel better. I didn’t feel bad before, but my attitude has improved. I wake up with more energy and passion for the day.

What have I done to change my outlook?

First, I restarted the “Three Blessings” exercise. In the evening I write down three things that I’m grateful for that happened in my day. And why. According to Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, he’s used this exercise at U Penn on his students and patients and found it to be as effective as anti-depressants.

So, it could be that.

Or, another change I’ve made this week is getting more exercise. I take my morning walk of about 45 minutes. When my walk is over, I either jump in the backyard pool and swim or I hop on my bike for a 20 minutes bike ride. I mix it up according to what I want to do. Yesterday after swimming laps, I treated myself to climbing on the float from Costco feeling the breeze on my wet skin and staring at the sky. It was heavenly.

Today, I biked and enjoyed the breeze and felt good about how much better I did climbing the hill to our house. Yes, I could feel my heart rate rise, but it wasn’t a struggle like it was earlier in the week. Also, I managed to stand up for a few pedals, which I couldn’t do last week. Those are tiny things, but the improvement felt monumental. On the bike, which I haven’t ridden in years, I feel like a kid. I’m not listening to headphones, I’m listening to nature. I get a bit smile as I coast down a hill, trying not to squeeze the brakes, but let myself fly.

Maybe it’s the hard labor I’ve been doing to fix up our rental house before the new tenants come in. Or, the good book I’m reading.

Whatever the reason is, which is most likely a combination of all the above, I like the way I’m feeling today.

woodpecker on a saguaro
I saw this woodpecker on a saguaro as I left my front door.

What improves your attitude? Have you noticed changes in how you’re feeling lately?

Striving for an attitude of gratitude

I woke up the other morning thinking I was in my old Palm Springs home. Have you ever woken up not sure where you are? It happened frequently when we first moved to Arizona but it hasn’t happened to me for months. But, I started to miss my old Spanish Colonial home that day. It was a very pretty and unique home. Filled with memories.

A view from the kitchen to the living room of our old house. The mirror is now in our master bedroom.

It had a good location, too. So why did we move? For many reasons. Although I loved living downtown Palm Springs, we were right behind a hotel. We constantly had to call the ABC or police when the hotel violated their restrictions on noise. Living next to a busy hotel when they violate their liquor license with outdoor amplified music in the middle of the night wasn’t fun. During 2020 the hotel closed. I’m glad we sold the house before it reopened.

rustic small kitchen

The house was stunning, but not that practical. The kitchen was tiny. We called it a one-butt kitchen, but it worked. I could unload the dishwasher, cook and open the fridge without taking a step. I’d rotate in place. I had more than one friend ask me how I dealt with such a tiny kitchen.

master bedroom with open tub and pillars
The master bedroom of our old home.

Some of the things I didn’t like about the house was it had a carport, not a garage. The carport flooded every time it rained. It also got dusty and dirty, because the desert is dusty and dirty.

Another thing I didn’t like was the lack of storage because the house was built in the 1930s. Also, it was so cold in the winter that my fingers would go numb. And don’t get me started on the four-digit electric bill in the summer.

Another thing I don’t miss is the homeless man who peaked through our bedroom windows and slept in our yard. He terrified me. I’d spot him on our cameras every time we left town. He was watching us. I’d leave for my walk and return to find him in our yard.

Spanish colonial Movie Colony home.
View of our old home.

But we have tons of good memories. We raised our family for more than 28 years in that home. Yes, I’ll miss it even though our new house is so much more practical and less expensive to live in. My husband would like the ability to retire someday. Arizona makes that possible. I also feel like I’m living in luxury with a real garage and a kitchen with more cupboards than I can fill.

So I am grateful to be in Arizona. And I’m thankful for my friends, my cat and my family. You see, I’m practicing more gratitude. I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m going to start my gratitude journal and practice the three blessings before I go to bed at night.

The Three Blessings Exercise

This exercise was created by Dr. Martin Seligman and it is extremely easy to follow:

Before going to sleep every night, write down three things that went well that day. They don’t need to be big things. They can be little things that made you happy or that made you smile, or simply that had a positive impact on you. Then write why they went well.

By doing so you focus on the positive aspects of your day instead of the negatives. After a while, it becomes a habit and your mind gets wired to have a more optimistic approach to your daily life. Studies show that after months of doing this exercise, your well-being increases and you feel overall more optimistic.

http://warriorsnotworriers.com/three-blessings-well-being/
I have attempted to do this exercise in the past, but then I forget about it. I think it’s time to get back to it.
sunset view from the Old Movie Colony.
View at sunset from our old backyard.

What are you thankful for as we begin the Fourth of July weekend?

Working on an attitude of gratitude

brother and sister with red hair

I’m grateful for these two.

I keep on promising to write in my gratitude journal. But somehow this crazy 2020 leaves me less than grateful. That’s probably why I need to commit to it more than ever. There’s an exercise known as “Three Blessings” that I should complete every evening for months on end. This is the plan: every evening write three things I’m thankful for that happened during the day. They may be little things, like something beautiful I saw on a walk, or bigger like a new writing job referral. Then after each, I explain why the moment happened. It’s an exercise I learned about from a book called “Flourish” by Martin E.P. Seligman. He says in his book that this exercise has been proven to be just as effective as taking anti-depressants in fighting depression! I find it as a nice way to get grounded after a busy day and reflect on everything that is going well.

I try to have an attitude of gratitude. I didn’t realize how many benefits being grateful brings to your life until I read “Gratitude yields health and social benefits” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman in the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Here’s what they had to say:

Positive emotions such as gratitude open our minds.

With Thanksgiving having passed, we may want a jump start on our New Year’s resolutions. Research shows such a long list of health and social benefits that families might want to focus on cultivating an attitude of gratitude all year long.

Researchers at Northeastern University found that grateful people are more likely to be patient and make wiser decisions.

Gratitude also makes us more likely to take better care of ourselves. In one psychology journal, a study showed that a grateful attitude correlated to a greater willingness to eat healthier foods, exercise more and go to the doctor. Some research even shows that being appreciative boosts willpower.

Counting our blessings before bedtime can also translate to better sleep. One researcher said it may help soothe the nervous system. Not only can gratitude improve our quality of sleep, it can also help us fall asleep faster and sleep longer.

The health benefits of gratitude can’t be overstated. It’s been shown to decrease physical pain, reduce symptoms associated with depression, decrease blood pressure and boost energy levels. In fact, simply cultivating a lifestyle of gratitude can add an average of seven years to your lifespan.

Being grateful also makes us more resilient, less envious, more optimistic, kinder and more social. It’s no wonder that the more grateful a person is, the more likely the person is to have strong social connections, healthier marriages, larger friendship circles and improved networking skills.

Not only does gratitude have the power to transform our health, our social lives and our careers, it can transform our personalities. Research shows that gratitude contributes to a wide range of positive character traits. It makes us humble and it makes us more generous. Together, these traits combat entitlement and self-centeredness. Grateful people are more willing and able to focus on others and can therefore contribute more broadly to their communities.

We the parents have both the opportunity and the obligation to raise children who will have a positive and transformative effect on the future. As we focus on grooming an attitude of gratitude in our kids, we are not only improving their own quality of life but we are helping to change the world one child at a time.

I do believe it’s our duty as parents to instill gratitude as a trait our kids should embrace. One way is to start a gratitude journal. Another tip is to ask your children at dinner or bedtime to name three things they’re grateful for. In the book I’m reading called “Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance” by Julia Cameron, has exercises to list 10 things you cherish. Another day there I was asked to write 10 things I’m thankful for. It’s not a bad thing to do. By the way, I gave my husband a journal of gratitude and he’s enjoying writing a few things each day.

As parents, I think we need to let our kids and family know how much they mean to us. It’s that time of year!

What are you most grateful for in your life?

This simple exercise can be better than medication to fight depression

“Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.”

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What other exercises do you find effective to fight anxiety and depression?

How to improve happiness in 10 minutes a day

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A view from our “Wellness Park” in Palm Springs.

Is it possible to make yourself feel better and happier by doing a simple 10-minute exercise daily? In a book I’m reading called Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, I learned about a simple practice called What-Went-Well Exercise or Three Blessings:

“Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance. (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).

“Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?” For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up ice cream, write “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes” or “because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.” Or if you wrote, “My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy,” you might pick as the cause “God was looking out for her” or “She did everything right during her pregnancy.”

“Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.”

The book Flourish is written by Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D. bestselling author of Authentic Happiness. He’s world renowned for his work on Positive Psychology and is the Zellerbach Family Professor Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. I heard about the book from David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life, who is used as a consultant by USA Swimming, and holds monthly webinars about Sports Parenting.

Here’s why Seligman says this Three Blessings exercise works:

“We think too much about what goes wrong and not enough about what goes right in our lives. Of course, sometimes it makes sense to analyze bad events so that we can learn from and avoid them in the future. However, people tend to spend more time thinking about what is bad in life than is helpful. Worse, this focus on negative events sets us up for anxiety and depression. One way to keep this from happening is to get better at thinking about and savoring what went well.”

I’ve only begun reading the book, but this simple exercise seems like something not too difficult to do. If it increases a sense of well-being then why not give it a try? Yesterday, I was thankful for more than three things. They included having a pedicure and glancing at my daughter in the seat next to me–because it’s a mother-daughter tradition we’ve done for years and I cherish our time together. Second, was working on a book proposal. The reason why is because I’m making progress and accomplishment is satisfying. Third was a phone call with a friend I’ve had since my oldest was in kindergarten. We met in the women’s restroom after dropping our oldest kids off on their first day of school! It’s so nice to know I have supportive friends in my life that will come to my aid when I need them.

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What are your thoughts about what you’re thankful for today? Do you think you’ll give the Three Blessings exercise a try? If you do, please let me know if you notice any changes in your sense of happiness and well-being.