Sometimes FUNNY is less HA HA HA
and a lot more of AHHHH-HAAAAAA. . .
Who Cares - What Matters
Sometimes FUNNY is less HA HA HA
and a lot more of AHHHH-HAAAAAA. . .
DARE WE BE QUIET. . .
DARE WE BE STILL. . .
NOW THAT YOU HAVE HEARD/SEEN THE POEM
R E A D
KEEPING STILL Pablo Neruda (Translated from the Spanish by Dan Bellm) Now we will count to twelve and let’s keep quiet. For once on earth let’s not talk in any language; let’s stop for one second, and not move our arms so much. A moment like that would smell sweet, no hurry, no engines, all of us at the same time in need of rest. Fishermen in the cold sea would stop harming whales and the gatherer of salt would look at his hurt hands. Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire, victories with no survivors, would put on clean clothes and go for a walk with their brothers out in the shade, doing nothing. Just don’t confuse what I want with total inaction; it’s life and life only; I’m not talking about death. If we weren’t so single-minded about keeping our lives moving and could maybe do nothing for once a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves, of threatening ourselves with death; perhaps the earth could teach us; everything would seem dead and then be alive. Now I will count up to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go.
we were told
and often were offended
by this not-so-gentle
but power it is
Shhhhhhhh yourself down
Hush Hush yourself
to a Peace that be found
no other way
Let the self-imposed Stillness
SCREAM at you
what you truly need to hear
(FALLING SILENT IS THE GENTLEST FALLING DOWN THERE IS)
(And have a HAPPY MONDAY in your own ‘shushed’ way)
T H I S
is a picture that needs no caption
especially TIME of the year
when our already hectic lives go in to
C H A O S
m o d e
CRAZY ON STEROIDS. . .
where calm feels like just a word
but not a feeling
or another WAY. . .
which is why I dug deep into my files
and with the help of the
GREATER GOOD Editors
have provided some much needed
r e s p i t e
(IF YOU’LL TAKE IT TO HAVE IT)
The holidays can be rough—really rough at times; so here are literally dozens of articles and that try to help readers navigate the issues that arise when far-flung family members gather, everyone expects a present, and they all have an opinion. There are also some collected articles on making sense of this quickly-almost-gone-previous year and looking ahead to the new one. However you celebrate or are celebrated, here’s wishing you some severely-well-deserved-happy holidays!
It’s enough to just not get your wires crossed but to literally,
BLOW A CIRCUIT. . .
and here’s the biggest kicker of all,
it’s not that we don’t have the
R E S O U R C E S
WHAT TO DO’S
(uhhhhhhhhhhhh did you see how long this blog post is, already)
so much as utilizing them
plugging some of them in
and unplugging a few others
B U T
will you. . .
It just may be all of the difference between a really good or a really bad
h o l i d a y
(AND YOU GET TO CHOOSE. . .or let it CHOOSE FOR YOU)
THERE IS AN ART TO DOING NOTHING. . .
N O T H I N G
that means, not listening to music or doodling or meditating or yoga or breath work or daydreaming or conniving or scheming or once-upon-a-timing or, Or, OR, ORRING
N O T H I N G
HUGE STACKED BOXES OF
n o t h i n g
. . .and so when I recently read I WANT TO BE UNPRODUCTIVE, a little piece from Danielle Coffyn, who has ever reason to be doing everything but NOTHING. Danielle is a writer, mother, teacher, mental health advocate, eating disorder survivor, and outdoor enthusiast. She started her poetry account @musingsonbeing in 2021 where she worked through her perfectionism by sharing rough drafts of her work. Her main themes include healing, feminism, rewilding, mental health, and reclaiming the body. She is a co-founder of The Superbloom Society, a community for anyone looking to build authentic, intentional connection through writing workshops and retreats.
I WANT TO BE UNPRODUCTIVE
to ponder the meaning of yellow. to listen as summer cicadas sing their final symphony of the season. to dine with friends. to savor course after course. to inhale the scent of San Marzano tomatoes bathed in balsamic brine. to taste vanilla bean gelato and espresso marry on my tongue. to study the morning habits of a neighborhood robin. to plunge blistered toes into sun-ripened sand. to float in the sea. to feel my heartbeat slow to the rhythm of the tide. to memorize the laugh lines of a California redwood. to spend a morning rereading stories from childhood. to determine which song most resembles a honey bee collecting lavender pollen. to observe a spider spinning her web. to chart freckled constellations along my child’s spine. to taste test every croissant in the city. to rest for the sole purpose of slowing down. to savor stillness. to allow myself the gift of being.
WE ALL KNOW WHERE TO GET OUR WAX. . .
but the best is when you do a
coming to the WICK
instead of the candle chasing it in the wind. . .
Most of us feel like we just need to
and take a moment to process
and some of us do all we can
to make sure we don’t. . .
WHAT SAY YOU
It’s hard to think pleasant thoughts—but a new study suggests a quick way to make it easier. . .
Kira M. Newman of the Greater Good Magazine took an inside peak of dealing with our THOUGHTS, Alone.
Be optimistic. Think happy thoughts. Lots of happiness advice makes it sound as if we could flip a switch and fill our heads with puppies and rainbows—and wouldn’t that be great?
But it turns out that positive thinking isn’t so easy. In an infamous 2014 study where people had 15 minutes to mentally entertain themselves, about 40 percent chose to help pass the time by—no, not meditating—receiving an electric shock.
In fact, a recent study found that only 13 percent of people’s thoughts are positive and inner-directed, and they enjoy those thoughts more when they arise spontaneously. (In other words, they prefer that happy thoughts come naturally rather than putting in the effort to “think positive.”)
Could this process be easier and more enjoyable? It’s not an idle question: According to the researchers behind the new study, if people were better able to generate pleasant thoughts, they might rely less on technology for constant stimulation. It could help those who have trouble falling asleep, or who start pounding the steering wheel in traffic.
The researchers didn’t find a magic switch. But they did discover a simple trick.
Across four studies, more than 250 college undergraduates and 800 online participants started by listing eight topics they’d enjoy thinking about, including memories, fantasies, and things they were looking forward to. People wrote down everything from their wedding day to Valentine’s Day, their family or the summer, eating decadent cake, or living in the World of Warcraft universe.
Next, participants (alone in a room) were instructed to entertain themselves for four to six minutes with thoughts about the topics they had listed. “Your goal should be to have a pleasant experience, as opposed to spending the time focusing on everyday activities or negative things,” the researchers advised.
That was it, except for one small difference: Half of the participants had access to their list of topics, either written on notecards or displayed on a computer screen one by one. The other half didn’t.
Afterward, participants rated how pleasant the activity was (how enjoyable, entertaining, and boring) and how cognitively difficult it was (how hard it was to concentrate, how much their mind wandered, and how much time they devoted to irrelevant topics).
Ultimately, the researchers found that the group who could look at their list of topics found the experience more pleasant and less cognitively demanding. All the participants had made lists in the first part of the experiment, but having access to that “thinking aid” was key.
“Often when we have a few free minutes, we reach for our cell phones to entertain us,” says Erin C. Westgate of the University of Virginia. “But with a little planning ahead of time, we might be able to use our own minds instead.”
She and her co-authors (including Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University) speculate that the list might have made it easier for people to concentrate; to remember their go-to, happiness-boosting topics; or to decide which one to think about when.
After reading this study, I’ve already put up some kind of posters and art work in my little man cave, filled it with images of loved ones, surrounded by my favorite books, with a great sound system and yes, even a nice ECHO that allows me to listen to music that seems to fit my mood or my anxiety at any given time. Those are certainly better than an electric shock!
When something really bad happens to you, how do you think about your future? Catastrophizers think, Everything will now unravel, and my life will be ruined. This mindset turns out to be an enormous impediment to happiness and, even worse, it is a major risk factor for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
We found this out by tracking every single one of the 79,438 U.S. Army soldiers who deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan from 2009 to 2013. On their very first day in the Army, they took a psychological questionnaire asking them to rate how they felt about several statements related to pessimism and its most extreme form, catastrophization. For example:
It turns out that we could have used the day-one questionnaire to predict robustly who would develop PTSD. Catastrophizers who faced severe combat stress were almost four times as likely as noncatastrophizers to get PTSD over the course of their service. But even those catastrophizers who faced minimal combat were at greater risk for PTSD than noncatastrophizers, and at all other levels of combat as well.
Combat is near the extreme of the bad events that human beings face. So what is the lesson for the rest of us, the civilian population? If you catastrophize, you will likely suffer more from bad events, and if you have the opposite, optimistic mindset, you will likely be more resilient.
I confess that I am a catastrophizer, but I take my own medicine. I have learned how to combat catastrophization, and you can too. In our upcoming book Tomorrowmind, Gabriella Rosen Kellerman and I discuss how you can build this strength. One potent exercise is “putting it in perspective”: you begin by imagining a troubling event which has an uncertain, but potentially terrible, explanation. For soldiers, the example was a man missing at night. They start with the worst possible explanation: “He’s dead, and it’s all my fault.” Then, the best possible: “His radio battery died, and he will show up in a few minutes.” Finally, the most likely, along with plans to cope with it: “He’s probably injured, so we need to retrace our steps, find him, and bring him back.” Following this pattern built resilience in soldiers.
When COVID-19 broke out as I neared my 78th birthday, I catastrophized: “I’m in the most vulnerable group. I am sure to die.” But then I asked myself about the best outcome: “I am very healthy and will likely escape altogether.” And then I focused on the most likely outcome, and I planned for it: “I will isolate for now as best I can, take all the vaccines, and escape with a mild case, if that.” There is no way to completely eliminate uncertainty from your life. But this exercise is one way to systematically reduce catastrophization—and, therefore, both maintain happiness despite uncertainty and develop emotional resilience.
Do you have Stinking’ Thinking’?
Are you a true Catastrophizer. . .
and you handle it by______________________
and now you will at least try to:
I once put in a Work Suggestion Box that
E V E R Y O N E
should have their Birthday off
. . .in fact, it would be a fireable offense to work on your Birthday
. . in fact, not only should you have your Birthday off
but the day before and the day after, too. . .
IF YOUR BIRTHDAY
falls on the weekend, even better,
you’d either get the Friday before or the Monday after
. . .uhhhhh, THAT IDEA
never even got a reaction let alone approval
(I thought it would be an absolute MORALE BOOSTER
saying, YOU COUNT; WE VALUE YOU)
I always take off Birthday’s. . .
THE WHOLE WEEK
Mine and Erin’s. . .
we really don’t do much or go anywhere all that special
in fact, our Birthday weeks this year in March and now finishing up this week in August, we were both kind of under a cloud but always with a few rays of sunshine among some of the raindrops
WHICH MEANS WE SHOULD NEVER CELEBRATE
FOR A WEEK AGAIN
(maybe we should actually take off two weeks)
But before the fireworks get canceled
p a u s e
(ever so briefly)
and RAMP UP the
C E L E B R A T I O N
even more. . .
Like a Trick Candle
my life has ignited
Only to be blown out
e x t i n g u i s h e d
just to sputter back up into
that tricks the dark
HOW YA DOING’S
THINKING ABOUT YOU’S
. . .some from people I’m not sure I even know
as they came across the many forms of
Which not only tells me that the Celebration never ends but continues on in a variety of surprising ways if we take the time to not just notice but to abundantly EXPERIENCE
Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. . .
here’s a secret to keeping
g o i n g
We are all
s h a t t e r e d
in so many places
we can barely call it
B r O k e N e D
so we reframe it and call it
R E G R E T S
and not always the ones that
belts out in
MY WAY. . .
which is exactly why we need to understand
Have you ever regretted something you did or didn’t do in life?
If you’ve lived a long life, you probably carry many regrets, large and small. Some of my own regrets relate to my career (why did I never become a teacher and a basketball coach; a full-fledge writer), past relationships (why did I lose a good friend over a small disagreement), and parenting (why didn’t I respond instead of react well to my kid’s worries and unmet expectations?). No matter the regret, it’s hard not to wonder how things might have turned out if I’d only made a different—and better—choice at the time. I thought I was reading this book to help some of the patients I families I meet every day in the hospice setting. . .well. . .
Ruminating on past mistakes is a downer and can lead to depression or anxiety if it continues unabated. But a new book by psychologist Robert Leahy, If Only…Finding Freedom from Regret, suggests that regrets don’t always have to bog you down. If you understand how regrets work, recognize their effect on your decision making, and find ways to manage life’s inevitable disappointments, you can suffer less from regret and, instead, use your regrets as helpful guideposts for your life.
“Regret is a part of life, but it doesn’t have to take over and hijack you,” he writes.
Regret can come in different forms—for something we did (like overeating or hurting our loved one) or something we didn’t do (like not graduating from college or not asking someone out on a date). Most people have a mixture of both types, though the latter tends to make us feel worse, writes Leahy.
According to research, the most common sources of regret involve our education, career, romance, and parenting (in that order). That’s because we tend to regret things that reflect bigger concerns and opportunities in life, rather than what we ate for breakfast.
Culture can affect how people experience regret, too, with people from more individualistic cultures usually having more regrets about their personal situation (like achievement or career) and those in collectivist cultures having more regrets about their relationships. And women and men differ some in how they experience regret, with women typically regretting romantic and sexual relationships more than men and men regretting inaction more than action.
Regret is associated with unpleasant emotions, like sadness, disappointment, guilt, and shame. But people also regard it as one of the most beneficial negative emotions, because it can be instructive. For example, if we regret how we behaved the last time we drank too much, we’re less likely to order a third round the next time we’re at the bar. Or, if we regret yelling at our child when angry, we may take a breath the next time we’re upset and respond with compassion.
Our regrets can teach us about ourselves, help us to avoid repeating mistakes, and encourage us to make better decisions in the future. On the other hand, if we use our regrets to beat ourselves up, or if we ignore them completely, they will not lead to growth. The key is finding the right balance, says Leahy.
“Regret doesn’t have to lead directly to self-recrimination,” he writes. But “never feeling regret is not a sign of wisdom or righteousness. It may be a sign you don’t learn from your mistakes.”
Some of us are more prone to regret than others, and Leahy provides multiple questionnaires within his book to help you identify where you fall on that scale. Though there is no way to eliminate regret completely—and the world would be worse if we did—there are factors that increase our chances of experiencing regret in a more negative way and suffering from it, says Leahy. Here are some of those risk factors.
Not tolerating ambivalence. Many life choices have pros and cons, and there are no guarantees about the future. But, if you can’t stand uncertainty, you are bound to avoid making hard choices, leaving you vulnerable to later regrets.
Falling prey to biases. We all have cognitive biases, but some influence regret more than others. If you suffer a lot from negativity bias (discounting or not even seeing the positives in your life), black-and-white thinking (thinking things are either all good or all bad), or catastrophizing (thinking that if something goes wrong, you won’t be able to handle it), it’s bound to affect how much you suffer regret.
Worrying about “buyer’s remorse” or how bad we’ll feel in the future. If you’re the kind of person who often anticipates feeling awful for making a choice, it may keep you from deciding on a course of action that could bring you happiness, increasing the potential for regret.
Having too many choices. “Regret is an opportunity emotion—the more opportunity we see, the more likely we are to regret something,” writes Leahy. For example, a college graduate with multiple job offers might regret taking one over another, especially if it doesn’t pan out. Having too many choices increases your potential for making the “wrong” one.
Being a perfectionist. If you expect to have an ideal, happy life all of the time and are not easily satisfied, you will be more prone to regret. “Maximizers” (people who seek out optimal outcomes) tend to feel more regret than “satisficers” (people who are content with good-enough outcomes), unless they can take steps to lessen their maximizing tendencies.
“Regret is a possible element of any decision that we make,” writes Leahy. “But the likelihood that you will regret your decisions will depend on how you think about making your decisions and how you cope with living with the result.”
If you’re someone who lets past regrets fester in your mind, Leahy recommends that you fight against irrational thinking and think more realistically about where you are in life. He suggests using approaches from cognitive-behavioral therapy to question your assumptions. Here are some of his tips.
Remember that you don’t know things would have turned out better.If you imagine your life would have been better “if only…,” keep in mind that your assumption is not based on real evidence. Instead of focusing on where you might have been, turn toward the future and remember it can change based on the choices you make now.
Focus on the positive aspects of your current life, to balance out the negative feelings that come with regret. Your negativity bias can keep you preoccupied with what’s wrong rather than what’s right. So, it’s a good idea to practice gratitude for the good in your life—even for the small, simple things.
Don’t forget that sometimes things don’t turn out the way you wanted them to, even with your most thoughtful planning. Life can hand you lemons, but that’s not necessarily your fault. You cannot be omniscient; so, you need to accept that sometimes you will regret your choices. But that doesn’t mean you should criticize yourself endlessly. Better to learn from your mistakes than to punish yourself.
Accept tradeoffs and compromises. Not everything has to turn out just the way you wanted it to. You will stymie your progress if you insist otherwise and make yourself miserable in the process. So, aim to be a satisficer rather than a maximizer.
Overall, Leahy advises that, once you’ve learned whatever lessons regret can teach you, you can let go of unrealistic expectations about what might have been, enjoy your life as it is, and start planning for a better future.
“Look around you at what is in the present moment and hold on to it with a warm embrace,” he writes. “Because your regrets will only keep you from what you have and who you are and trap you in a fictional world that never was—and never could have been.”
Life isn’t always
(forgive the pun)
what it’s suppose to be
but then again. . .
when it comes at us in
We have a better way of
and savoring all of the goodness out of it
we can. . .