May is a special month for celebrations, remembrances, and on May 1, 2017 marches to support workers and immigrants. Celebrating gives people a sense of belonging -- from birthdays to funerals, from office promotions to workers retiring, and of course, graduations. Even a protest march is unifying in that it is a way to express a common goal. And for people who believe in the power of gratitude, each day is a life-affirming celebration.
When Dr. Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California (Davis) and editor of the Journal of Positive Psychology, studied three groups to determine the impact of gratitude, he found that those in the gratitude group were less likely to experience depression and stress. Later, with his colleagues, they studied gratitude in children, and found that the gratitude group was kinder and more civic minded. Here are some thoughts for May.
1. Attend a May Day celebration in Europe or join marches across the United States. Traditionally International Workers Day, it may well be one of the largest of the immigrant marches since 2006 when people demanded reforms as reported in The Nation. Today is important for activists and advocates especially with the "build a wall" mindset from the White House.
2. Begin your days in May with a thank you. If you are with someone special when you awake in the morning, simply say, “Thank you for being here. I love you.” And if you are alone, look out your window and say, “Thank you, world. I love you.”
3. May 3rd is a date designated by UNESCO as World Press Freedom Day 2017. It is a time to celebrate "the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world; to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession." And may the press in the United States be free to write the truth without threats and derogatory words. Unesco
4. Be grateful for and support the arts. On May 2nd Boston’s Liberty Hotel was the venue for a lively podcast launch of a millennial love story RED LINE by G. D. Spilsbury, author of "That Year in Boston." Show appreciation for authors in your own neighbor by attending book readings and buying their books. Video interview and more information about Spilbury's podcast fiction.
5. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo which in the US, often means party time with a Mexican menu and theme. But it is also a time to commemorate and be grateful for the Mexican culture.
6. Make yourself a lavish hat for the Kentucky Derby and watch the horse race with friends on May 6th.
7. Pretend you are in Paris and give a bouquet of lily of the valley to someone special. Tradition says that for King Charles IX these were a lucky charm.
8. After the horse race and Cinco de Mayo celebrations, help out at an animal shelter or take home a pet and shower the animal with love.
9. With Mother's Day just a few days away, write a note to your mother or to someone else’s mother. Tell them what they mean to you. Then buy a stamp and send the note via the US Mail instead of email. Here's a simple start: "I am so grateful to you. I can think of a million reasons, but here is just one."
10. Set aside time to give the gift of listening to someone special. Make a date if you must, in your own home or at a quiet little place in the neighborhood for coffee or a drink and just listen to one another “think out loud.”
11. Take walks through your neighborhood and express gratitude for wherever it is you happen to be. Have a look at the trees. In the east, many of the flowering trees are coming into bloom. And of course, revel in May's flowers.
12. Remember Mother’s Day. Here is a link to "Mother's Day Traditions Around the World" in Scholastic Magazine.
13. Find an outdoor concert such as "Summer on the Hudson: Irish Arts Center." And when the music lifts you, thank whomever it is that shared the event with you.
14. Send flowers to someone for no reason at all – it is an act that will awaken your spirit of gratitude.
15. Tell someone who has hurt you that you are sorry, even if he or she is at fault. It makes you the bigger and more loving person. Practice forgiveness.
16. Make a decision to bring romance into your life. You will feel healthier because you will sleep better, smile more often, and your joy will be contagious.
17. Appreciate the value of laughter; it is one of the best-kept secrets to lasting love.
18. Collect laugh out loud cards to send to friends. When you are feeling blue, these will be a pick me up.
19. Find encouraging words for graduates. The 2013 words on kindness by George Saunders, who teaches at Syracuse University, was released as a book: "Congratulations, by the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness" in Psychology Today.
20. Be respectful of all of our veterans on Armed Forces Day. If one is your neighbor, express your appreciation for their service.
22. Read at least one uplifting book on the best seller list.
23. Memorize the ways that gratitude can bring back your smile on days when love and joy seem to elude you: How Gratitude Can Bring Back Your Smile.
24. Practice mindfulness. May is midway between the beginning of spring and the summer solstice. This is a good time to rethink our lives and focus on the positive.
25. Rewrite your story if you are feeling particularly unhappy. We all have a story to tell, even though sometimes our stories mingle between reality and what we choose to remember. However, what determines our destiny is oftentimes the way we fashion our stories. While it is always best to err on the side of truth, sometimes we are driven to reshape unhappy experiences to find a smidgen of the positive; doing so can be life preserving.
26. Take to heart what we learned from the research of Marcel Zentner, a professor of psychology at the University of Innsbruck: "Men and women who continue to maintain that their partner is attractive, funny, kind and ideal for them — in just about every way — remain content with each other." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. It is one of the secrets to lifelong love.
27. Keep your mind free of clutter and anger so when Synchronicity greets you, you will be receptive to its gift. Synchronicity Can Signal Love Moments or Breakthroughs.
28. Memoir writing has soared in popularity in recent years. It is one avenue for recording life's experiences. Viewing the memoir within the genre of creative non-fiction makes it easier to write a personal, family or love history from the perspective of gratitude. With spring in the air, it might be time to buy a new journal, pen words on a card, or begin writing your story, one memory at a time.
29. Observe Memorial Day by honoring and remembering those who died serving our country.
30. Make a commitment to begin an exercise class or join a walking group for your health and well-being.
31. Start training your brain for gratitude. Dr. Loretta Graziano Breuning says that you can create a neural pathway in your brain if you work at it consistently for at least 45 days. Forgiveness and the gratitude factor.
Copyright 2017 Rita Watson
A Review of 50 Years of Research on Naturally Occurring Family Routines and Rituals: Cause for Celebration? Barbara H. Fiese, Thomas J. Tomcho, Michael Douglas, Kimberly Josephs, Scott Poltrock, and Tim Baker. Syracuse University Journal of Family Psychology. Copyright 2002 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 2002, Vol. 16, No. 4, 381–390