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31 Ideas for Celebrating and Contemplating May 2018

Let the merry month of May invigorate you despite this year of turmoil.

Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

There is a flowering Magnolia tree at the end of our road. We revel in its beauty. Yet as we admire nature's flowers, we should also pause a moment to consider all those at the Mexican border hoping to find asylum in the United States.

This is a month to contemplate and celebrate despite this year of political turmoil and tragedy.

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 helps people express a common goal. May 2017 was marked by marches throughout this country and Europe -- demonstrations over the rights of workers and immigrants. Here are some thoughts for May 2018.

1. Attend a May Day celebration in Europe, a children’s Maypole dance, or meet with friends to talk about a May Day issue such as labor rights and immigration. How Lawyers and Psychologists are Helping Immigrant Children (Psychology Today).

2. Begin your days in May with a thank you. 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.

3. This is World Press Freedom Day. It was so designated by UNESCO. The global theme this year is “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law.”

4. Get ready for Kentucky Derby Day. Plan your parties. Pick our your hats and your horses. The 144th annual Kentucky Derby is slated for May 5th at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

5. Cinco de Maio and the Kentucky Derby -- Two celebrations, one a distinctly US event, and one with great thanks to Mexico. Enjoy the race and lift a toast to our border neighbors. The day has come to mean a celebration of Mexican-American culture. Contemplate the meaning of living in a country that has traditionally welcomed immigrants and ask yourself this -- why the emphasis on a wall instead of an embrace?

6. World Laughter Day. Smiles and laughter are contagious as we learned from studies by Robert R. Provine, a neuroscientist and professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Try laughing alone in a group and within minutes the laughter and good feelings spread gleefully. Try to develop a “you light up my life smile.” Love Connections: A Duchenne Smile and Gratitude (Psychology Today.)

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 dainty flowers were a lucky charm.

8. National Teacher’s Day. Keep in mind that teacher’s play a major role in our children's lives. They teach. They encourage. They support. They comfort. And these dedicated educators often need to spend their own money for supplies. Support their efforts to convey their need for fair wages.

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 share thoughts and dreams.

11. Take walks through your neighborhood and express gratitude for wherever it is you happen to be. Have a look at the trees and be grateful for May's flowers.

12 Remember Mother’s Day. Enjoy reading this from Scholastic: Mother's Day Traditions Around the World.

13. Find an outdoor concert. And when the music lifts you, thank whomever it is that is sharing the event with you.

14. Honor the memory of the 17 students lost to gun violence just three months ago on Valentine's Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Perhaps this day join "Mothers Demand Action" or at least learn about ways to end gun violence in America. The Triumph of Love and Activism Over Tragedy (Psychology Today).

15. Think forgiveness. 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. Promise yourself a good night’s sleep. And if you are having trouble sleeping, try the to-do list method. Sleep helps us stay healthy and think clearly. For Sleep that Eludes Millions, This To-Do List Offers Hope (Psychology Today).

18. Get ready for the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and while you wait -- Collect laugh out loud cards to send to friends. When you are feeling blue, these will be a pick me up.

19. Respect Armed Forces Day: Be grateful for all of our veterans on Armed Forces Day. If you have relatives or neighbors who are veterans, express your appreciation for their service.

Watch the televised Royal Wedding.

20. It's World Bee Day -- Bees pollinate our flowers. And it is a good time to think of encouraging words for graduates -- to help students blossom. Words on kindness by Professor George Saunders, Syracuse University, were delivered in a graduation address in 2013. This eleven minute speech was released as a book: Congratulations, by the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness in Keeping Regret at Bay (Psychology Today).

21. See why Danes are such a happy people according to the World Happiness Report. In 2018 they again ranked in the top three and have been ranked accordingly for the past seven years. Why are the Danes so happy?

22. International Day for Biological Diversity. This day is a time to contemplate strategies to protect biodiversity -- the variety of life on the planet. “Today, habitats are degrading and leading to a reduction in biodiversity, a problem that directly affects human well-being, poverty reduction and global sustainable development." It was declared so by the United Nations General Assembly.

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 (Psychology Today).

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 personal 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.

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 (Psychology Today).

28. ​Memoir writing has soared in popularity. 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, sit outdoors, and begin writing your story, one memory at a time. Give Yourself a Memoir Gift, One Memory at a Time (Psychology Today).

29. Observe Memorial Day by honoring and remembering the men and women 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 (Psychology Today). Dr. Loretta Graziano Breuning says that you can create a neural pathway in your brain if you work at it consistently for three minutes a day for at least 45 days.

Enjoy the month. It is a glorious time for rebirth.

Copyright 2018 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