Keeping Thanksgiving Going…
This week, I got a handwritten note from Dr. Edward DeRoche, at the University of San Diego’s School of Education, where he previously served as dean in 1979 and returned to the faculty as professor and director of the Center for Character Development Center in 1998. We met some years ago through our shared passion for cultivating character not just competence in education…
Ed wrote, “I wanted to sent you this note of thanks during Thanksgiving Week for “Soul Food Friday”. It is a valuable, informative resource that I have shared with my students, colleagues, family and friends. For this I thank you.”
Here Ed is esteeming me, but I should be esteeming HIM for modeling character and investing his personal time and energy in a small gesture that is a hallmark of his way of being.
Thanks for showing us how it is done Ed!
A Simple Act of Kindness Creates An Endless Ripple:
This will touch your heart…
Why Positive Emotions Fade and How to Make Them Last:
What if you put your sincere thanks into this Thanksgiving? It’s not as easy as it sounds. By now we should all know that gratitude is a major driver of personal happiness and feelings of well-being. But the way our brains are designed tends to minimize the benefits of thankfulness. That’s because we constantly turn our positive emotions into concepts. And concepts do not make us feel happy.
Let me explain…
When we first experience positive emotions our brain stimulates the production of smile–and–be happy chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. However, novelty is a huge driver of positive stimulation so as soon as we are used to something we were initially grateful for we quit feeling the emotion of gratitude. Without emotion-stimulating neurotransmitters our feelings of gratitude decay into concepts. We know we should feel happy or should feel love but we just don’t really feel those feelings. For instance if I ask someone I’m advising “What are you most grateful for?” Their automatic response is almost always “my family.” But when I ask them if seeing their family on a daily basis puts them in a positive mood I get a questioning look. Of course, families who have been separated for long periods of time, for instance military families, often experience elevated positive emotions when they’re reunited. But when life normalizes and we return to our routines those things we take for granted no longer give us a happy high. That’s because unmet needs are powerfully motivating and very emotional. As soon as those needs are consistently satisfied our motivations and emotions tend to wither. Fortunately for us, positive psychologists have done a great deal of research about how we can rekindle the emotion of gratitude so that we can feel our feelings rather than just think about them.
Here’s an experiment I’d like you to try:
- This Thanksgiving ask yourself… who is one person that has really enriched your life.
- Next take a few minutes and write down the specific ways you have benefited from the love, kindness, actions or knowledge this person has provided.
- Write down the positive impact and results you have received that you would not have gained without this person’s effort.
- Write down what your life would be missing without this person in your life.
- Now, listen to some calm instrumental music for about three minutes, put a smile on your face and silently (in your own mind) thank this individual. This focused reflection should ignite deep feelings of gratitude.
- Finally, tell the individual how thankful you are for the love and support they have shown you. Tell them some things that you were specifically grateful for and the impact it had on your life. You can do this in person or by phone. Actually, leaving a voice message is sometimes best because it will cause your loved one to really listen to your message of gratitude.
Research on gratitude confirms that people who express gratefulness create more internal feelings of well-being than people receiving the acknowledgment. In short, if you want to feel happy, share your gratitude for others with them in vivid detail.
This has become an annual ritual for me and it has made the holiday much more significant than a few awesome football games, great food and time to relax.
It’s pretty simple… Thanksgiving should be the happiest day of the year… and it can be if we make it so.
A Different Perspective on Thanks Giving:
Milton Friedman at Plymouth Rock: When the Pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock in 1620, they tried what they called “farming in common.” As a community, they farmed the land together and shared the food equally. This might sound good in theory, but it was a complete failure. Those people who worked hard resented those who didn’t. There was a lot of anger over this, and after three winters of under-production, more than half the original 101 pilgrims were dead, mostly as a result of malnutrition.
After three years of near-starvation and the loss of half the colony, a new experiment was tried.
The governor of the colony, William Bradford, had come to suspect that the problem was the absence of private property. In his now-famous passage on property rights in Of Plymouth Plantation(see page 120), Bradford wrote of how he “… assigned to every family a parcel of land, for (their) present use. This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, and much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means.”
Bradford wrote that those who believed in communal property were deluding themselves into thinking they were “wiser than God.” (Doesn’t that sound like Hayek’s concept of the “fatal conceit?”) He drew up a map and gave each family a plot of land to call its own. Production increased by a factor of five the first year. As Bradford wrote, “Each family, attempting to better its standing in the community, increased the hours worked on each plot.”
How perfect that the very foundation of America was a free market economy! And this was, amazingly, 150 years before Adam Smith wrote about how markets work.
We publish the following pretty much every year for Thanksgiving. We got it from somewhere long forgotten, and over the years we’ve added bits and pieces:
“How’s your health? Not so good? Give thanks you’ve lived this long. Are you hurting? Millions are hurting more. Visit a veterans’ hospital or a hospital for children to appreciate what you have. When you woke up this morning, were you able to hear the birds sing, use your voice, walk to the breakfast table, read the paper? There are a lot of people today who are deaf, blind, paralyzed, or unable to speak.
How are your finances? Not good? Most people on this planet have no welfare. No food stamps. No pensions. No health insurance or Social Security. In fact, one third of the people in the world go to bed hungry every night.
Are you lonely? The way to have a friend is to be a friend. If nobody calls, call someone. Get out and do something nice for someone. Are you unhappy? Go out of your way to smile at people you bump into during the day. Be kind to everyone, for everyone you meet might be fighting a hard, lonely battle of some kind. Are you unhappy with our government? Don’t despair. Our system has been saved over and over again by people who worried about our nation. And worry not. You can still worship at the place of your choice, cast a ballot in secret, and criticize your government. Hundreds of millions of people live where this is not the case, where criticizing the government leads to a midnight knock on the door. Are you worried about over-regulation? Be thankful that with hard work and persistence, it’s still possible to get ahead in America. And let us also be thankful for our troublemakers and agitators, people like Patrick Henry, Tom Paine, John Brown, Susan B. Anthony, and Martin Luther King. Without them, we’d be a lesser country.
We should be thankful for the food before us and we remember those who go without food. We should be thankful for the friends we have and remember those who are friendless. We should be thankful for our health and remember those with poor health. We should be thankful for our families, imperfect though they might be, and remember those without families.
Let us be thankful for what we have, and not be unhappy with what we don’t have. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.
NATURE NEVER GIVES UP
Thanks this week to Sue S, Heidi E, Ed D, Will M, David R, Larry H, and all of you that model character!
Stay Soul-filled and Pay it Forward…
“There is all the difference in the world between having something to say and having to say something.” — John Dewey