It is no new idea that gratitude is an important determiner of a person’s sense of contentment and happiness. I was recently reading about a practice of writing down 10 things to be grateful for at the end of each day and also one special moment from the day. I decided to do this in a nice notebook with a rubber band marker and have been doing it for a month or so, except I changed it to first thing in the morning instead of last thing at night.
This practice has become an important part of starting the day. It is amazing that while some items may be repeated, the more I look for things that I am thankful for the more I realize it is often the littlest things that make the most difference and are cause for the greatest joy. The same is true for the special moments.
I told my dental hygienist today that she was going on my gratitude list for tomorrow. “Really?” she said. I explained the practice to her and told her that it was not just because she is thorough and gentle, but because somehow she makes you feel that she really cares about where you have plaque buildup and how you are. I think she might have been surprised to think that she makes a difference in her clients’ days.
So, she is on the list. I actually am looking forward to the other nine things that will go on it. Happiness takes practice, one day at a time.
Yesterday I think I saw it in a cooking class. The chef was making a peach and moscato compote and grilling ribeyes on an indoor grill. A dozen or so of us were gathered around the demonstration. Some had gotten impatient in the sign up line and skipped the step of finding their name and checking it off. They had crowded in to the front of the group, picking up and checking out equipment that the chef had assembled.
Someone was blurting out their questions about cookware while chef was in the middle of answering another person’s question on reduction of juices. Some left the demonstration altogether to wander around the store and then return from time to time to check on the progress. Some chewed on borrowed pens while others carefully took notes in the margins of the recipe card. Some cooperated in filling out an information update sheet while others ignored the paperwork completely. Throughout it all, the chef proceeded calmly and everyone seemed to enjoy the process, especially the tasting of samples at the end. It was school in a nutshell.
The DSM-5 states that population studies suggest about 5% of children and 2-3% of adults demonstrate clinical traits of ADHD which include difficulty sustaining attention, following through on instructions, forgetfulness, being easily distracted, not listening even when being spoken to, and being restless and always “on the go.”
This is just a very short list of behaviors and characteristics that are a part of a persistent pattern of inattention and impulsivity that can seriously disrupt quality of life for self and others.
While most of us demonstrate some of these qualities some of the time, a serious diagnosis of ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is made by a mental health professional when these symptoms are documented in various areas of a person’s life and have persistently interfered with performance and quality of life. Not every child in school who demonstrates some of these traits has ADHD. But, It is a moment of truth when, even later in life, an adult can identify a pattern that has caused problems and was not understood for what it was.
Something about new school supply lists in the stores and yellow buses running again makes me think about fresh starts. Even though summer vacation from schools seems to be shrinking, it’s a new school year, a new beginning, blank notebooks.
Most of us need to have a fresh start now and then. We don’t have to wait for an official new year to make the decision to open a new notebook in some aspect of our lives, especially when things are not going well. Sometimes reframing a difficult period of our lives into something positive isn’t yet possible. It may be time to “tie a knot” and begin fresh instead of remaining stuck.
An old animosity may have drained our energy for years and sometimes we can’t exactly remember why it even began, Or, the comfort of a long relationship has slowly devolved into taking each other for granted. Or, we may have carried weight that has compromised our health and we have given up trying. Or, we find ourselves bored with the routine of our daily lives, settling for comfortable defaults like eating and sleeping with electronics.
A vague sense of dissatisfaction is nudging us to see what is happening and decide to make a change somewhere. Shaking things up by replacing even one entrenched routine may produce the effect that energizes and stimulates hope like a fresh start.
My website is finally “out there”! It can be accessed at www.jmrushing.com. It is still wet cement, so any feedback would be appreciated as I tweak this new line of communication. My weekly columns will become a part of the site.
The home page features a very tall door, captured on my camera at a mosque in Istanbul. Doors are an important symbol for the comings and goings of our lives. It is a wonderful feeling when a door of opportunity opens for us, but just as important are the doors that do not open for us. They, too, can be important guidance as we navigate relationships, jobs, and decisions. Most of us can shudder to think of a decision we may have made, if we could have, and how glad we are that we did not.
Forcing a door to open is a risky business, especially in the area of relationships. Choosing a partner is one of the most important predictors of happiness in life. Both parties have to be on board to do the work that builds a healthy relationship. When despite our best efforts, it all just seems too stressful and hard, the door may not be open. It is forcing the door when we try to change another person to fit our idea of who we hope they will be. It is forcing the door when we abandon who we really are to be right for another person. It is forcing the door when we close our eyes to situations and circumstances that are a part of our partner’s life that we do not want to deal with.
The door to my website has opened slowly but steadily. Sometimes I hesitated to put myself “out there” wherever that is, but I am glad that with the help of a very smart webmaster I am entering a new place.
Growing up I remember hearing the term, the “Dog Days of Summer” in July and August. We were warned that during this time dogs were prone to madness, wounds were slower to heal, and it was not safe to swim in stagnant lake water. Some credit the Romans with the naming of the period for the rise of Sirius, the “dog star,” whose simultaneous climb in the heavens was thought to increase the heat of the Sun, creating a malaise in humans and a period of general stagnation.
Some people experience this stagnation and“boredom” whether the weather is hot or not. The French describe it as “ennui,” being generally disinterested in just about everything. Malaise and lack of energy can begin and end the day, and there is really nothing that brings feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. These are true “dog days.” These are some of the more subtle signs of depression.
Not just adults suffer from depression. Some 2.5 percent of school-aged children and about 8 percent of adolescents are estimated by the National Institute of Mental Health to meet the criteria for clinical depression. These numbers are probably low as diagnosis is often overlooked. Some children suffer periods of dysthymia, a low-grade of depression, for long periods of time and do not receive assessment and treatment as parents hope for the best or mistake warning signs as behavior problems.
Kids and adults can be bored and have malaise without being depressed. But the true “dog days”of depression do not lift when September arrives.