Practicing Gratitude

One secret to happiness is gratitude. Studies have shown that doing things for others, meaningful work and relationships, and gratitude “make” people happier than money and other things we might think will make us happy. I started a conscious practice of gratitude during the 2013 federal government furlough. To prevent depression and keep myself from whining about the furlough, every day during the 16-day furlough I made a list of 10 things that I was grateful for and posted the list on facebook. It stopped my complaints about the furlough but not my political action! Some themes repeated themselves. For example, “a safe, warm, and dry bed” still leads the top of my list because of my experiences with the homeless. My lists became contagious. Soon my friends and acquaintances were posting their own lists. I still randomly stop and take time list and share the things I am grateful for. It helps me recognize the things I take for granted or give little attention to and reminds of the small and large things in my life.

There are lots of ways to practice gratitude. We are coming up on one of my favorites and our national day of gratitude, Thanksgiving. Keeping a gratitude journal has been shown to increase your attention to detail, enthusiasm, and optimism in addition to increasing a sense of happiness. The how to practice gratitude link below gives a number of different practices that will help you increase your daily dose of gratitude. I will be keeping my lists again and posting them on my blog (

Gratitude journal apps
How to practice gratitude
Pop culture links about gratitude studies

We all deserve to be happy. Although I hope that everyone who reads this will have at least a safe, warm, and dry bed to be thankful for, this Thanksgiving season I wish you all so much more to be grateful for.

Happy Thanksgiving,


November 21

Grateful for:
1) a SAFE, warm, dry, comfortable place to sleep
2) curry
3) a new yoga class…the teacher isn’t Sandi and the other students aren’t Birgit and my other yoga friends, but it was a good class.
4) possibilities
5) ideaphoria
6) new research projects
7) cookie dreams
8) spin class close by
9) a killing frost
10) the gold and the silver ones!



November 22

Grateful for:
1. a warm, safe, dry, and comfortable place to lie my head down to sleep
2. dance; by myself, with other people, in a closet, on the bus or like tonight, in the basement!
3. sugar and what it will be transformed into in just one week
4. aunties that are so active that I want to be just like them when I grow up
5. good research questions that bring back memories of my dissertation
6. girlfriends from 7th grade that write long long letters
7. snow flakes that only I can see
8. honey from a graduate student’s hives
9. coconut granola
10. Tybee Island dreams
November 23

Grateful for:


1. a good night’s sleep in a safe place
2. all 32 of those degrees because each and everyone of them is important
3. Philippe the Purple Polar Partner
4. strategic planning for undergraduate engagement
5. clear blue skies
6. lunch with the retirees at my second office (man, they are relaxed)
7. vacation dreams
8. new recipes with fresh pasta and fresh vegetables
9. velvety pants
10. resisted temptation


The 12 days of thanksgiving?

November 24

grateful for:
1. A microwaveable buckwheat bag to heat up my bed before I crawl in for a safe night’s sleep
2. All the information I learned today from Chuck, Tracy, and Gary. My head is going to explode.
3. Surprise at chiles dorados and other treats brought out of the kitchen of the local Mexican restaurant after we spoke with the owner. If I come back next Wednesday, he will have Nopales.
4. Lettuce scented hand cream from Salinas
5. Advice about science and life from Amy Charkowski
6. Getting to wear a hard hat and tour the hard hat zone
7. Live green wreaths
8. Being the Penn State Pseudomonas expert
9. Taking the opportunity to be gracious
10. Being reminded that I want to remain authentic





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