More Gratitude = Better Life

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that to achieve contentment, one should “cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.”

Turns out Emerson – who explored the meaning of a good life in much of his work – wasn’t far off when it comes to what we now know about counting our blessings. Research continually finds that expressing thanks can lead to a healthier, happier and less-stressed lifestyle.

“Life is a series of problems that have to be solved – and a lot of times those problems cause stress,” Robert Emmons, a gratitude researcher and psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, says. “Gratitude can be that stress buster.”

The way we celebrate holidays often includes a rhetoric of adopting an attitude of gratitude – but what about after the leftovers and family china have been put away? How do we, as Emerson advised, be thankful for each thing that contributes to our lives?

We can cultivate gratitude on a regular basis.Research shows that writing down what you’re thankful for can lead to a multitude of wellness benefits. Keeping a gratitude journal can reinforce positive thoughts – something particularly helpful as the brain tends to naturally focus on what goes wrong. Putting pen to paper can also help you make more progress as you work toward personal goals.

To reap the full benefits of journaling, Emmons recommends writing for five to 10 minutes every other day. “You really need to commit to doing it, and if you write it down eventually it will become more automatic,” Emmons says. “It’s like exercise – you’re not just going to get up one morning and go running, you need to have a plan. You need to have a gratitude action plan, whether it’s waking up and writing in the morning or in the evening before you go to sleep – no one size best fits all.”

Expressing gratitude may generate more optimism, but thankful people also don’t shy away from the negative. Emmons says that while we often associate gratitude with focusing on the good and avoiding the bad, the key to leading a thankful life is embracing setbacks as part of your overall journey. Emmons suggests recalling a hard time you once experienced – chances are, you’ll start to feel grateful for your current state and overcoming former challenges.

Thankful people know they didn’t get to where they are by themselves – and they make it a habit to spend time with those people who matter most. “Gratitude really helps us connect to other people,” Emmons says. “It actually strengthens relationships and relationships are the strongest predictors of happiness and coping with stress.”

Expressing appreciation for loved ones can also help create a closeness by allowing others to see how you look at them. “More than other emotion, gratitude is the emotion of friendship,” Michael E. McCullough, a University of Miami researcher, told the New York Times in 2011. “It is part of a psychological system that causes people to raise their estimates of how much value they hold in the eyes of another person.”

Stating how much you appreciate your loved ones pays off. A recent study published in the journal Personal Relationships found that couples who expressed gratitude in their relationship had better marriages. Higher levels of thankfulness in the relationship also seemed to reduce men and women’s likelihood of divorce.

In our plugged-in culture, it’s impossible to avoid social media altogether. However, Emmons says, thankful people mindfully take advantage of these networks. ”Thankful people] use whatever cues that exist in everyday environments to trigger grateful thoughts,” he says. “Pictures and information on social media – that’s a very good way to do it.”

Research has found that positive thoughts shared on social media spread faster than than negative – something that makes the gratitude process a lot easier when turning to the Internet. Emmons suggests assembling an archive of postings on Facebook and Instagram to pull from when you need a reminder to be grateful. This method will help you cue happy memories through pages that you normally visit on a daily basis. “Technology and devices are criticized because you’re less connected, but if used correctly I think it can be the opposite,” Emmons said.

Know the value of the little things.There’s power in the small, ordinary moments, like catching the subway before the doors close or your pet greeting your happily when you get home. Look for things to add to your gratitude list, then help others appreciate them, too.

Small acts of kindness make a difference in a big way when it comes to cultivating gratitude. Thankful people make it a habit to acknowledge and pay forward each bit of kindness that comes their way, whether it’s a simple compliment, help on a task or getting flowers “just because.” Research shows this type of kindness makes both you and the other person happier.

Everyone needs a little help sometimes – and grateful people know there’s no better way to acknowledge this than by actively doing something about it. In his book Thanks!, Emmons notes that those who volunteer often feel grateful for the experience to give back. “Since service to others helped them to find their own inner spirituality, they were grateful for the opportunity to serve,” he wrote.

As research published in BMC Public Health points out, volunteering can result in lower feelings of depression and increased overall well-being. Emmons suggests examining your own talents and using them to help others, noting that people become more grateful as givers rather than receivers.

They may not seem similar, but gratitude and fitness can go hand-in-hand. According to Emmons’s 2003 study, people who practiced gratitude also engaged in more exercise. The results also found that study participants had fewer dietary restrictions and were less likely to smoke or abuse alcohol.

Exercising has been proven to clear your mind and reduce stress, all key components in setting yourself up for gratitude. Thankful people who move their feet experience an overall healthier mind and body, therefore making gratitude one of the best medicines, Emmons says.

Grateful people know that their thankful attitude can also fuel self-compassion. A study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that higher levels of gratitude were associated with greater self-esteem. And it’s no wonder: When your well-being is a priority, you can’t help but feel great.

Thankful for being the person that you are should be at the top of your gratitude list.

Family, Our Rock

Every family, it seems, has its black sheep. There’s the grouch, the boozer, the nay-sayer, the doper, the miser, the “me, me, me” and the just downright disagreeable.

But when you come down to it, they are with us in good times and in bad. They are our advocates, our defenders, our supporters when we’re up against the wall. They are family.

Mary Karr reminds us that “A dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it.” While it’s easy to agree with such cynicism, there are a multitude of reasons not to.

Country Living rounded up a plethora of quotes about family that remind us that family is, indeed, our rock.
“The memories we make with our family is everything,” said actress Candace Cameron Bure. Philanthropist Peter Buffett says “It didn’t matter how big our house was; it mattered that there was love in it.” Both of those quotes would be great to read to anyone in your family – especially on Thanksgiving Day.

Here are many more thoughts about family to ponder and cherish.

Lisa Weed — “Being a family means you are a part of something very wonderful. It means you will love and be loved for the rest of your life.”

Pope John XXIII — “The family is the first essential cell of human society.”

Wanda Hope Carter — “Family and friends are hidden treasures, seek them out and enjoy their riches.”

Marge Kennedy – The informality of family life is a blessed condition that allows us all to become our best while looking our worst.

Friedrich Nietzsche — “In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds closer together, and the music that brings harmony.”

Stitch, ‘Lilo and Stitch’ — “’Ohana’ means family and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”

Walt Disney — “Life is beautiful. It’s about giving. It’s about family.”

Lee Iacocca — “The only rock I know that stays steady, the only institution I know that works, is the family.”

Jane Howard — “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”

‘Coco’ (2017) — “We may have our differences, but nothing’s more important than family.”

José Carreras — “I have a wonderful shelter, which is my family.”

Reba McEntire — “I don’t think quantity time is as special as quality time with your family.”

Trenton Lee Stewart — “Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.”

Kelly Clarkson — “My friends and family are my support system… Without them I have no idea where I would be.”

Barbara Bush — “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.”

Louis Zamperini — “The world, we’d discovered, doesn’t love you like your family loves you.”

Marjorie Pay Hinckley — “Home is where you are loved the most and act the worst.”

Marge Kennedy — “In truth, a family is what you make it. It is made strong, not by number of heads counted at the dinner table, but by the rituals you help family members create, by the memories you share, by the commitment of time, caring, and love…”

Leonard Cohen — “May you be surrounded by friends and family, and if this is not your lot, may the blessings find you in your solitude.”

Candace Cameron Bure — “The memories we make with our family is everything.”

Burmese Proverb — “In time of test, family is best.”

Michael Imperioli — “My family is my life, and everything else comes second as far as what’s important to me.”

Albert Einstein — “Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life.”

Peter Buffett — “It didn’t matter how big our house was; it mattered that there was love in it.”

Guy Lafleur — “When trouble comes, it’s your family that supports you.”

Maya Angelou — “I sustain myself with the love of family.”

Jodi Picoult — “My mother used to tell me that when push comes to shove, you always know who to turn to. That being a family isn’t a social construct but an instinct.”

Mother Teresa — “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”

Elizabeth Berg — “You are born into your family and your family is born into you. No returns. No exchanges.”

Haniel Long — “So much of what is best in us is bound up in our love of family, that it remains the measure of our stability because it measures our sense of loyalty.”

Winston S. Churchill — “There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human, are created, strengthened, and maintained.”

Paul Pearsall — “Our most basic instinct is not for survival but for family.”

Barbara Bush — “When all the dust is settled and all the crowds are gone, the things that matter are faith, family, and friends.”

Anthony Liccione — “Everyone needs a house to live in, but a supportive family is what builds a home.”

Mario Puzo — “The strength of a family, like the strength of an army, is in its loyalty to each other.”

Richard Bach — “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.”

J.K. Rowling — “Family is a life jacket in the stormy sea of life.”

George Bernard Shaw — “Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.”

Barbara Bush — “To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.”

Alex Haley — “The family is link to our past, bridge to our future.”

Michael J. Fox — “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.”

Brad Henry — “Families are the compass that guides us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter.”

Les Dawson — “Families are like fudge – mostly sweet with a few nuts.”

Desmond Tutu — “You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”

Rod Stewart — “You go through life wondering what is it all about but at the end of the day it’s all about family.”

George Santayana — “The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.”

Anthony Brandt — “Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.”

George Bernard Shaw — “A happy family is but an earlier heaven.”

John Wooden — “The most important thing in the world is family and love.”

Happy holidays to you and your family!

Big Three Shopping Days

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving Day in the United States, has been regarded as the beginning of America’s Christmas shopping season since 1952, although the term “Black Friday” didn’t become widely used until more recent decades.

It’s twin, Cyber Monday, refers to the Monday following the Thanksgiving Holiday. Ellen Davis of the National Retail Federation and Scott Silverman coined the term which made its debut on Nov. 28, 2005, in a press release. Cyber Monday was intended to boost online shopping.

First observed in the United States on Nov. 27, 2010, Small Business Saturday is a counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which feature big box retail and e-commerce stores respectively. Small Business Saturday encourages holiday shoppers to patronize brick and mortar businesses that are small and local. Small Business Saturday is a registered trademark of American Express.

The earliest known use of “Black Friday” to refer to the day after Thanksgiving occurs in the journal, Factory Management and Maintenance, for November 1951, and again in 1952. Here it referred to the practice of workers calling in sick on the day after Thanksgiving, in order to have a four-day weekend. However, this use does not appear to have caught on. Around the same time, the terms “Black Friday” and “Black Saturday” came to be used by the police in Philadelphia and Rochester to describe the crowds and traffic congestion accompanying the start of the Christmas shopping season.

Many stores offer highly promoted sales on Black Friday and open very early, such as at midnight, or may even start their sales at some time on Thanksgiving. Black Friday is not an official holiday, but California and some other states observe “The Day After Thanksgiving” as a holiday for state government employees, sometimes in lieu of another federal holiday, such as Columbus Day. Many non-retail employees and schools have both Thanksgiving and the following Friday off, which, along with the following regular weekend, makes it a four-day weekend, thereby increasing the number of potential shoppers.

Black Friday has routinely been the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States since 2005. Inaccurate reports often have described it as the busiest shopping day of the year for a much longer period of time. Similar stories resurface year.

In 2014, spending volume on Black Friday fell for the first time since the 2008 recession. Data shows $50.9 billion was spent during that 4-day Black Friday weekend, down 11% from the previous year. However, the U.S. economy was not in a recession. Christmas creep has been cited as a factor in the diminishing importance of Black Friday, as many retailers now spread out their promotions over the entire months of November and December rather than concentrate them on a single shopping day or weekend. This year there have been many so-called”black Friday” promotions following Halloween.

In the early 1980s, as the phrase became more widespread, a popular explanation became that this day represented the point in the year when retailers begin to turn a profit, thus going from being “in the red” to being “in the black”.

For many years, it was common for retailers to open at 6 a.m. on Black Friday, but in the late 2000s many had crept to 5 or 4. This was taken to a new extreme in 2011, when several retailers (including Target, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Best Buy, and Bealls) opened at midnight for the first time. In 2012, Walmart and several other retailers announced that they would open most of their stores at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, prompting calls for a walkout among some workers. In 2014, stores such as JCPenney, Best Buy, and Radio Shack opened at 5 PM on Thanksgiving Day while stores such as Target, Walmart, Belk, and Sears opened at 6 PM on Thanksgiving Day. Three states, Rhode Island, Maine and Massachusetts prohibit large supermarkets, big box stores, and department stores from opening on Thanksgiving, due to what critics refer to as blue laws. The Massachusetts ban on forcing employees to work on major holidays is not a religion-driven “blue law” but part of the state’s Common Day of Rest Law.

According to the Research 2005 eHoliday Mood Study, “77 percent of online retailers said that their sales increased substantially on the Monday after Thanksgiving, a trend that is driving serious online discounts and promotions on Cyber Monday this year (2005)”.

In 2017, Cyber Monday online sales grew to a record $6.59 billion, compared with $2.98 billion in 2015, and $2.65 billion in 2014. However, the average order value was $128, down slightly from 2014’s $160.

Cyber Monday has become the online equivalent to Black Friday and offers a way for smaller retail websites to compete with larger chains. Since its inception, it has become an international marketing term used by online retailers across the world.

Retailers Expect Strong Holiday Spending

The holiday spending season is expected to be a lively one this year, and brick-and-stick stores remain a critical component to the shopping season.

ICSC, a retail real estate researcher, forecasts a 4.9% increase in holiday spending over last year, reaching an $832.3 billion total. The average adult is expected to spend $683 on holiday-related items.

Ninety percent of adults say they plan to shop in retail locations for gifts and related goods, according to ICSC, which surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. consumers. Eighty-two percent expect to make an additional purchase in store while picking up their online purchase.

“Our annual Holiday Shopping Intentions Survey once again shows that consumers are not only optimistic about the upcoming holiday season, but also continue to favor physical stores when shopping for gifts,” says Tom McGee, president and CEO of ICSC. “Consumers expect convenience and experience when shopping, which means that those retailers with a good omnichannel strategy will likely see success this holiday season.”

Promotions are key to driving more in-store visits, the survey found. More than 60% of shoppers say that searching for deals is what drives them to take more trips to stores. The most popular purchases: gift cards (63%); apparel, footwear and accessories (55%); toys and games (48%); and food and alcohol (43%).

Eighty-seven percent of shoppers say they plan to research online before going into a physical store. Eighty-two percent of respondents say they’ll use their smartphone in store to compare prices, check inventory and access digital coupons.