School During Pandemic & the Psychological Wellness of Our Kids

My son had a lacrosse tournament this weekend.  He played.  My husband, daughter and I went to cheer him on.  In the midst of this train wreck of a year, I recognize that there are varying degrees of applaud and disapproval about that decision.  To quote Mumford and Sons, spare me your judgement.  I don’t care whether you think I made a right or wrong decision to allow my son to play or for the rest of us to attend.  That’s not the point of this post.  The point is more about a question that I was asked by a group of parents and the answer that I’ve been reflecting on since that moment.

Most of the families on our lacrosse team are in the same school district, here in the south-Denver area of Colorado.  Our school board had a grueling 9-hour long meeting yesterday to make the final decision about how to handle the fall semester of the school year, which is scheduled to start in mid-August, 3 weeks from now.  Most of the moms know that I’m a mental health clinician.  I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and practice as a psychotherapist, working with teens and adults in my private practice.  I had not yet heard the news of which learning model the board had decided on when a handful of other moms approached me.  But I could tell, based on the felt tension and background chatter throughout the day, that the school board decision was not the one these particular moms had hoped for.  Our school district is a big one.  The unanimous board choice to provide a hybrid education model for the fall semester is going to affect more than 60,000 students and their families.  These moms had been hoping for a full-time return to the classrooms for their children.  Their question to me,

“Sara, you are a mental health professional, what do you think about the psychological consequences to our children because of all this?â€Â 

I was caught up in the excitement of our team just winning a braveheart face-off to break our final game’s tie ball game, so I wasn’t exactly in the proper headspace to field this question.  Luckily, I’ve thought about this topic a great deal since our schools moved to full-time remote learning mid-way through the spring semester last March.  I told them,

“There is no clean answer to that question.  This decision affects different children in different ways.† 

That is a true statement.  And it’s the best I had available off-the-rip when I was caught off guard with the question.

Since that moment, I’ve reflected on the question and my own deeper thoughts about the answer.  Here’s the reality.  Are there negative psychological byproducts of a continued breakage of our children’s normal full-time school schedules?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Anyone who tells you different is full of shit.

Children thrive with some degree of routine and structure.  It makes them feel safe.  When kids feel safe, they are significantly more likely to grow and evolve.  We are hard-wired to do life in connection and collaboration with other humans.  This is as true for children as it is for adults, and it does certainly apply to the way we develop during adolescence.  The consequences of missing out on Monday through Friday community in their learning environment are relevant on biological, psychological, neurological, social, emotional and educational levels.  This is especially true of children who are old enough and have been in school long enough to be accustomed to what a traditional full-time in-person school schedule looks and feels like.  Learning in a group environment is a legitimate contributor to the kids’ education.  Recess, close seating during shared meal times, PE, singing in choir, school sports, theater, and extracurricular clubs are all such incredible opportunities for our children to engage in psycho/social/emotional development. With altered education dynamics and schedules due to COVID-19, most of these things are going by the wayside until at least 2021. And good grief, really most of the families here in our school district are worried about layers and levels of lessened-okayness that are luxuries compared to the consequences to the kids in marginalized communities and low-income families. The brokenness in our school systems and exponential risk of growing dissonance because of increasing privatized education is a much greater detriment to the basic okayness levels for many other people.  All to say, yes, this funky school stuff sucks, no matter how you dice it.

When I told these moms that there is no clean answer, that could not be more true on a grand scale these days.  The harsh reality, whether you like it or not, is that you don’t have the answers.  The probability that your perceptions are holistically accurate is zero.  I don’t care whether we are talking about the genesis of Coronavirus, the approach to immunity, the accuracy of the statistics, masks or no masks, the suspicions of conspiracy and corruption, vaccinate or don’t, or the way we handle education… NONE OF US have it figured out.  Whatever certainty you think you’ve nailed down, I encourage you to ease your grip.  For every highly educated expert you put your trust in, there is an equally highly educated expert that will disagree and come to the table with an equally “reliable†set of data.  For every perspective that supposedly gets debunked, there is an equally as “dependable†demystification to argue otherwise.  For those of you with an addiction to your own certainty, it’s time to deflate your balloon.

So, if believing we’ve figured out what’s accurate isn’t reliable, what’s a better answer?  I suggest getting more comfortable with feeling uncertain and being able to authentically say “I don’t know.â€

And for those of us with concerns for our children, where the hell does that leave us?!  I shall tell you.  And for the love of this whole generation of kiddos living through the global trauma of COVID-19, I implore you to take this to heart.

YOU have more influence on the resilience, confidence and assuredness of your children’s psychological wellness during this time than any school board decision ever will.  This moment in time will, with 100% assurance, result in negative consequences for this generation of children.  It won’t be simple either.  It will be a complex, multifaceted, compounded spiderweb of unfortunate aftermath.  There’s no way around it.  (I, for one, will be waiting on pins and needles to see what the Freakonomics guys find when they research this thing over the next 10-20 years.)  Because a certain level of fallout is inevitable, it is mission-critical to our children’s okayness that we microcosmically control what we can control while fully accepting and embracing our ultimate macrocosmic lack of control.  Here’s where YOU come in…

The number one most determining factor of your child’s 2020 experience is YOUR ability to manage your OWN discomfort.  Mirror neurons are real and even children who haven’t yet learned to understand or speak language will pick up on the quantum vibrational frequencies of distress that you emit.  Your children hear you talk, even when you aren’t talking to them.  They hear you complain.  They hear you vent.  They watch your facial expressions when you are on a phone call or responding to an email or social media post on your computer.  They can feel whether you are relaxed or whether you are in a state of stress when you wake them up in the morning, sit down for a family meal, or tuck them into bed at night.  They see how you interact with (or avoid) people who you disagree with.  Whether you like it or are aware of it or not, they will feel what you feel.  There were adolescent siblings of players sitting on the sidelines at the lacrosse games this weekend, including my 12-year old daughter. The joy of the tournament excitement and the beautiful late-summer sunshine backdropped by the front range of the Rocky Mountains looming over the lacrosse fields was, unfortunately, narrated with undercurrent static of parents’ cynical conversations about how such-and-such is “ridiculous†and how so-and-so is “just wrong†or “an idiotâ€.  Every time these kids hear the word COVID throughout the rest of their lives, they will feel the effects of subconscious trauma.  That’s already bad enough.  If we aren’t mindful and incredibly thoughtful of how we deal with our own distress, our reactions to these difficult times will cause them a second layer of trauma that is completely unnecessary.

Now, hear me out.  I am absolutely NOT saying you don’t have a right to your feelings.  Every emotion under the sun is appropriate, warranted and fair.  There is no right or wrong to emotions, no matter what they are.  You also have a right to your opinions (with a continued hope that we all hold space for the reality that we will be wrong about some of this… myself included.)  Our reactions (how we think, speak and behave) that result from those emotions and opinions, however, have all the power in the world to bless or burden other people, including our own kids.  Their thought patterns are reflective of our thought patterns.  If a parent’s thoughts are generally negative or scarcity-based during this time, our children will feel that and will develop similar negative and scarcity-based thinking patterns.  If our limbic system is in a state of distress (hyperarousal or hypoarousal) instead of a calm and fluid idle state, our children’s own somatic experiences will be the same.  If you struggle with being still and calming yourself down, or if you struggle with being positive in light of a really difficult moment in time and massive challenges, then your children will also struggle.  If you are able to thoughtfully respond to the adversity with graceful fluidity, then your kids will implicitly know that.  They will feel that.  They will learn from that.  And they will grow up mirroring that.

Life is not fair.  It will not always go their way, no matter how strongly they believe it should.  We are doing these kids a major disservice if we show them what it looks like to cement ourselves into a static place when it comes to our own beliefs and behaviors.  Instead of teaching them to resist and fight every last unfortunate turn of events, perhaps we start to curate a generation of young humans who learns to stand up for what they believe in while also feeling confident in their ability to roll with the punches.  Perhaps we teach them the value of true non-agenda’d curiosity over certainty.  Maybe we start to educate them on hope in combination with non-attachment and titrate out this addiction to certainty that their opinions are the only ones that are right.  2020 is a brilliant universal reminder that there are multiple (and often very polarized) versions of what is “right†and that it varies from person to person.  For you, sending your children back to school might be the thing you want most in the world right now.  For the family next door, remote learning or a hybrid version of school may tend to their family’s needs in exactly the perfect way. The school board was going to piss a whole lotta folks off, no matter what they decided.

If there is one thing I know for sure (in a world where almost nothing is certain), it is that we can be alright.  COVID and quarantine and masks and messed up school year and everything.  We, ourselves, can be more like bamboo… deeply rooted and sturdy, while bendy and able to move and flow in the wind and water when the storms come.   Bamboo isn’t mad at the storm.  It doesn’t judge the wind for the direction that it decides to blow.  It doesn’t talk shit on the waves for the force at which they crash into it.  It relies on its deep roots and flexibility until a day when the storm calms and it can once again, with all the scratches and scars from the volatile weather, reach up for the sunshine and continue living.

Be gentle with yourselves.  It doesn’t feel good (and it’s really not good for your health and wellness) to be in a static state of tension or worry or anger or resentment.  Be gentle with each other.  Say lots of “I respect youâ€s and “I care for youâ€s, and mean it… especially to those who you disagree with.  Have a divine amount of grace for people who hurt or frustrate you and remember… if you can’t respond from a place of love, calm, grace and patience, the issue is not the person or group of people who upset you… the issue is that you have not yet learned to mindfully manage your reactivity.  That’s your problem to tend to, not theirs.  Once we learn that, we will be able to show and teach our children to be resilient, calm, strong, thoughtful, kind and compassionate.  THAT is what will benefit your kid’s psychological wellness the very very most.

I hope this feels helpful to someone.

Sara Waters MA, LPC

*In the days since I posted this article, my email inbox has filled up with messages from parents, educators, school administrations and community members from all over the United States and up in Canada (hi guys!) inquiring about speaking availability.  In light of the overwhelming response and out of respect for this complex moment in time, I am offering 1-hour virtual presentations on the topics related to the article at a highly discounted speaking rate.  

I’m committed to scheduling as many presentations as I can fit onto my calendar in the upcoming weeks and months.

Contact me directly via email ([email protected]) for info and scheduling.

I Want A Divorce …From the Other Half of the Country.

To save my sanity, I took a two-month break from social media.  I jumped on for some happy birthday posts and to see pictures of an out-of-state friend who’d had a baby.  But, for the most part, I kept the apps deleted from my phone and steered clear in the weeks leading up to the presidential election.  Yesterday, November 7th, I logged onto Facebook.

<< smacks my own forehead>>
I should have known better.

The banter I found on Facebook was representative of the divided election map, split damn near right down the middle.  There were celebratory posts threaded throughout posts seething with anger about the results.  One post caught my attention.  Someone who was especially upset about the election results posted, “I want a divorce.â€Â  I think a nice, amicable separation and division of assets sounds attractive to a lot of us right now.

Dream on, folks.

I’m a licensed psychotherapist.  I work with individuals and couples.  When I get a call from a new client seeking therapeutic couples support or marital counseling, I ask lots of questions and try to get an estimated read on how far down the tanker the relationship seems to be.  Believe me, I’m warranted in feeling this out before saying “yes†to taking on a new set of clients.  Couples work is so hard!  Give me a case of tragedy, trauma, sexual abuse, or grief and loss any day.  I can maneuver through the complexity of an individual’s own personal struggles with a fair amount of grace and consistent efficiency.  In couple’s work, however, you’re doing that very thing for two people at the same time.  It’s tricky not to get tangled up in the sticky and compounded spiderwebs of two people’s struggles, especially when the friction in their relationship stems from the infinite loop of one person’s behaviors or reactions triggering unhealthy behaviors and reactions of the partner and vice versa, over and over again into infinity. (Sound familiar, America?)

I tell each new couple the same thing before giving them the thumbs up to start plugging sessions into my calendar.  You each have to be willing to look inward at your own darkness and broken integrity with greater conviction and tenacity than your will to make your partner wrong.  If both partners in a couple are not willing to participate in their own intensive individual psychotherapeutic process, I refuse to take them on as a couple.  Here’s why…

In the words of the Na’vi queen in James Cameron’s film, Avatar, “it is hard to fill a cup which is already full.â€Â  When we are hurt or at risk of being hurt, every human tends to dig in our heels.  Our most basic natural instinct is to strive for safety.  We’ve wrapped ourselves in the cloak of perception that certainty is safer than curiosity.  When we are in pain, we armor up with our staunch opinions, our justifications, our defensiveness, the support of our like-minded friends.  Open-mindedness and curiosity are the opposite of what feels natural and necessary to our most inherent safety mechanisms.  Rage, avoidance, defensiveness, point proving and attack aren’t lunacy.  They are survivalism.

And they will keep two parties from evolving as individuals and healing the relationship of unity 100% of the time.

It is impossible to strive for healing without doing a deep dive into your own integrity.  When is the last time you calibrated your personal values? Try this…

Take out a piece of paper and a pencil.  Draw a big circle in the middle of the page.  Start to think about personal attributes, qualities of character, and behaviors that feel truly admirable to you.  Write them inside of the circle.  One might consider including things like kindness, courage, honesty, self-control, patience, creativity, thoughtfulness, gratitude, love, supportive, generous, hard working, calm, empathy.  Brain dump every piece of the puzzle you can think of that would characterize your most ideal self.

Then, consider the opposite of each of those items.  Write those on the outside of the circle.  If honesty is on the inside of your circle, then lying needs to be on the outside.  If unconditional positive regard is on the inside, then shit-talking, judgement and gossip need to be on the outside.  If open-mindedness or listening is on the inside, then there is no option other than writing stubbornness, defensiveness and interrupting on the outside of the circle.  If kindness is on the inside, then you have no choice but to write passive aggressiveness, shaming, bullying, name calling and belittling on the outside.

Integrity involves two things that must function in conjunction with one another:
#1: Show up in the world (in your thoughts, beliefs, actions, words and responses) in alignment with the way that you say you want to show up in the world (everything that you wrote on the inside of that circle).
#2: Be consistent about it… regardless of what emotions you are having, who you are around, what situation you find yourself in, or who is (or is not) watching.

You cannot claim to live with integrity if you say that you are open-minded, but then you refuse to practice empathy with someone who is upset with you.  You don’t get to expect healthy decision making around substances from your teenagers when you are drinking a bottle of wine to numb out your stress every night.  You can’t bitch and moan about a presidential candidate’s past mistakes but then dismiss or justify your favored candidate’s own past corruptions.  You can’t say that love and kindness are your core values then make excuses for anyone in your life (including and especially your leaders) who are consistently hurtful to others.  Your claims of righteousness (faith-based or otherwise) don’t hold water when you are posting memes, making statements, or participating in behaviors that are knowingly and directly hurtful to other people.

Once upon a time, I was in my own counseling and was told, by my therapist, something that I’ve never forgotten …and never forgiven her for saying.  She told me, “your biggest crazy-makers are your best teachers.â€Â  The people, groups of people, environments and situations that trigger the shit out of us in the most intense of ways are the exact lessons that we need the most.  They will surface all the sediment of dysfunction within us.  When those things are brought into the light, we have a choice to make.  We can either deny, justify, minimize, defend, avoid or deflect.  We can make excuses for our own thoughts, beliefs, words, behaviors and reactions.  Or we can step back and take inventory of whether or not those things align with what we say is within our integrity. Then, and only then, we are faced with the sacred choice of whether rumble with our own darkness with a conviction for chasing our own personal growth, healing and evolution OR mindlessly give in to cravings to prove someone else wrong or to “winâ€.

We are wasting our energy and spinning our wheels being hateful to each other.  Stop. You are feeding the problem.  Look in the mirror.  Turn your judgmental gaze away from others and redirect it, in the form of curious introspection, towards your own inconsistencies and misalignments.  Where are YOU falling short?  How can YOU get better aligned with your integrity?

Don’t wait for others to do it first, either. Be the change, right?

Then, find someone who you disagree with or don’t understand.  Find a crazy maker.  Move in closer.  Ask questions with the true and altruistic intention of trying to understand their perspectives.  The point is not to necessarily land in the same place by the end of the conversation. You don’t have to agree with each other.  Connection is the point.  Your willingness to set your own agendas aside and lean in will change everything.

Empathy is a skillset.  It can be learned.  It can be taught.  Empathy is the courageous willingness to feel something inside of yourself that reflects what another person may also be feeling.  Empathy is a conduit for connection.  It is the pursuit of feeling our own pain so that we can relate to someone else when they are in similar pain.

Those who are currently in struggle because of the election results now know what it felt like to be on the other side of the coin 4 years ago.  You are scared.  You are angry.  If you are among those who are currently celebrating, please take a moment to remember how it felt to be on the other side just a few short years ago. I don’t care how convicted you feel about your vote, it is never okay to dismiss another human’s pain, regardless of how tenaciously they disagree with you.

And if you are unhappy about the current election results, I implore you to remember the relief and joy you felt 4 years ago.  It is true that many people feel safer now.  It is true that many people truly do feel very hopeful right now.  It is not okay for you to dismiss that or to try to break it.  The division does not mend the wounds.  It does not move anyone forward.  If anyone is “rightâ€, then everyone is wrong.  This cannot be about right or wrong.  There’s no such thing anyway!  It must be about integrating our differences to create a diverse tapestry.

Let’s stop playing the broken record.  Let’s change the narrative.  Let’s actually become the United States of America, not because we all agree about everything, but because we choose connection over competition in spite of our differences, and because we chose compassion over point proving, and listening over talking, and integrity over blame-shifting or excuse making.  Let’s make our way closer towards the mid-ground and get out of the extreme polarization. When we stubbornly stay “far right†or “far leftâ€, we break the teeter-totter.

Certainty and static conviction do not equate to safety.  Curiosity, compassion and connection, however… yes.  THIS.  This is the combination that will move the trajectory of human okayness forward and upward.

It is time.  Shut your mouths and listen to each other.  When you speak, use more question marks than periods.  Choose love.

No relationship is unbreakable.  Divorce, in this case, will be civil war.  I don’t know about you, but I do not want that in my backyard.

Start with yourself.

Take deep breaths, lots of them.
Do something kind for someone who you don’t think deserves it.
Be willing to be wrong.

Evolve or repeat, people.
Evolve or repeat.


#DailyAbundance – Gear Up Against Anxiety

Standing on top of a 14,000-foot mountain (a landmark affectionately referred to by Coloradoan’s as a “14erâ€) is an awe-inspiring thing.  Summitting one of these beautiful monsters is an earned experience.  It requires time, physical fitness, endurance, planning, mindful attention, and a great deal of determination.  Before any of the adventure can begin, however, a hiker needs to collect the gear.  One can certainly take on the challenge of a 14er without gear and preparation, and he/she might actually make it to the summit and back down.  But I wouldn’t recommend it.  It would be a risky and painful journey, to say the least.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 40-Million Americans battle anxiety to the point that it effects their ability to function in daily life.  It is a mountain that far too many of us are familiar with.  Decades of personal and societal pressure to achieve the “American Dream†of success and prosperity has resulted in more than 40-Million nervous systems that function as if they’ve been plugged into an electric socket.  A cause for concern equal to the alarming statistics is the fact that so many of us have actually become used to feeling like this.  It is our familiar, our normal!  We expect to feel anxious.  We’ve forgotten what it feels like to feel truly calm, relaxed and fully our true selves.  It seems as though we have missed the boat on what could perhaps be considered a “Human Dream†in which we get to live our lives calmly, free from habitual reactivity and self-inflicted suffering.  Disconnection (from ourselves and others) leads to suffering and struggle, feeding this epidemic of anxiety.  In this, along with a series of upcoming blogs, we will explore ways in which to reconnect with ourselves and others in a way that facilitates a geared-up and prepared foundation against this mountainous climb against anxiety.  When you finish reading each blog entry (especially this first 3 “Gear Up†entries), my hope is that you walk away with an applicable tactic to use in your every-day life that will lead you towards increased calm, enhanced clarity and a growing confidence in your ability to live in peace.  Since we are all rigged for pain and struggle during this life, let’s at least properly equip ourselves for the inevitable journey.

With no further adieu, let’s introduce your first piece of equipment.  Perhaps as important as a good pair of hiking boots or a Camelback to carry your water, for this climb you are going to need steady flow of GRATITUDE.  Did you know, there is tons of empirical research showing correlation between gratitude and health? (Yes, “tons of†is a scientific measurement.) Individuals who experience consistent levels of gratitude experience less mental, emotional and physical disorders.  Philip Watkins, a clinical psychologist at Eastern Washington University, found that people struggling with clinical levels of depression/anxiety showed significantly lower gratitude (nearly 50% less!) than non-depressed people.  Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami found that study participants who wrote a few sentences each week about things they felt grateful for (over a 10-week stretch of time) reported feeling more optimistic about their lives.  These same people also ended up participating in more physical exercise and had fewer visits to the doctor than those who focused on sources of aggravation over this same 10-week period of time.

Our brains are a lot like our muscles in the sense that they need exercise to stay healthy.  Physical exercise will establish healthy lungs, heart and muscles, which are nice to have in our daily lives and pretty critical when taking on a 14-thousand foot mountain climb.  Consider GRATITUDE your new favorite elliptical machine.  If you’ll allow me to be your personal brain trainer, here is your first component to a new recommended daily fitness routine…

Practice gratitude daily.

At the bottom of this blog, I will provide a list of ways you can do this.  Get creative.  Get your kids, best friend, or spouse involved if that sounds fun.  In order to uproot the old tracks (quite literally… anxiety has laid some neurological pathways that need to be excavated), we’ll first need to prep the landscape for the new tracks of calm and clarity so that we can reroute our mental mindset.  GRATITUDE will be one of the tools to help us do this.

Ok, I know, I know… I sounds like an old broken record scratching through obnoxious choruses of “Don’t Worry, Be Happyâ€.  Trust me, I am not trying to blow smoke and convince you of any “at least†silver lining crap.  I’m merely recognizing that amidst the stress, chaos and bullshit of this world, there are always things to be grateful for.  And there’s way too much research showing that it absolutely makes us feel better, which is what we are all chasing, right?  Not sure how to start this party?  Here you go, borrow a few of mine…

I am grateful for this gorgeous sunset.
I am grateful NFL season has started.
I am grateful for the smell of grass after my lawn is mowed.
I am grateful for green grapes.
I am grateful for the sound of my kids’ laughter.
I am grateful that my legs are strong enough to hold me up.
I am grateful for the ability to read.
I am grateful for the clean air that I’m currently breathing.
I am grateful for stars.
I am grateful for coffee.
I am grateful for my husband’s beard.
I am grateful that I own a car.
I am grateful for clean socks.
I am grateful for sloths.
I am grateful for Pinterest.
I am grateful for campfires.
I am grateful for Starbursts (even the yellow ones).
I am grateful for the clean drinking water in my cup right now.
I am grateful for my sore (but stronger) muscles.
I am grateful for fuzzy blankets.
I am grateful for the quiet during snowfall.
I am grateful for my beating heart.
I am grateful for sleep.
I am grateful for marshmallows.
I am grateful for hugs.
I am grateful for books.
I am grateful for you.
I could go on… and on… and on…

Now you give it a try.  Partner up with your kids, your BFF, your mom, your small-group, your partner, your neighbor, your pen pal and pick a plan.  I would love to share in your experience with GRATITUDE.  In the spirit of connection, consider using the hashtag #dailyabundance to document any (or all) of your GRATITUDE practice.

In my recent social media survey about anxiety, a reported 80% of us experience anxiety in a way that effects our functionality in daily life, work, or relationships.  You aren’t alone.  Nearly 70% of us know someone under the age of 18 who struggles with anxiety.  Ahhhhh, you guys!!!  That’s not okay!  We have the power to dramatically lower these statistics for ourselves and our kids.  But if you want to make the climb, you gotta gear up.  Now you have your first piece of equipment, so get started.  Let’s do this.

Here are some examples of ways to practice GRATITUDE.  Please share your other ideas in the comments section below this blog!  I always love seeing how creative people can be.

  • Start a digital Gratitude Journal on Instagram and/or Facebook, posting one picture each day for something you are grateful for (tag pics with #DailyAbundance).
  • Keep a Gratitude Journal on your nightstand and write at least 1 thing that you are grateful for each day.
  • Drop a dime into a “fun money†jar every time you feel grateful for something.
  • In your day planner, jot down something you are grateful for on each day’s page.
  • Drop a marble into an empty milk jug for each thing you are grateful for.  Whenever it is full, treat yourself to a pizza night.
  • Start a gratitude jar.  Write things you are grateful for on little slips of colored paper and drop them into the jar throughout the week.
  • Make a pact with a friend to text message each other one thing each day that you are grateful for.
  • Download the “Calm†app and use the meditations specifically designed for gratitude.
  • Start a Gratitude Board on your Pinterest account.
  • Put a whiteboard up in your house and have each family member write one thing they are grateful for on the board each day… erase the board at the beginning of each new day.
  • Commit to 30-days of starting (or ending) your day with a 60-second eyes-closed meditation on the feeling of gratitude.
  • If you have a yoga practice, spend at least part of your final shavasana noticing gratitude.
  • If you are a runner, notice gratitude while you run… for your strong legs, your healthy heart, the solid ground, your running shoes, the sunshine, etc.
  • Create a scrapbook of quotes about gratitude.  There are bazillions of them on the Internet/Pinterest.
  • For one month, start your family dinner times by having each family member provide one thing from their day that he/she feels grateful for.
  • Write a few positive affirmation statements.  Read them out loud 3 times in the morning and 3 times before you go to bed.
  • Make it a game if you have young kids.  Give them one gummy bear for each thing they can think of to be grateful for.
  • Set a reminder on your phone to go off at the same time each day.  When the alarm goes off, use your phone “notepad†to jot down one thing you are grateful for so far that day.
  • Use an app like “Way of Life†to help develop a habit of practicing gratitude on a daily basis.

Cheers to you and this new journey.  Thanks for reading and being a part of this.  #DailyAbundance.  Ready, set, go.

By Sara Waters MA, LPC

You, Me and Einstein

Albert Einstein so famously said, “I have no special talents.  I am only passionately curious.â€Â  WAIT A SECOND!!!  This means Einstein and I have more in common than I ever thought possible.  This changes everything!

Too many times in my life, I have beat myself up for making the “wrong†choice, not living up to so-and-so’s expectations, falling short of what someone else has accomplished, struggling to understand a topic that seems to come so naturally to someone else, failing to physically achieve what another person seems so effortlessly equipped for.  When I sit with memories of these times and notice what I experience (physically, emotionally and mentally), I feel stress, pressure, strain, regret, anger, resentment, and not good enough.  I make the mistake of viewing these things through a societal worldly lens that leaves me, every single time, feeling less than.

Here enters curiosity, my new friend.

I believe I’ve always been naturally curious.  In fact, I believe we all are.  Babies are short, chubby, slobbering balls of curiosity who grow into slightly less-short toddling, clumsy, still-slobbering, babbling branches of curiosity who stick everything they pick up into their mouths because they simply live to explore.

…Then life happens.  We quickly learn what is acceptable and what is not.  We get scolded for seeing what a grasshopper tastes like.  We are told to be quiet when we squawk loudly while mom is on the phone.  We get hissed at and scratched when wondering, “what happens if I yank real hard on this cat’s tail?â€Â  As life progresses, we learn more explicit lessons about expectations and what is acceptable versus what is not.  The ramifications become more severe.  The consequences leave deeper scars.  Parts of us remember the hurtful or scary places where curiosity lead us and we, as individuals and a society, believe the answer is to turn away from it and, instead, put our trust in certainty and things that are known.

I get it.  In some ways, this evolution of caution makes a lot of sense.  I think its fair to say that we all sustain a level of perceived safety in certainty.

Unfortunately, this world is not a place where certainty is ever ever ever guaranteed.  What’s that quote about certainty?  Something to the effect of, “the only thing that is constant is change�  Okay, so if that’s true and if we want to be as prepared as possible for everything that is to come in our lives (aka, guaranteed change), then wouldn’t it make sense to hone the tool and tactic that will facilitate this readiness?!

Brace yourself for the best news you will hear all day… you are already ready.  You are already equipped for everything that will come your way.  You were born with this magical tool and tactic; CURIOSITY.  And I know, I know… life has dealt you a bunk hand and your innocent, trusting sense of curiosity has been smacked in the face by a large floppy flying fish (likely something more harmful than a fish, once or twice).  That past relationship left you licking your wounded paws and retreating to a place of old familiar certainty with your tail between your legs.  (Are you still sitting there?)  Or perhaps you’ve been applauded for forcing your way to the top, achieving more (faster, bigger, or with more acknowledgement) than anyone else… but at what cost?  Did you sacrifice your sense of calm?  Your sanity?  Your compassion?  I can relate.

I am going to pursue writing in this blog on the topic of curiosity because something deep in my guts has been telling me to for more than a year now.  I have no clue what it is going to look like or what topics I will cover or what stories I will tell.  I definitely don’t know if anyone will read it or not.  I have zero idea what I’m doing.  Seriously, I’m sitting here typing on this screen in full awareness that I am almost completely directionless.  I’m not a writer.  I’m not a philosopher.  I’m just one small person, totally messed up in so many ways.  I have no special talents.

But then, neither did Einstein.


CURIOSIFY (a verb)


curiosifized, curiosifizing, curiosification

  1. to explore without interference from judgment, bias or agenda
  2. to ponder without attachment to outcome
  3. to practice authentic inquisitiveness

Welcome to my blog, CURIOSIFY .  My intention is to use this platform to metabolize the inquisitiveness inside my guts.  This will be the catharsis for my busy mind.  Its a self-serving (self-caring) tool, really.  You and I are very much alike.  We are all cut from the same human cloth, born with a natural sense of inquiry.  Of course, the adornments that we wear and personal attributes that we display are as unique from each other as the emotional badges and scars that we carry, so in that way we do differ.  I love that.  Its what makes our stories brilliant.  Through the entries of this blog, I hope to offer (and find) connection with you through the threads that make us the same, using the stories that make us different.  I don’t know where this will lead.  I don’t know if anyone will read it or not, and that’s not the point anyway.  In the true spirit of curiosity, my intention is only to embrace the unknown and document some of my exploration.

Question everything.

Here we go!…

Click here to read my first blog entry:  You, Me and Einstein