Friday, October 26, 2018

Friday Feature: Materialism, Kids and Gratitude

My posting schedule has become totally off-kilter as I ride the wave that is midsemester. This afternoon, which I'd set aside for writing, I was relieved to find that I still had this post to write. Nothing (except perhaps a nap) sounded better to me than sitting down and finding an article that I could read just because I wanted to.

As so often happens, the piece I found sat squarely on the line between personal and professional. Though its title is "How to Raise a Nonmaterialistic Child," it has as much -- perhaps more -- to do with the importance of gratitude as with parenting.

Last semester, I had the privilege of teaching a course on positive psychology. Together, my students and I explored gratitude, optimism and the joys of savoring life, among other things. When I run into my students on campus this semester, they invariably tell me that they miss the class.

And so do I.

There's something almost decadent about luxuriating in concepts that are good for us. There was work involved in our pursuits last semester -- we had reading assignments and we wrote (or, in my case, graded) papers and tried to both grasp and unearth concepts and their connections -- but we also developed wonderful habits. Even better, we had a built-in support system for those habits that kept us accountable.

And I think that, more than any of the work, is what we miss. I can't speak for my students but I must admit with both sadness and embarrassment that many of those good, mental health-sustaining habits  -- like taking time each day to acknowledge the things in my life for which I'm grateful -- have been run over by daily life, and washed away by the high tide of midsemester.

And this article reminds me that, although my own daughter is grown, it's time to reinstate those habits for reasons that are bigger than just the fact that they make me feel good.

They also make me a better person.

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