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Giving Up on Twitter

I’m giving up on Twitter. It’s a distraction. What’s the buzz about… really? If I want to post 140 character messages, I can do that here.

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Wake Up!

David Foster Wallace spoke eloquently on being awake, in Thoreau’s sense of the word.

The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred million to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?
(Henry David Thoreau, Walden, Or, Life in the Woods)


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Short Reviews: American Beauty and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Two movies, one review. Both remind me that if I pay close attention, ordinary things are beautiful.

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Five Things

  1. I’m grateful for a newfound mindfulness. I tend to make little rules and expectations for myself like “no eating after 7 PM” or “finish everything on today’s task list”. I start having a nagging sense of dissatisfaction when I break the rules, the rules I set for myself. When I get dissatisfied, I become discouraged and tend to fall even shorter of my expectations. Recently, I’ve become more aware of this self-inflicted cycle. Self-forgiving awareness has allowed me to notice the dissatisfaction, let it wash over me, and see it dissipate in the light of my conscious awareness.
  2. I’m grateful to be feeling healthy again.
  3. The weather is bright and sunny. It might as well be spring. I feel a little silly wearing my sweater.
  4. I am thankful that I’ve found renewed motivation in my job. I hate feeling like I’m slacking off, and yet I still do it when a task is so big or ill-defined that I don’t know where to start. Really, I should thank Thich Nhat Hanh. He said “Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” I’ve been trying to practice this at work, and I’m much more productive (despite going slowly).
  5. I am grateful for the class that I was able to attend today. I am realizing that I need to brush up on some math, but I enjoy this kind of challenge.

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The Broadening Power of Positivity

Wray Herbert at We’re Only Human confirms something that I’m experiencing in my experiment with gratitude. In talking about the new book Positivity, he says:

Consider this deceptively simple experiment. Fredrickson used lab techniques to “prime” the emotions of a large group of volunteers. Some were primed for amusement, some for serenity, still others for anger or fear or nothing at all. Then she asked them simply to make a list of things they would like to do at that moment. Those who were amused or serene listed significantly more possibilities than the others, suggesting that their minds were more open to ideas, more exploratory. She ran a similar experiment with abstract shapes, and found that the positive thinkers were more apt to see hidden patterns, to make connections. Those who were angry or fearful were too narrowly focused on details to see the big picture.

This is what Fredrickson calls “broadening,” and she had shown this cognitive benefit time and again in a variety of studies. (Ode to Joy and Serenity and Curiosity and . . .)

As I’ve taken time each week to focus on gratitude, aside from feeling generally more positive, I have felt more open, more ready to take on new projects, looking forward to next semester, etc. Interesting.

It gets better.

But what is the value of such openness beyond the moment? This is where is gets really interesting. Fredrickson has shown that these moments of serenity or amusement have an accumulative effect over time. They break down the barriers between self and others, and build trust. In short, positivity creates open-mindedness, which sparks even more good feelings, creating an upward spiral of emotions. This is the “building” for the future: Over time, those with the most positive moments become more mindful and attentive, more accepting and purposeful, and more socially connected.

Time will tell.

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