Be Humble, Sit Down

How to Teach Gratitude

Written by Sarah Soderlund, M.A./C.H.

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As a mother of two young boys, I’ll be the first to admit that I miss something I’ve never known: the village. In today’s world, the nuclear family is becoming less and less of a valued commodity and more of a hassle. Older generations spend their remaining years among strangers in a nursing home while young parents are often living miles, states, countries away from family.

The written thank you letter is biodegrading into our past and speaking out to strangers is becoming more and more stressful…

Sure, technology helps us keep in touch with daily texts, emails or even face-time with family, but the continued physical support of a loved one being present is something I know I could use. Someone with loving interest in my children, their grandchildren, to teach the deeper issues that our society is dealing with, because I at times feel vacant at how. As a parent, you learn that parenting is much less what you say and almost completely what you do, and therefore, you must consider how you are teaching gratitude.

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Alone in a Crowd – Part 2

Read part one of Alone in a Crowd here.

“Happy birthday! Love, your favorite and only sister.” The closest most of us probably come to any handwritten confidence these days is signing a birthday card. Despite all the blank space inside enveloping a pithy sentiment, I don’t know many people who actually fill it up. Outside of Hallmark, parents don’t describe line by line how baby Tony tried to walk for the first time and biffed it on the coffee table. The photos are on Facebook. Friends don’t rehash last week’s party through long wine-stained scrawls. The rose got drank, and it was live tweeted.

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Alone in a Crowd first looked at the piling on of social media and how that rapid but detached pace can contribute to loneliness. The responsibility falls heavier on us to reach below the harping statuses and Tweets to sustain meaningful connections with people. Malcolm Jones, a writer at Newsweek, observed, “The problem is not that there is not enough information about what we think or how we live. The problem is sifting through that sea of data. The most common complaint of our time is that we are overwhelmed by information, unmediated and unstoppable.”

For better or for worse, digitization will only become further integrated into our day-to-day life, so how can we embrace both the convenience and keep a grasp on mindfulness? How do we slow down? One reader, Naomi, tried something most of us probably haven’t done since grade school: pen pals. Jones also writes in Newsweek that “…if you do [write letters] enough, you begin to put your essential self on paper whether you mean to or not. No other form of communication yet invented seems to encourage or support that revelatory intimacy.” Below, Naomi describes why she decided to try pen palling and what she’s experienced as a 20-something exchanging letters around the globe.

Continue reading “Alone in a Crowd – Part 2”

Dream Happy

I often preach how I feel people seek romantic relationships for the wrong reasons. It’s not a new perspective to say that our culture approaches romantic relationships through lenses that don’t always show reality–Hollywood, fairy tales, and the ever-revered and elusive “American Dream.” The dream job, dream house, dream income, and dream relationship (eventually ending in a dream marriage).

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The understanding is that this dream will make us happy and that happiness is the only reason for us to do anything at all. It’s become a motivation, carrying over into our relationships. We look for someone who will make us “happy,” but happiness is such a vague and changing thing. It’s shallow.

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Becky with the good hair.

You know how we’re told at a young age that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes? Forget it. There’s still a bias against “natural” hair, specifically, the textured hair of women of color. NPR reports, “The ‘Good Hair Study’ asked over 4,000 participants to take an online IAT, or implicit association test, which involves rapidly-changing photos of black women with smooth and natural hair, and rotating word associations with both. According to the study, ‘a majority of people, regardless of race and gender, hold some bias towards women of color based on their hair.’ But the results also indicate that this bias is learned behavior, and can be unlearned.”

The article continues with the findings that “White women demonstrate the strongest bias–both explicit and implicit–against textured hair.” They rated it as ‘less beautiful,’ ‘less sexy/attractive’ and ‘less professional than smooth hair.’ However, white women who are in contact with black women naturalistas demonstrated lower levels of bias.”

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Tracee Ellis Ross. Image via CurlyNikki.com

A correlation is made between this information and that many female managers decide what looks are “appropriate for work.” This adds pressure to women of color to “soften” their image and, consequently, straighten their hair. “Given that white women make up a large majority of the 38 percent of female managers who decide what looks are appropriate for work, legal conflicts sometimes ensue. And courts tend to rule in favor of employers in such cases.”

Granted, people can find different variations of physical appearance acceptable. A lot of people don’t like tattoos. A lot of people like tattoos. A lot of people don’t prefer short hair. A lot of people prefer short hair. The key is to identify whether your bias is rooted in invalid assumptions or perceptions about the identity of that person. This is something that needs to be addressed and unworked as we move to celebrate a culturally diverse society that recognizes all the representations of genetics and culture.

Test yourself at Perception Institute’s Hair IAT and think about it.