“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” (Albert Einstein)
How much time do you spend in nature, or if not physically in it, somewhere where you can see and appreciate it?
On the whole, we’re spending less time outdoors and more time on our couches and at our desks, glued to screens—big screens, little screens, in-between screens. As with so many trends we’re seeing, this is not healthy. It has resulted in what writer Richard Louv calls “nature deficit disorder.” According to Louv, the term describes the “human costs of alienation from nature: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses, a rising rate of myopia, child and adult obesity, Vitamin D deficiency, and other maladies.”
There’s been abundant research in recent years—more than 100 studies—demonstrating the importance of nature to our physical and mental wellbeing: to our stress and anxiety levels, our happiness, energy, and even our prosocial behaviors, such as kindness and generosity.
“No act of kindness is too small. The gift of kindness may start as a small ripple that over time can turn into a tidal wave affecting the lives of many.” (Kevin Heath)
I was grumpy Monday. I was grumpy and depressed—deeply discouraged by the state of the world, the direction my country is taking, and the incivilities that have become so frequent and commonplace. I was feeling helpless to make any difference toward positive change and also overwhelmed by other things that are happening in my life. It wasn’t a great day.
In the mid-afternoon mail, I received a small envelope from my book publicist’s office. I had requested a supply of her business cards to include when I mailed information out to possible reviewers or others expressing interest in seeing advance copies of A Year of Living Kindly. Ben, the individual who mailed the cards to me, took the time to dash off a short message on a post-it, saying, “Donna, I just wanted to let you know that your book was incredible and inspiring! Thank you for that. ~Ben”
That tiny note changed my day. Suddenly, I felt hopeful. I felt connection. I was touched by Ben’s words. And I was also aware that he could just as easily have mailed me the cards without taking the time to include a note. I would never have known the difference.
“People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.” (Stephen Hawking)
Looking around at the world today, there’s plenty to complain about. Those triggers may be different for each of us, but unless you’ve somehow maneuvered your way into a bubble of bliss, there’s a lot of crap raining down on parades everywhere.
So, we complain. We complain about politics, we complain about our jobs, we complain about our relatives, we complain about the cost of turnips, and—of course—we complain about the weather. And we don’t just complain in solitude, or in silence. We also get together and vent—maybe over drinks after work, or around a dinner table, or when we chat with neighbors over the back fence. It seems to come effortlessly.
“One key to knowing joy is being easily pleased.” (Mark Nepo)
Jack Benny – a master of comedy … and being easily pleased
I came across this quote by Mark Nepo some months ago and it resonated with me. I’ve thought about it a lot, but hesitated to write about it or share it for fear that someone may interpret it as my advocating for accepting the unacceptable or for not resisting intolerance or injustice. I’m not, and I’m pretty sure the contemplative Mark Nepo isn’t either.
To me, being easily pleased doesn’t mean saying, “Oh, well, I wish more people cared about the environment, but I guess I won’t worry about it.” And it doesn’t mean saying, “Certain members of our society aren’t being treated equally, but I won’t fret about that.” And it certainly doesn’t mean accepting the fact that children are being killed and politicians are choosing to obey their gun lobby overlords rather than seek solutions that might save lives. No, being easily pleased doesn’t negate our need for activism.
Being easily pleased is delighting in the everyday wonders of being alive and choosing to appreciate what’s before us, rather than disparage it.
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” (Meister Eckert)
In the United States, we talk about gratitude a lot during November. We celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday, often spending it with family, friends, and food—lots of food.
It’s lovely to have a day specifically designated for giving thanks, but ideally that would be only one of many days we pause to express our thanks. It seems churlish and small-minded to discard gratitude as merely a quaint holiday tradition. Gratitude, like kindness, is not a weakness to be dismissed or derided, but a strength to be claimed and exercised. Plus, there’s a cornucopia of scientifically-based reasons why gratitude is good for you.