How to Share Your Beliefs (Even with People Who Don't Agree)

  Positively-Present-Beliefs
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Since the election, I’ve been writing and writing and writing. It’s what I do when I feel overwhelmed, when I feel like I have a lot to talk about but am not sure how to speak it aloud. I’ve been writing blog posts, then re-reading them and thinking, I don’t know if I should share this. I don’t want to offend people. And, even worse, I’ve been thinking, Maybe I shouldn’t share this because they might not like me after they read it. (Ugh, that ego!)

Like many people around the country (and the world), I’ve been torn between two sides of myself the one who wants to focus on the positive, keep the peace, and maintain my loyal following of readers, and the one who wants to use my blog for change, shake things up, and finally open up about controversial topics.

For the past two weeks, there’s been a war raging in my head between these two sides. Over the past few days, there’s been a new voice piping up, a slightly more rational, less-ego-driven voice, asking things like, Is there a way to be positive and share your beliefs? Is there a way to voice your opinion and still keep the peace? Is there a way to talk to people — especially those with opposing views — and not fight?

The answers to these questions are situational. If you’re dealing with someone who is violent, judgmental, or narrow-minded, you’re going to have a hard time discussing tough topics (politics, religion, sexuality, race, etc.) with him or her. However, if you can find people who are open-minded and willing to listen and talk about contentious issues, I do believe it’s possible to share your beliefs in positive ways. Will the peace always be kept? Probably not. Will conversations be completely fight-free? I can’t guarantee it.

What I can guarantee is that you’ll feel a lot better when you speak up for what you believe in. I know it’s hard. I know it’s scary. And I know that, if you’re surrounded by a lot of people who don’t share your beliefs, it can be intimidating. But, over the past few weeks, I’ve come to realize that one of the worst things you can do is be silent. You don’t have to agree with everyone  and not everyone has to agree with you but silencing yourself is an act of self-hate, shame, and fear. And you deserve better than that. We all do.

Okay, so, you’ve got some beliefs. You’re feeling brave (and safe) enough to share them. How do you go about doing it without putting other people off? How do you do it in a way that might actually make a difference? I’ve been thinking (and reading) a lot about this and practicing it my own life (many people close to me voted for the candidate I vehemently opposed and I’ve had many productive, positive conversations with them since the election) and here are some of the best ideas I’ve found for talking about your beliefs with people who don’t share them.

 

KNOW WHAT YOU BELIEVE.

It might sound obvious, but a lot people aren’t actually certain about what they believe. Many people flip-flop on certain issues, have beliefs based on one-off op-ed pieces (rather than real facts), or base their beliefs on those held by the people surrounding them. Before getting into any serious discussion (especially with people with opposing views), do your research  both the fact checking and the soul-searching kind. Carefully consider the issue, taking stock of what you know and what you might not know.

Just as importantly, consider how you feel really about it. It's incredibly tempting to jump onto the bandwagons, to join groups, and to identify with the labels, but remember: you are complex human being with unique experiences, insights, and ideas. We all want to belong, but think carefully about what beliefs you align yourself with. Before declaring, “I’m a _______________________,” or “I believe in _______________________,” ask yourself if that’s 100% true. It may very well be true, but it’s important to check in with yourself and make sure that you not your peers, not your family, not a portion of society you aspire to be like  do, in fact, hold these beliefs.

Also, it’s important to keep checking in with yourself periodically to see if you still hold the beliefs. We are ever evolving, changing creatures and what you believe at one point in your life will not be what you believe later. Because sometimes we get lazy, we might cling to beliefs we’ve had for a long time because we think we still believe them, not because we actually do.

 

SCRUTINIZE YOUR SOURCES.

It is so very, very important to check your sources, and then check them again. So many people hold — and speak about  beliefs not based on facts. With the incredible rise of the Internet, you’re able to read this article and countless other things that literally anyone can post online. Sometimes this is amazing — different viewpoints!  unique perspectives! — and sometimes this is just insane — fake news sites created just to get clicks, opinion pieces skewed with untrue claims, etc.

Not only is important to make sure the facts you have are, indeed, facts, but it’s important to be aware of how greatly biased the Internet is. A recent Fast Company article made me see this more clearly than ever. The Internet, as the article states, helps us take sides. We’re encouraged — by the sheer nature of how the Internet is set up — to cultivate either/or mindsets.

Every day we are given a choice to pick one thing or the other: like or dislike this post, agree or disagree with that article. Social media, while it does allow for comments and more lengthy explorations into "gray" territories, often encourages us to choose one thing over the other, usually in a yes-or-no, black-or-white dichotomy.

And here’s the scariest part: what we choose is constantly reinforced with algorithms designed to personalize our content. We are given more content that aligns with what we like, less that showcases what we don’t like. Most of us don’t actively realize this, so it starts to seem like everyone and everything supports our views.

Unlike in the old days, when people all saw the same images on TV and then disagreed or agreed with those images, we’re now shown images that support the ideas we’ve told the Internet we like. What we see online is meant to appeal to us — which can definitely be nice sometimes — but, as the Fast Company article argues, this is creating little individual bubbles where we’re all seeing the things we want to see, having our beliefs and preferences reinforced (often without even seeing information from the other side).

When you pause and think about this for a moment, it’s pretty crazy how much power the Internet has over what we see and think — and it’s pretty important to keep in mind as you’re gathering data and information to support your beliefs (or counter someone else’s). Do your best to go out of your way to find new sources, to find unbiased articles, to even reach out to those who hold opposing views and ask them for their thoughts.

Bonus Tip: When discussing tough topics (or having hard conversations in general), it’s useful to focus more on “I” than “you.” For example, “Based on what I’ve read, I believe…” or “What I’m hearing you say is…”

 

CHANNEL YOUR COURAGE.

Speaking up about the things you believe in can be extremely challenging sometimes, particularly if you’re speaking to someone who doesn’t share your perspective, but having courage is so important. It’s something I’ve personally struggled with a great deal, especially here on Positively Present. Because what I do and say must reflect my brand, I often feel restricted in what I can and cannot write about, and it pains me to have to withhold some of my beliefs and insights.

I have been afraid to talk about a lot of things because I’ve been afraid of people disliking what I have to say. I’ve been afraid of alienating readers. I’ve been afraid of, pathetic as this is to say, people being mean to me.

Here are some topics that matter a great deal to me, but that I never write about because I’m scared people will judge me, stop reading my work, or be hostile to me: feminism, agnostic atheism, sexuality, choosing not to marry or have children, money, and the list goes on. Most of these are things we're taught, from a young age, not to talk about because it's rude, which makes it more difficult to speak up about them as an adult. In addition, because what I write about is directly tied to my income, it’s even more difficult for me to write about things that might offend readers. My livelihood literally depends on the words I write. 

But here’s the thing: if you believe in something, you should talk about it.

There’s obviously a right and wrong way to do this. The initial post-election articles I wrote for myself —  filled with quite a bit of sadness, pain, and some pretty aggressive feminism that I’m pretty sure the average reader would be overwhelmed by — were not the best way to go about it. Some people might have responded well to those articles, but the negativity, anger, and in-your-face language used to evoke strong emotions would likely have shocked many people.

Now that a little time has passed, I’m able to think a bit more clearly and realize that what we need now is not more anger and negativity. What we need now is someone who is brave enough to speak her mind, but thoughtful enough to do it in a way that (hopefully) won’t offend or alienate her audience.

In the future, I do plan to tackle some of these topics that I’ve been afraid to touch —  especially those related to feminism and gender, which I studied in graduate school and feel particularly passionate aboute —  but I’m hoping to find a way to do this bravely but gently. I know longer want to place arbitrary restrictions on what topics I will or won’t tackle, but, unlike the day-after-election Dani, I know it’s not right to take this site —  a curated place of positivity, awareness, and self-love  and turn it into my personal feminist soapbox…

 

BE CLEAR AND HONEST.

…which leads me to my next point! When it comes to talking about difficult topics or beliefs, one thing most of us don’t do often enough is begin the conversation by being clear and honest. Too often, we are driven by strong emotions and triggered by the words of someone else rather that striving to be levelheaded and thoughtful in what we say and do. I know this is much easier said than done, but imagine what it would be like if you opened up a conversation like this:

“Hey, I know we have totally different views on this issue, but I’d really like to talk about it. I’m going to do my best to share my point of view calmly, and to listen and keep an open mind to what you have to say. I know neither of us will probably change our minds on this issue, but I think it’s important enough that we should talk about it.”

When starting a conversation with someone of a different political background or belief, it can be helpful to make it clear that you’re not necessarily trying to change his or her mind. One of the reasons we have such heated debates about politics is because it often feels like the opposing side is saying, “You’re wrong. Here’s why.”

Or, if you are trying to change someone’s mind, what if you were honest about it? You could say something like, “You know I feel really passionately about this topic. It’s very important to me, and I’d really love it if I could change your mind about it so that you could see it the way I do. I know that might not be possible, but would you be willing to listen to what I have to say? After I share my thoughts, I’ll be more than happy to listen to your point of view too.”

The key takeaway from this point is this: you’re never going to transform someone else’s mindset through trickery, bullying, or manipulation. (Okay, you might be able to, but is that the kind “win” you want?) You’ll get a lot farther —  and probably have a more positive conversation —  if you’re honest and clear about what you want to talk about and what your end goal for the conversation is.

 

SPEAK WITH COMPASSION.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote Campaigning for Compassion: 8 Essential Tips We Need Now, which is a must-read if you’re going to be talking about any tough topics with people who have opposing viewpoints. Compassion is a word we hear often, but its actual definition isn’t always clear. Compassion is about recognizing another's pain and desiring to alleviate it in some way (regardless of whether or not you agree with that person's beliefs).

When you’re passionate about a topic, it can be hard to channel compassion in the way you speak and react, but it’s important to do so  not only for the other person’s benefit, but for your own mental state as well.

For the most part, I see a lot of compassion from the people I follow online (and from the people who follow me), but the day after the election, I saw a lack of compassion that was, quite frankly, astounding to me. On Instagram, someone wrote to me, “Your positivity sickens me.” The person who wrote this was a young girl. It broke my heart to read that comment, to see how society taught her that, in order for progress to occur, we must be negative.

On the contrary, we need optimism. And, just as importantly, we need compassion  especially for those who display aggressive, angry, and hateful behavior. Without compassion, we’ll never be able to find our way in this shadowy, complex jungle of political discourse. Compassion is our flashlight in the dark. It, alone, is not going to get us from point A to point B, but it sure as hell is going to make the path easier to see.

As I wrote in my article on compassion, defending what you believe and having compassion for those who think differently are not mutually exclusive. You can be passionate and compassionate. Remember this when you’re speaking with someone who has completely different views and you’re struggling with compassion. (Also, try your best to go into the conversation with a compassionate mindset!)

 

LISTEN – REALLY LISTEN.

Listening isn’t just about opening your ears to the sounds coming from someone else’s mouth. It’s also about paying attention to body language, tone, facial expression. It’s also about looking past the words and considering what someone might actually mean, instead of just focusing on what they’re saying. Often, below the surface, it's clear that "I voted for ______________" really means "______________ is really important to me and that candidate really seems to represent that."

Will it be challenging to listen to other people talk passionately about what they believe in when it’s completely different from what you believe? You bet. But, if you want people to be tolerant and accepting of your views, you have to show others the same courteousness. If you want people to listen to you, you must listen to them. And when I say really listen, I mean it. It’s so tempting to assume you know what someone is going to say or to take a stand on it before it’s even been said, but don't allow yourself to make assumptions. Listen with your ears, watch with your eyes, and pay attention with your mind. 

Also, even if others' beliefs might sound crazy to you, don’t punish them for their honesty. Never forget that listening isn’t just about opening your ears — it’s about opening your mind as well. The point of talking about difficult issues with someone of differing beliefs is to open the lines of communication. 

 

RESPECT BOUNDARIES.

Not everyone is going to want to have passionate discussions with you, and that’s okay. It may be frustrating not to be able to talk to people about what you want to talk about, but it’s important to respect others’ boundaries. If someone makes it clear that s/he doesn’t want to talk to you about an issue, respect that. (Also, consider finding some people who do want to talk to you.)

Here are some other times you might want to respect boundaries — your own and those of the people around you — and not bring up, or keep talking about, tough topics:

 

  • When the other person is emotionally unready or unwilling to hear what you have to say. You’ve probably seen lots of pictures of people around the country in tears post-election. If you encounter a Hillary supporter curled in a ball sobbing, that’s probably not the time to bring up your list of reasons why Trump deserved to win. This isn’t to say you can’t talk about it at some point, but assess the emotional state of others and determine if it might be better to choose a different time to talk. Also, on a less dramatic scale, consider the general emotional state of yourself and the other person. If you (or s/he) had a terrible, long day at work, maybe it’s not the best time to get into a heated political debate.

 

  • When violent acts might be committed against you. This is not a reason for a whole group to be quiet (if it were, we’d still have horrific institutions like slavery), but in one-on-one situations where you would be in great physical or emotional danger if you were to speak your mind about a certain topic, it’s best to remain quiet until you can find a way to communicate without harm coming to you or someone else. Please be safe when it comes to speaking up.

 

  • When you’ve honestly, openly stated your beliefs with kindness and compassion, and you’re receiving only hatred, judgment, and accusations in return. Some people are just not open to listening and talking. This is sad and it can be painful, but it’s just the way it goes. Once you’ve said what you wanted to say, repeating it over and over (however nicely!) will no longer be productive.

 

  • When a large group of people is ganging up on you. Again, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t speak your mind —  I used to do it all the time in college, boldly stating my feminist thoughts in roomfuls of hyper-masculine athletes who, for the most part, had zero interest in feminism, resulting in the lovely nickname "Beliefs" — but sometimes it’s better to speak up when you either (a) have at least one person on your side or (b) can have a one-on-one with individuals of the group, instead of speaking to the group as a whole.

 

Regardless of what you’re talking about — or who you’re speaking to  it’s very important not only to respect others’ boundaries, but to take care of your own boundaries as well. If you’re unsure about whether or not to keep talking, ask, “Would you like to keep talking about this topic?” If you’ve gotten to a point where your own boundaries are being threatened, say, “I’m glad we were able to start this conversation, but I feel it is no longer productive, and I think we should stop talking about it for now.” 

 

TAKE POSITIVE ACTION.

Actions speak louder than words, they say, and it really is true. You can talk yourself blue in the face about what you believe in, but if you don’t support those words with actions, it’s going to be much less likely that people will take you, and your beliefs, seriously. Here a few ideas for how you can take positive action on your beliefs:

 

  • Donate to a cause that supports what you believe in
  • Volunteer for an organization you support
  • Share (legitimate, fact-based) information on social media
  • Offer to organize an event or fundraiser for a cause
  • Watch a film about the topic with someone who opposes it
  • Research the issue and consider new ways to offer help
  • Give (well-researched) books on issues you support to skeptics
  • Vote for the people who support what you believe
  • Call Senators / people in Congress and ask for change
  • Ask experts on the issues for ideas for how to help
  • Join local (or online) groups who share your beliefs
  • Read up on what others are saying (and gather facts!)
  • Shop at stores that uphold your beliefs (don't know? ask!)

 

It may seem like this action-taking isn’t a necessary step to talking about what you believe in, but it’s actually essential. Anyone can say they believe in anything, but to really have those beliefs heard (and have them matter), action is necessary. You might also want to see if you can have someone with opposing views take part in the action in some way. Sometimes people don’t realize what they believe until they see a situation for themselves.

 

FIND A CREATIVE OUTLET.

Finally, one of the best ways I can think of to share your beliefs is to find a creative outlet. This, of course, might not be for everyone (though I do think we all have the power to be creative and share that creativity, even if you don’t consider yourself a creative type!).

Talking about what you believe in is great, but sometimes it can be really useful to share your ideas through some other medium. Ideally, you want to share your creativity with others —  to encourage those who think the same way you do and to provide a new perspective for those who think differently —  but you can also just use this step as a way to cope with your own internal thoughts on the topic, which will ultimately make you better at sharing your beliefs with others.

For me, the creative outlet I’ve been channeling is a new Instagram account, This Uncommon Life. For weeks, I’ve been working on this little secret project —  a creative way to explore some of my thoughts around living what I consider to be a pretty uncommon life as an unmarried, child-free, sober, agnostic atheist, INTJ feminist. I know I’m not alone in living this life, but sometimes it feels lonely.

I started the Instagram account as a way to explore these feelings, to share some of my beliefs. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever actually make it public, but, for me, it’s important not just to have a creative outlet for my beliefs, but to share it as well. (Even though I'm honestly kind of scared about how people will react to it!)

If curious about what this little project is all about, go check out This Uncommon Life on Instagram. (Warning: it's not always positive and it's not always family friendly.) I basically take words I've found in old magazines and arrange them, ransom-note-like, into what I hope are thought-provoking phrases. It's been really fun, therapeutic, and inspiring for me, and, even if you don't care for that kind of thing, I hope seeing how I've channelled my beliefs into an outlet will inspire you to do the same. 

Whether you share your creativity or just keep it to yourself, Having a place to channel your thoughts and openly write, draw, paint, sculpt, etc. about your ideas and beliefs can be hugely beneficial when it comes to sharing those beliefs with others. And if you’ve found a creative outlet for your own beliefs, or plan to create on now, I’d love to see or hear about it!

 

Phew. That was quite the long post. If you’ve made it all the way down here, thanks for reading!! I hope these tips and tactics will help you feel confident in sharing your beliefs with those who don’t share them. And don't forget to download the free PDF here to keep these tips in mind as you share your beliefs. I know it’s scary, but if I can do it, you can do! Now, go out there and be brave!

  

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100 Things to Be Thankful For: Part II

Things-Im-Thankful-for-Positively-Present 

 

All week I thought about postponing this post and writing instead about the election, an event that has deeply impacted America, the world, and me personally. I've spent hours and hours writing about it, but I haven't yet found the right words to share here. It is important, and I know I cannot stay silent about it, the way I often have when it comes to politics. 

But, for now, let's focus again on the importance of gratitude. (For Part I, click here.) No matter what is happening in the world, or in your own personal life, gratitude should never be taken for granted. It is a powerful force, and it is one of the quickest and most effective ways to combat stress or anxiety. I highly encourage you to write your own gratitude list this week, to focus on the things you're appreciative of. 

 

51. NOURISHMENT

Yes, I'm one of those annoying people who thinks of food more as necessary nourishment than as enticing enjoyment, but I do have a few favorites (pizza! cookies!) and I'm thankful for the joy I experience when I eat the things I love. I'm also grateful for the nutrition I receive when I eat the things I know I should. ;)

 

52. MAGIC

While I don't believe in actual magic, I'm so entranced by the concept of it. I love imagining that there could be magic, allowing myself to let go of reason for a moment or two. I see magic in many places -- a shooting star, a close call, a kiss -- and, even though I know it's not real, I'm thankful for it all the same. 

 

53. CONNECTION

Connecting with other people feels pretty good, doesn't it? Whether we're talking about sharing a laugh with a stranger or a bed with a loved one, the moments we look at someone else and feel connected and understood are kinda amazing. Almost magical. ;) I'm so thankful for everyone I've ever connected with. 

 

54. IDEAS

I have a lot of ideas. Like, a LOT. Sometimes I'm frustrated by how many ideas I have, all of the glimmers of what-could-be written in notebooks or jotted on scraps of paper, but I'm also thankful that I never, ever fail to have more and more and more ideas. Yes, most of them will simply remain words on a page, but I love that they're there nonetheless. 

 

55. ARTWORK

Isn't art just amazing? There are so many mediums, so many kinds, so many outrageous and astounding concepts. I don't think there's nearly enough time for me to see all of the art I want to see in this lifetime, but I'll settle for whatever I can. Every piece of artwork is beautiful in its own way, and I consider an honor to experience it. 

 

56. DAYDREAMS

I don't daydream as much as I'd probably like (who has the time?!), but it's such an interesting and fun experience to let you mind wander to places far away from reality. I'm thankful for the daydreams I've had and, more importantly, for the fact that daydreaming is even possible! 

 

57. INDIVIDUALITY

Imagine what the world would be like if we were all exactly the same? It would be absolutely awful! So boring! So banal! I love being uniquely me, and I love that everyone I know is uniquely him/herself. When you're younger, embracing individuality can be tough, but the older I get, the more I happily embrace it.

 

58. HOME

My favorite place to be? Home. I'm a total homebody, and I'm so grateful for the fact that I get to spend a lot of time at home (with my pup!). For some people, home is just a place to crash at the end of the day, but, for me, home is my safe place, my recharging station, my cozy spot filled with things I love. 

 

59. WHIM-WHAMS

... and speaking of things I love, I love me some whim-whams. Also know as trinkets, these are those small, decorative objects you have around the house. I don't have many of these things (often people walk into my home and exclaim about how bare it is!), but the ones I do own, I love feverishly. 

 

60. TIME

I don't know how much time I have left (none of us do for sure), but I'm grateful for the 33+ years I've been given so far. Time is such a strange thing -- sometimes it drags, sometimes it flies -- but we're all so lucky to have whatever time we can. I hope I'm able to have lots more time, but I'm thankful for whatever I'll be given. 

 

61. SNAIL MAIL

Snail mail is my favorite kind of mail. It's so incredibly day-brightening to receive something in the mail that isn't a bill or a marketing ploy. It's great to receive fun mail, but I love sending it even more. I'm thankful to have so many wonderful people around the world to send snail mail to! 

 

62. ENERGY

Mornings are all about energy for me. Because I don't eat as healthfully as I should (I'm working on it...), my energy tends to drain as the day goes on. Still, I'm so thankful for those jolts of vitality early in the day. Just thinking about the difference between the end of the day and the beginning makes me so grateful for bursts of energy! 

 

63. SWEETNESS

Speaking of not eating so well... I love sugar and sweet treats. I know, I know -- sugar is pretty bad for you (especially the artificial, non-natural kind), but I have such a sweet tooth. I love a good chocolate chip cookie or piece of candy, and even though I try not to over-indulge, I'm glad for life's sweet treats.  

 

64. PAIN

This might seem like an odd thing to be thankful for, but imagine how odd life would be without pain. It might sound, in theory, like a good thing, but then I think about how much I've learned from pain, how much stronger I've become because of tough times. Pain sucks, but I'm thankful for what it's taught me. 

 

65. RAINBOWS

Every time it rains and I see the sun trying to push through the clouds, I race outside and scan the sky for rainbows. There's nothing more beautiful to me than the sight of every color painted in an arch across the sky. Plus, I think rainbows are such amazing metaphors -- without both the sun and the clouds, we'd never see their beauty. 

 

66. VELLICHOR 

Another new word I recently uncovered is vellichor, or the strange wistfulness of used bookstores. I'm so incredibly thankful that, just this month, I discovered an amazing used bookstore near my house (check out my haul here). There's something so sad and beautiful about books that've been read and released back into the wild. 

 

67. INTIMACY

I'm not the best at intimacy -- it's a bit hard for me to open up to people sometimes -- but when I do, it's such a thrill to be truly connected with someone else. Intimacy is connection on a different level and, whether it's sharing intimate secrets with a friend or getting physically intimate with someone, I'm grateful for the times I experience it. 

 

68. FORGIVENESS

To forgive is the greatest form of freedom, and it's taken me a really long time to realize how powerful it can be to let go of anger and pain. It also feels great to be forgiven when you're truly sorry for your actions. I'm thankful, too, for the opportunity to write Forgiveness this year and explore the topic in detail. 

 

69. STILLNESS

Stillness isn't my forte, but I try to at least have some time each day when I'm not doing anything (including looking at my phone...). It's so nice to just be still in this ever-moving world we live in, and I'm thankful for the moments I've been able to stay still, breathe deeply, and appreciate the moment. 

 

70. GIVING

Giving gifts is one of the most fulfilling activities in life, in my humble opinion. It's so fun to think about someone you care about and imagine what s/he might want as a gift. It feels so good to make someone happy, even if it's just with a small package. I don't have the means to give as many gifts as I'd like to, but I'm thankful for the ones I'm able to give. 

 

71. ENCOURAGEMENT

How amazing does it feel when someone encourages you? Or, better yet, when you encourage someone else? It's downright awesome is what it is. One thing I'm so grateful for is my ability to channel my enthusiasm into encouragement. Nothing feels better than motivating someone else! 

 

72. MANICURES

As a former nail-biter, manicures have special meaning for me. I bit my nails (badly) for over 30 years, and to have stopped that terrible habit is something I consider a great accomplishment. It might not sound like a big deal, but I have some major self-control issues so it's huge for me, and I'm thankful for my polish-ready nails. 

 

73. RESEARCHING

An odd one, for sure, but researching is something I love doing, especially online research. It makes me so happy when a friend asks me about something and I have to go searching for it (an example: this week my aunt asked me to search for young adult books taking place in Hawai'i!). I love, love, love the hunt!

 

74. EMPATHY

Being able to share another's feelings isn't something we're all able to do and, admittedly, I struggle with it at times, but I'm thankful for the moments I've experienced and for the moments others have been empathetic toward me. It's hard to let ourselves feel so much for others, but it's a wonderful, connecting experience. 

 

75. FOOLISHNESS

I've made a lot of mistakes (who hasn't?), and sometimes I bemoan my own foolishness. But, if I'm honest, some of life's really fun moments are the result of foolish decisions. No, we shouldn't do every foolish thing that comes to mind, but a bit of foolishness isn't such a bad thing. And it surely leads to great stories after the fact. 

 

76. TRYSTS

I'm a sucker for a good tryst. I'll spare you the details of my personal experiences, but I'll tell you this: even when they're bad news, they're still so good. A mixture of secrecy, lust, and sometimes can lead to disaster (believe me!), but I wouldn't trade the in-the-moment rush of a good rendezvous. 

 

77. RACONTEURS

Who doesn't love a good story? And, just as good, a good storyteller? You know those people who can captivate a room, even while telling a pretty banal story? I love those people. I love that charm and charisma, the way it draws people in and makes everything seem interesting. I'd love to be someone like that, but I'll settle for thankfully listening to them. 

 

78. SMILING

As Elf says, "Smiling is my favorite!" Not only am I thankful for the ability (and desire) to smile, but I'm even more grateful for every smile that's been sent my way. How great does it feel when someone smiles at you? So good, right? Here's a little smile for you right now... :)

 

79. IMAGINATION

I have a pretty wild imagination and, while this can lead to unnecessary anxiety, it's also pretty fantastic sometimes. I'm glad that I'm able to vividly play things out in my mind, especially things that could never happen in real life. It's a bit odd sometimes, but mostly awesome. 

 

80. MISTAKES

Just like pain, I'm thankful for the mistakes I've made. If I could click undo on some of them, would I? You bet. But, since the past cannot be changed, I find it really useful to try to learn something from each mistake and move forward. Making mistakes isn't always the most fun, but you sure can learn a lot from them! 

 

81. GOOD VIBES

You know how you just feel good around some people? I love that feeling, especially when it happens with someone you don't know well. It might sound a bit woo-woo and mystical to talk about people's "vibes," but I really do feel like people give off energy in some way and it's awesome when you encounter another's good energy. 

 

82. SERENDIPITY

When something good happens that you weren't expecting, that's serendipity. When you find something amazing when you're not looking for it, that's serendipity. Not only is it a beautiful word (so fun to say!), but it's also a beautiful concept to experience. I'm thankful for every serendipitous thing that's ever happened to me. 

 

83. MEMORY

Memory can be both the illness and cure. Obviously, painful memories aren't my favorite. But I'll take them if that means I can sometimes daydream about the great experiences I've had. Also, on a basic level, I'm thankful that I can remember things because I imagine the loss of memory is terrifying. 

 

84. ALLITERATION

Perhaps it's because I was born with alliteration on my tongue -- Danielle DiPirro -- but for whatever reason, I really love it. (See: Positively Present) Language in general is fascinating to me (so jealous of you linguistics out there!), but there's something so soothing and musical about alliteration. 

 

85. EARTH

If there were no Earth, there'd probably be no us. It's honestly kinda insane that I'm writing this from a giant globe spinning around in the sky, to be honest. I'm so thankful to be here though, and I'm thankful you're all here with me. It's a crazy time for humanity now, but we're all here in this place, which is pretty amazing.  

 

86. SOCIAL MEDIA

It might seem like an odd thing to be thankful for, but if it weren't for social media, I would never be able to do all the things I do. Online, I've met so many people I never would have met otherwise. I've connected with people all over the world. Information overload can be a problem, yes, but I believe the more informed we are, the better. 

 

87. CONVERSATIONS

You know those amazing (usually late night) chats you have with those you love, the ones that delve deep and leave you thinking about the world in a new way? Those are the kinds of conversations I'm grateful for. They are rare, but they are incredibly wonderful. 

 

88. SAFETY

I'm so fortunate to live in a place, surrounded by decent people, in which I feel safe most of the time. Yes, there are moments when safety is evasive (one of the downfalls of being a woman...), but most of the time, I feel protected and loved. Most of the time I live without fear, and I don't take for granted my good luck to know safety. 

 

89. GLITTER

Put glitter on something and I'll most likely love it. It's such a small, superficial thing, but when it hits the light and glimmers and shines, it really does seem like IRL magic. As the holiday season approaches, more and more things are covered in glitter and I'm thankful for each and every sparkle I see. 

 

90. ACCUBATION

This one is a bad habit of mine, but, man, do I love indulging in a bit of accubation (aka, eating or drinking while lying down). Give me a good book, a snack, a blanket, and my bed or couch, and I'm in accubation heaven. I know it's probably not ideal health-wise, but it sure is cozy. 

 

91. HEALING

Whether we're talking about emotion or physical healing, I've done a lot of it over the past few years. It's hard work, but it's also kinda miraculous, the way time often eases pain and heals us. I'm so fortunate that I've been given opportunities and environments that are so conducive to healing. 

 

92. WEEKENDS

Friyay! We all love it when the weekends roll around, don't we? Weekends, for me, don't mean what they used to because I usually work seven days a week, but recently I've been trying to actually relax on the weekends (... as I type this on a Saturday afternoon, haha). Whatever the day of the week, the weekend vibe is something for which to be thankful. 

 

93. TRANSPORTATION

Having a car (and convenient public transportation) is something I take for granted far too often. It's usually only when something's wrong with my car that I notice how lucky I am to have access to one. Being able to get to and from places independently is something I'm truly grateful for. 

 

94. CHANGE

To be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of change. I love the comfort of consistency. And yet -- I learn so much, I grow so much, when things change. It's not easy to do (or accept) sometimes, but change is, cliche as it sounds, one of life's only constants, and I'm thankful that I'm getting better at embracing it. 

 

95. KISSING

Kissing is pretty great, isn't it? If we could all do some serious making out every day, I bet we'd all be a lot happier. But maybe the fact that we don't usually do it daily is one reason it's so great. Either way, I'm a big fan of a great kiss, and I'm thankful for every smooch I've received or given. 

 

96. LEARNING

Nerdy as it sounds, I love learning. When I was younger, I didn't appreciate how lucky I was to go to good schools, to have encouraging and intelligent teachers, to be surrounded by people striving to better themselves. Now I realize how fortunate I have been, and I hope I am forever learning new things. 

 

97. AWARENESS

How cool is it that we're aware of ourselves and the world around us? It's something we often take for granted, but it's pretty crazy that we are so aware -- both in a literal and metaphorical sense. I work on my personal mindfulness all the time and, in doing so, I have an opportunity to be thankful for the awareness I've developed. 

 

98. WORDS

Someone once asked me, "What's the one thing you couldn't live without?" Without thinking, I exclaimed, "Words!" I still stick by that statement. I love books, I love lyrics, I love writing. Words have power beyond almost anything else, and I revere (and am so thankful for!) them. 

 

99. GRATITUDE

Can you be grateful for gratitude? I'm gonna say yes! I'm thankful that I'm able to feel grateful, and I'm thankful for the gratefulness I see in others. Gratitude, I'll be honest, has changed my life in so many ways, especially in relation to anxiety. It's almost impossible to grateful and anxious at the same time, and I'm thankful for that. 

 

100. YOU!

I'm so incredibly thankful for YOU! Thank you for reading this list. Whether you're a new reader or you've been around for the past 7+ years, I'm honored to write for you and share whatever I can with those of you who are willing to read my words. Thank you for reading my words and, more importantly, thank you for simply existing out there, being you. :)

 

When things are difficult (as they are for many of us right now), staying thankful can be a challenge, but never forget that, no matter what, gratitude will only improve a situation. Stay positive. Stay grateful. Doing so won't necessarily change anything, but it will change your attitude, and that can make all the difference in how you see, and interact with, the world.

  

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100 Things to Be Thankful For: Part I

Things-Im-Thankful-for-Positively-Present

 

It's going to be a bit of a crazy week here in America, so I thought I'd direct my attention to what helps me most whenever I'm feeling anxious or stressed: gratitude. Seven years ago I wrote a list featuring 100 Things I Am Thankful For and, to this day, it's still one of my most popular posts!

This year I thought I'd revisit and update that list. I did this without looking at the list, and then I went back to see how many of them ended up being the same after all this time, which was kind of awesome. It's kinda cool to write about things you're thankful for and then go back and see how the list has changed over the years -- I highly recommend it!

Here's my round-up for this year. Stayed tuned to next week for Part II! :)

 

  1. BOOKS

    Books are one of the few things I don't know if I could live without. My shelves are filled with novels I adore, non-fiction works that changed the way I see the world, beautiful images, creativity and inspiration so life-changing it leaves me speechless. Dramatic? Yes, perhaps, but I love books. I'm also super thankful that I've had the opportunity to write quite a few

  2. FREEDOM

    Freedom is something I highly value, and I'm so incredibly thankful for the many ways I experience it. Here in America, I have the freedom to do, say, wear, be whatever I want. I'm also grateful for the freedom I currently experience as a childless, unattached woman. I can do what I like (and I do!). 

  3. MUSIC

    Ah, music! It's up there with books in terms of things I cannot imagine life without. I'm particularly thankful for lyrics, the carefully crafted phrases that somehow put into words all of the things I always want to say. The thrill of finding a new song that speaks to your emotional state is truly unparalleled. 

  4. TECHNOLOGY

    On more than one occasion, I've exclaimed, "I love technology!" And I really do. I don't take for granted how fortunate I am to live in this technological age of iPhones and MacBooks and the internet (oh, how I love the internet!!). And that's to say nothing of medical technology, for which we should all be so incredibly appreciative.

  5. CANINES

    Dogs. Wolves. Foxes (not technically canine, but still!). I love them all. Animals in generally tug at my heart in a way that humans don't seem to do (sorry, humans!). There's something so magical about being able to connect with a creature that doesn't speak your language, that is so different from you. I can honest say, as well, that dogs have saved my life, and I will forever be thankful for them. 

  6. METANOIA

    This word (which I just discovered!) is the journey of changing one's mind, heart, self, or way of life. I'm so grateful for the ways I've changed my life -- learning to be more positive and present, giving up on bad habits, choosing to love myself (even when it's so challenging). This journey is on-going, and I'm so lucky to be living it. 

  7. KNOWLEDGE

    Think, for a minute, about all of the things you know. It's pretty amazing, isn't it? We start gaining knowledge as soon as we're born (maybe before that?) and, if we're open to it, we keep learning and growing up until the day we die. There's always something new to know, which is pretty darn amazing. 

  8. EMOTIONS

    As a pretty emotional person, I tend to swing high and low (middle ground isn't somewhere I spend a lot of time). While this can be frustrating at times, I'm still so thankful for these emotional ranges. As much as I hate going low sometimes, it really balances out those highs, and I'm thankful for the array of emotions I experience. 

  9. SOLITUDE

    Alone time is my jam. It might sound odd, but I adore being alone. I love the freedom that comes with it, the moments of insight, the opportunity for me to wind up my yo-yo, and the little adventures I get into on my own that no one (aside from Barkley...) will ever know about. All you introverts out there probably know just how thankful I am for time spent alone. 

  10. FAIRYTALES

    I'll admit that I'm partial to the kinder, Disneyfied versions of fairytales, but I appreciate the originals as well. Not only do I love the stories in and of themselves, but I'm honestly in awe (and appreciative) of the ways writers use characters and plots to explore intangible concepts and morals. Writers of all kinds do this, but there's something especially magical about the way it's done in fairytales.

  11. BEAUTY

    The word "beauty" is so broad, but I'm grateful for its many representations. I love tangible beautiful things. I love the intangible beauty of ideas and others' hearts. I honestly believe in the notion that everything is beautiful in some way, and I'm thankful for the fact that beauty can be found everywhere. 

  12. CREATIVITY

    I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have a career that allows me to explore my creativity through writing, illustrating, and designing. In addition to being thankful for my own creativity, I'm also so appreciative of others' creative work as well. One of life's best moments is seeing someone's work and thinking, wow, that's so creative! 

  13. HEALTH

    As a relatively healthy person, this is something I often take for granted, but there is nothing better than being in good health. Over the past few years, I've had some health struggles (and surgeries!) and they've reminded me how important is to be thankful for good health -- both my own and that of those I know and love. 

  14. EPIPHANIES

    You know those "a-ha!" moments, where you realize something so clearly or think of an idea you've never had before? Those are amazing and rare and I'm thankful that I've experienced a few in my life. I'm sure there will be more as I gain knowledge (and age...), and I can't wait to experience them. 

  15. LOVE

    Love, in its many, many forms, is something I will also be grateful for. I've fallen in love many times and each time has been an amazing whirlwind of emotion and excitement. And, of course, I've been fortunate to have (and give) the constant, unwavering love of friends and family. I am so lucky, and I don't take that for granted. 

  16. SUNLIGHT

    Right now there's a line of sunlight seeping through the blinds and onto the carpet. It's beautiful and it's comforting. Even when days are short and skies are cloudy, I know the sun will always return. It's consistency is something for which I am so thankful; its brilliant, life-giving force is astounding and much appreciated. 

  17. PRODUCTIVITY

    You know those days when you just keep crossing things off of your to-do list and you feel like an absolute boss? Those days are amazing, and I'm so grateful for the productive moments in life. It feels so good to get things done, to feel as if you're moving forward in a positive direction, making progress. 

  18. FAMILY

    I love my family more than words could possibly express. We're different in so many ways, but we are still connected in by the ways we love another. Like all families, we have our imperfections, but I really do feel like I lucked out in the family department, and I try my best not to take that good fortune for granted. 

  19. COLORS

    Color is something I can't seem to get enough of. I'm always drawn to it (especially orange!), and I love the emotional reactions it evokes in me. From my spot on the couch right now I can see almost every color of the rainbow, and I couldn't be more appreciative of the differences and beauty of each individual hue. 

  20. PHOTOGRAPHS

    Not only do photographs capture the really special moments in life so we can look back on them later (a rare way to make yourself happy in the present by referring to the past!), but they are also amazing ways to experience other perspectives, cultures, and places. Just think about all the things you know about from photos alone!  

  21. SLEEP

    Sleep might seem like an odd thing to be thankful for, but I'm so appreciative of every hour I get to rest and recover from the day before. I'm also fascinated by dreaming, and it's such a cool experience to live through things in your mind that you don't actually experience in real life. 

  22. BRAVERY

    I'm grateful for the moments I've been brave in my own life, and I'm also grateful for all those whose bravery has impacted me in a positive (brave soldiers who fight for America, brave people who stood up for my rights and the rights of those discriminated against, etc.). We're all brave in unique ways, and I'm so thankful for that. 

  23. HYGGE

    I've only recent discovered this word, which has many meanings, but the one I most closely relate to is: "creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people." To me, it's coziness and candle light, feeling snug and warm with those you love. I'm so thankful to experience hygge!

  24. ENTHUSIASM

    Generally I'm a pretty enthusiastic person. When I'm into something, I'm into it! I love being enthusiasm and I'm thankful for that quality in myself. I also really appreciate when other people are enthusiastic about things, and find it so fascinating when that enthusiasm is something I can't personally understand. YAY for enthusiasm! 

  25. FRIENDS

    Whether you have a few close buddies or a whole squad of pals, friendship is something we can all be thankful for. Every moment spent with friends is a gift and, even though I do prefer being alone, I'm filled with gratitude for all of the friends I've had throughout my life, and especially for the few life-long ones I have. 

  26. ORGANIZATION

    Being organized is one of my favorite things. I know it's not everyone's preference, but, for me, organization is essential to a peaceful state of mind (and life!). I love sorting things (especially by color!), and I'm filled with thankfulness when everything is in its rightful place. 

  27. MYSTERY

    While I'm not a fan of scary mysteries, I do love the fact that there is so much we don't really know about life. The unknown elements of the future (and, in some cases, the past) make life exciting. Sometimes, yes, I would love to have all of the answers, but more often than not, I'm grateful for the mysterious nature of what's to come. 

  28. QUOTES

    Did you know I love quotes? Haha, I bet you did! I'm so thankful that I can easily find quotes that speak to me, and that I have the opportunity to share my favorites with you via this site and on Instagram. There are few things I love more than a perfectly worded sentence that makes me think about things in a new way. 

  29. LAUGHTER

    Laughing is honestly one of my favorite things to do, and I've been told I do it a lot. When it comes to experiencing true joy, a long, tear-producing belly laugh is up there on the list. Laughter's been called the best medicine, and I believe that to be true (aside from, ya know, actual medicine). I'm grateful for every single giggle, every single laugh. 

  30. WONDERLAND

    A fictional place might seem like an odd thing to be thankful for, but Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has been my favorite for decades, and writing about it actually led to my first book deal. My love of Wonderland literally changed my life, making it something for which I'll be always grateful. 

  31. NATURE

    I'm pretty far from "outdoorsy," but I actually love nature in a very deep way. I'm fascinated by it, and grateful for the bits of it that I'm able to experience. Whether it's pausing to stare at a perfect spiderweb or looking up at the leaves changing color on the trees, I never find myself not in awe of nature. 

  32. OPTIMISM

    Optimism is tough, and admittedly I'm not always as positive as I'd like to be, but focusing on optimism has changed my life. Choosing positivity over negativity makes things better, no matter what's happening. It took me decades to realize the value of an optimistic outlook, but I'm so happy I finally came around to bright side. 

  33. SOBRIETY

    For six and a half years, I've been sober. It's challenging, it's isolating, and it's hard as hell sometimes, but my sobriety is something I'm so thankful to have experienced. Not only has it improved my life, my mindset, and my relationships, but it's taught me things about the world I never would have known without it. 

  34. BALTER  

    It was only recently that I discovered this word, which means to dance recklessly without grace or skill but with enthusiasm, but it's something I've been doing for as long as I can remember. Rarely does a day go by that I don't have some silly little dance party in my apartment, and I'm grateful for those wild, private moments that always end in me laughing at myself. 

  35. HOLIDAYS

    As a big fan of celebrations (and raised by a very festive mom!), holidays always bring me such happiness. There's something about the return of them, year after year, that's both soothing and exciting. My favorite is Halloween, but Christmas is a close second. I'm thankful for those who help make the world festive each year! 

  36. STARRY SKIES

    There's rarely a night when I don't go outside and turn my eyes to the sky in search of the stars. Even after over three decades of standing on this planet, gazing upward, I'm still in awe of them. Once I read that they are the sky's freckles, and that image has stayed with me. They are magical, glittery reminders of how small we are. 

  37. KINDNESS

    Kindness -- especially the kind that's given with nothing expected in return -- is flat-out amazing. We don't ever have to be kind to one another, and yet we continue to be. Yes, we're also shockingly unkind at times, but so often life's kindnesses are overlooked. My heart swells with gratitude for every kind thing others have done for me, themselves, and others. 

  38. FEMINISM

    I don't talk about this much on Positively Present, but "feminist" is a huge part of my identity. In college, I learned what it really means, and it impacted me so much that I went on to study gender in graduate school. I know the word often has negative connotations, but I'm grateful for it (and for the freedom to embrace it, a freedom not everyone in the world is granted). 

  39. DESIRE

    Longing for things (or people) can be frustrating at times, but it's also kind of lovely, wanting for something you don't already have. Can you imagine what life would be like if you already possessed everything you wanted? How boring and bland it would be! I'm thankful for the excitement desire brings to my life. 

  40. INSPIRATION

    Inspiration is almost everywhere, if you know how to look for it. Since I started this site, I've been constantly on the lookout for inspiration and I'm never let down by how much of it there is. Whether it's a motivating quote, the sight of something beautiful, or a book filled with new ideas, there's no end to how much I can be inspired, and I'm so grateful for that. 

  41. SELF-LOVE

    Self-love is a constant work-in-progress, but the work is always worth it. I don't know when exactly I learned about the notion of self-love, but it's transformed the way I think about myself and, in turn, the world. Gratitude is an act of self-love and self-love is act of gratitude. 

  42. ACCEPTANCE

    This doesn't always come easily -- especially when times are tough or you're unhappy -- but whenever I've been able to cultivate acceptance, I've felt so much more fulfilled and at peace with myself. It's hard to accept things we cannot change about ourselves or the world, but I'm thankful for the moments I've been able to embrace what is. 

  43. WORK

    I'm so incredibly luck to do something I love for a living -- to write and create and share it with you! -- but that hasn't always been the case. Not only am I thankful for the work I have now, but also for the work that brought me to where I am now. And, on a basic level, I'm so grateful to have skills I can use to provide for myself. 

  44. CUTENESS

    An odd thing to be thankful for? Perhaps. But there's nothing quite like seeing something that's adorable. It's cliche, but the sight of something cute makes me want to squeal with excitement. I'm so filled with thanks for every single cute puppy, kitten, illustration, etc. that I've seen. They're small things, but they make my heart happy in a big way. 

  45. MINDFULNESS

    Though I write about this constantly and it's part of my career, mindfulness is still a struggle for me. As someone who suffers from anxiety, it's hard not to focus on the future or worry about the past, but the more I practice staying mindful, the easier it gets. I'm thankful for every moment I've been fully present. 

  46. MUSEUMS

    As a kid, I took access to so many free museums in Washington DC for granted, but, as an adult, I realize how amazing it is to be able to see such beautiful art and history housed in beautiful old buildings. I still don't go to museums as often as I should, but I love every moment I spend in them. 

  47. QUIDDITIES

    A quiddity is someone or something's distinctive or peculiar feature, and it's something I'm hyperaware (and appreciative!) of. Everyone I know has something about him or her that is 100% unique to that person, and that's pretty amazing if you think about it! I probably have a few quiddities myself, and I'm thankful for my own uniqueness. 

  48. FASHION

    I love fashion (it was even my major for a year in college!), and I'm so grateful for the ways we can explore self-expression through what we wear. I loved writing A-Wear-Ness: Mindfulness + What You Wear this year, and it really helped me think even more deeply about how grateful I am for fashion (even if I do spend most of my time in sweatpants!). 

  49. DANDELIONS

    It's for many reasons I love these sweet, strange little weeds: (1) it's my nickname, so I'm a bit partial to them; (2) they transform into such beautiful, wispy things, and (3) they're made for wishing! I love how they provide a moment for us to pause, take a deep breath, and think about the things we long for. 

  50. SEASONS 

    While I'm very much drawn to autumn (and winter!), I'm so thankful to live in a place where I can experience all four seasons. Each one has pros and cons, and it's so wonderful to know that, regardless of what season it is, in a few months it will be different. I love the continual reminder of the power of transformation. 

 

I hope these inspired you to think about things you're thankful for. It's not always the easiest thing to do at a time like this, but it's honestly one of the best ways I've discovered to combat stress and anxiety. Stay positive this week! And stay grateful too! Tune in next week for Part II. :) 

  

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The Magic + Mindfulness of October

 

October

 

There's something magical about October, the month when everything begins to change. I've experienced the month many times before, but the magic of this pause between the liveliness summer and the harshness of winter never seems to stop fascinating me. Every year I fall in love with this month, this pause between the extremes, all over again.

 

Lately I've been thinking that maybe it's because it's a pause in extremes that I love it so much. Generally I tend to be a pretty extreme person (either obsessed or completely disinterested), which is possibly why October -- a month symbolic of in-betweens, of pausing and savoring what's left of warmth between winter sneaks in -- is so appealing to me. 

 

A few years ago I came across Robert Frost's "October," written in 1913, for the first time. Not surprisingly, fell in love with his words (how wonderful it is that they can be so relevant and wise 100+ years later!), and this year I've come back to them again. 

 

O hushed October morning mild, 

Thy leaves have ripened to the fall; 

Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,

Should waste them all. 

The crows above the forest call; 

Tomorrow they may form and go. 

O hushed October morning mild, 

Begin the hours of this day slow. 

Make the day seem to us less brief. 

Hearts not averse to being beguiled,

Beguile us in the way you know. 

Release one leaf at break of day; 

At noon release another leaf; 

One from our trees, one far away.

Retard the sun with gentle mist; 

Enchant the land with amethyst. 

Slow, slow! 

For the grapes' sake, if they were all, 

Whose leaves already are burnt with frost, 

Whose clustered fruit must else be lost -- 

For the grapes' sake along the wall.

 

The poem is, on an obvious level, a metaphor for life and death. October (and autumn in general) is symbolic of the waning years of life, when you come to realize how little time might be left and you long for time to slow. But we need not be in the final months of life's year to take these words of wisdom to heart. At any age, we can read Frost's words and notice how autumn, and October in particular, is a reminder to take each day slowly, rather than rushing quickly to the next.

 

Just as the leaves do in October, the leaves on our trees will surely change from green to yellow to orange and brown; they will someday let go and fall to the ground. Our winters will one day arrive. But this isn't meant to be disheartening. Rather, the awareness of death, of the time when our leaves will rest on the ground beneath the bare skeletons of our branches, should inspire us to live more slowly, with more meaning. 

 

October serves not only as a reminder of our own morality, that uncomfortable truth that the brightness of our lives will someday fade, but it also brings to mind the ever-present concept of change. Like the world outside our windows in October, we, too, are changing, aging, shifting from one color to the next. We are, like it or not, fading, our outer colors dulling a bit with each passing year. This annual reminder of mortality shouldn't be depressing, but instead should inspire each of us to live with more purpose. 

 

Frost's poetic musings remind us that, yes, death is inevitable, but his positive twist on this timeless sentiment prompts a life-affirming belief that we have the power to make the most of every day. Though our branches will ultimately be left bare, right now we can strive to enjoy the leaves still remaining, to take in the brilliance of their colors (many of which are more beautiful than they were in spring or summer!) and enjoy them.

 

October's changes also remind us that, though we cannot control everything -- our trees may face damaging gusts of wind, leaf-soaking rain, and white-hot, sun-soaked days, and we were unable to choose the location in which our tree initially grew -- we can control how we view the leaves still clinging to our limbs. Whether you're a still-full tree, leaves tinged with yellow, or almost completely bare, that last leaf clinging bravely to a branch, we can appreciate what beauty (and time) still remains. 

 

We cannot change the length of our days (imagine, though, if we could slow some of them down or speed them up!), we often have the chance to choose what we do with the hours we're given. If we fill our days with purpose and meaning, each day will feel longer and more full. Frost notes that humans are not opposed to the idea of being fooled and, perhaps, should allow themselves to be fooled into living days that seem longer than they really are. Of course, the best way to fool yourself into living longer days is to live them slowly, with purpose, filling them with activities, people, and experiences that allow you to rest your head on the pillow at night knowing that you did, in fact, make the most of the day. 

 

If we want to live more slowly, with more purpose, we must become find mist that Frost writes of, the mist that will slow the sunset, beautify the sky and, if even for a short time, slow the coming of the night's frost. This mist is all of the things that make life worth living: the laughs shared, the hugs given, the work joyfully completed, the stimulating conversations, the kind acts, and loving moments. These things won't slow time, of course, but, just like the mist, they will make it seem as if time is moving more slowly. They will take away some of the harshness of knowing that, inevitability, winter is coming. 

 

Of course, finding this mist and choosing to live more slowly is no easy task. It requires effort and attention. It also requires practice. That's what I plan to do this month: practice more mindfulness. You might think I'm always "positively present," but even after all of these years of working on it and writing about it, I still struggle a great deal with staying present. I'm almost always in a rush, scrambling to cross things off my list as quickly as possible, and maybe you, too, feel as if you're not living as mindfully as you should.

 

Living more slowly won't be easy for someone like me, but I'm determined to let every October-related change I see around me -- the changing leaves, the bright blue skies, the chilly nights, the delicious scent of freshly fallen leaves -- serve as a reminder to me that life is not endless and, while I have no way of knowing when exactly my tree will shed its leaves, I can take comfort in knowing that, in each moment, I have the choice to be present, to notice and appreciate the colors still surrounding me. 

 

 

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The Ultimate Book Gift Guide

 

Books-Are-Magic

 

If there's one thing I love, it's books (as you might have seen my recent YouTube video: 10 Books That Changed My Life!) I believe books are, as Stephen King put it, "uniquely portable magic." I meant to simply post a list of books I would recommend, but as I was scanning my bookshelves and my GoodReads page, I couldn't help but think about all of the book beliefs I hold. Here are just a few of them...

 

I believe books can transform the way you think about the world -- and yourself. They shape your values. They provide guidance and inspiration and a safe, healthy form of escape. 

I believe a little part of every book I've ever read stays with me forever, even if I don't always remember the exact words I've read. The meanings we find in words stay etched on our souls. 

I believe a space without books is lacking not only in knowledge, but in beauty as well. Some of my favorite sights are the straight, colorful spines of books. 

I believe the best books can (and should!) be read over and over again. Every time you read a book you love, you can learn something new about who you are.

I believe the best books for you won't always be the ones topping the best-seller list. I believe there're little bits of word magic found on garage sale tables and in the nooks of used book stores.

I believe we are all book-lovers at heart, even those of us who claim not to adore them. Each of us is a story-teller, and each of us loves a story well told. 

I believe you can fall in love with characters and authors and fictional places you've never been; I believe this kind of love is just as real as the heart-pounding, palm-sweating kind. 

I believe every book we read is unique to us; the reader, as much as the writer, crafts the story or explores the knowledge with her imagination and insight.

I believe there can be nuggets of goodness even in a bad book, but I don't believe in continuing to turn the pages just to reach an end. If you hate it, put it down. 

I believe a great book can make you feel less alone;  in the words on a page, you can find compassion, love, and forgiveness. A great book can be a mirror both for who you are and who you want to be. 

I believe you shouldn't believe every word you read; just because it's in print doesn't mean it's true. Books can lead to truth, but not all of them are filled with it.

I believe reading can help you to remember, and it can also help you to forget. It's up to you to choose which mindset you happen to be in the mood for. 

I believe books are a pathway to freedom. With one in your hand, you can become and learn and see absolutely anything; there are no rules inside of a book. 

I believe the best books never actually come to an end. The words continue to be read and re-read in all the words you think and speak and feel. 

I believe there will never be an end to the list of books I want to read, but I will keep doggedly plowing through my to-read list for the rest of my life. 

(Like these words? Download I Believe Books!)

 

And, most importantly, I believe everyone -- even the "I don't really get into reading" types -- can benefit from reading a great book. So here's a list of some of my favorites, along with some thoughts on who these books might be perfect for (they might speak to you or they might make perfect gifts for that holiday season that's just around the corner!)  

I've tried to sort them in to some sort of order, but truly I recommend looking through the whole list because you never know what might spark your interest (or sound perfect for someone you know!)

  

FOR ADULT FAMILY MEMBERS

For literally anyone related to you or who has a family... 
It Didn't Start with You / Mark Wolynn

For your uber-opinionated and vocal grandfather...
The Joy of Argument / Albert Navarra

For your too tough-and-cool for self-help uncle...
10% Happier / Dan Harris

For your memory-hoarding mother... 
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up / Marie Kondo

For your self-involved (but secretly sweet) teenager... 
Tiny Buddha's 365 Love Challenges / Lori Deschene

For your not-quite-on-the-same-page spouse...
The Five Love Languages / Gary Chapman

For your romance-novel-reading mother-in-law...
Other People's Love Letters / Bill Shapiro

For your hilarious (and a bit odd) aunt...
Furiously Happy / Jenny Lawson

For your sibling with a kid who's struggling in school...
Thinking Organized / Rhonna Gordon

For the dad who thinks feminism is for women only...
Feminism Is for Everybody / bell hooks

For your aunt and uncle who're constantly bickering...
Blamestorming / Rob Kendall

For your health-conscious, foodie brother-in-law...
In Defense of Food / Michael Pollan 

For the mother who puts everyone else first... 
Too Nice for Your Own Good / Duke Robinson

For your brother who needs a bit of inspiration...
This is How / Augusten Burroughs

For your father-in-law who loves a good mystery...
Knights in White Satin / Philip DiPirro

For your sister who's against ever marrying...
Spinster / Kate Bolick

For your aunt who's self-identifies as a dog mom...
Inside of a Dog / Alexandra Horowitz

For the cousin still working on that novel...
On Writing / Stephen King

For the niece struggling through her 20s...
It's a Wonderful Lie / Emily Franklin

For the aunt who loves daily bits of insight... 
Stay Positive / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For your spouse (read it together!)...
Love 2.0 / Barbara L. Frederickson

For the sibling you've not-so-subtly resented for years... 
Forgiveness / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For your parent who's curious about self-improvement...
The Positively Present Guide to Life / Dani DiPirro (me!)

 

FOR KIDS AND TEENAGERS

For your slightly neurotic niece or nephew...
Owl at Home / Arnold Lobel

For a teenager at odds with her mother...
The Runaway Bunny / Margaret Wise Brown

For the child who's not like his/her siblings...
The Trumpet of the Swan / E.B. White

For the teen who doesn't like standing out... 
The Perks of Being a Wallflower / Stephen Chbosky

For the little toddler who's always a bit grumpy...
Have You Filled Your Bucket Today? / Carol McCloud

For the little one who's always daydreaming...
Once Upon a Cloud / Claire Keane

For the middle-schooler adjusting to a new place... 
I Capture the Castle / Dodie Smith

For the teen with a potentially self-destructive friend...
Looking for Alaska / John Green

For the teenage girl who love the broody boys...
The Wind Blows Backward / Mary Downing Hahn

For the girl who needs some modern advice...
Girl Talk / Christie Young

For the little girl who wants a place of her own...
Mandy / Julie Andrews Edwards

For the creative teenager who needs a pick-me-up...
Pick Me Up / Adam J. Kurtz 

For the deep-thinking, graphic-book-loving teen...
Persepolis / Marjane Satrapi

For the teenager always snapping Insta pics...
A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book / Elsie Larson

For the super creative (and a little spooky) kid...
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick / Chris Van Allsburg

For the kid who loves animals more than people...
Guardians of Being / Eckhart Tolle

 

FOR YOUR FRIENDS

For the friend who's a (not so) secret badass...
Bad Girls Throughout History / Ann Shen

For the friend going through a really tough time...
Loving What Is / Byron Katie

For the always-judging-others friend...
Compassion / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For the friend sighing, "I should try meditating..."
You Can Master Meditation / David Fontana

For the friend who needs to dump him/her ASAP...
The No-Contact Rule / Natalie Lue

For the friend who cancels plans to read instead...
Quiet: The Power of Introverts / Susan Cain

For the friend struggling to get pregnant...
The Fairy Rebel / Lynn Reid Banks

For the friend who's scared of (but needs to) change...
Start Where You Are / Meera Lee Patel

For your super creative, artistic, cool friend...
In Progress / Jessica Hische

For the friend who constantly seeks external approval...
I Need Your Love: Is That True? / Byron Katie

For the friend who recently said goodbye to a pup...
Dog Heaven / Cynthia Rylant

For the buddy who's constantly worrying...
The Power of Now / Eckhart Tolle 

For the friend with a rocky mother/daughter relationship... 
Boundaries / Anne Katherine

For your sassy friend who needs a happiness boost...
How to Be Happy, Dammit! / Karen Salmansohn

For your whimsical friend who loves a bit of magic...
The Night Circus / Erin Morgenstern

For a friend who seems like she's really lost...
Wild / Cheryl Strayed

For the friend that still keeps a diary...
The Folded Clock / Heidi Julavits

For the pal that needs to figure out what she wants...
The Desire Map / Danielle LaPorte

For the guy who's always crying over his ex...
The Great Gatsby / F. Scott Fitzgerald

For your feminist friend who feels all the feels...
I Am an Emotional Creature / Eve Ensler

For your buddy who's always searching the next rush...
Hector and the Search for Happiness / François Lelord

 

FOR YOUR COLLEAGUES

For the creative-but-frazzled coworker...
Calm / Michael Acton Smith

For the coworker who needs to follow her passion...
The Crossroads of Should and Must / Elle Luna

For the too-creative-for-this place coworker...
Big Magic / Elizabeth Gilbert

For the coworker who's always super stressed...
Living in the Moment / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For the colleague always around adults...
The Little Prince / Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

For someone who needs a bit of motivation...
It's Not How Good You Are... / Paul Arden

For the coworker who's always complaining...
Gratitude / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For the a stylish guy/gal who loves soul-searching...
Style Statement / Danielle LaPorte

For the coworker getting his kids a puppy...
The Puppy Primer / Patricia B. McConnell

For the guy always yelling in his office...
Emotional Agility / Susan David, PhD

For that colleague always looking for gossip...
PostSecret / Frank Warren

For that guy always looking for a project...
The Happiness of Pursuit / Chris Guillebeau

For the colleague always finding the bad stuff...
You Can Be an Optimist / Lucy MacDonald

For the coworker who should run her own business...
#GirlBoss / Sophia Amoruso

For the HR guy who loves analyzing people... 
The Social Animal / David Brooks 

For your colleague who can't choose a lunch spot...
The Paradox of Choice / Barry Schwartz

For the boss who's perpetually stressed out...
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work / Richard Carlson

For the trivia-loving data dude in IT...
The Visual Miscellaneum / David McCandless

For the admin who needs to pursue her dreams...
Now Is The Time To Do What You Love / Nancy Whitney-Reiter

 

Phew! That's quite a list, huh? I'd love to keep adding to it -- it is the Ultimate Book Gift Guide, after all -- so feel free to leave me a comment below or send me a message on social media about the books you'd include on this list. I'm always looking to add to that never-ending pile of to-read books! :)

If you liked the words above and would like a FREE PDF to download and print, click here or click the image below to download a PNG file, perfect for saving to Pinterest or keeping on your computer! :)

I-Believe-Books