More

How thankfulness helped me salvage a tumultuous 2017.

Making gratitude a part of my daily routine helped me in unexpected ways.

How thankfulness helped me salvage a tumultuous 2017.

2016 was a hard year for a lot of us. That's why on January 1, I started a "thankfulness thread" on Twitter.

It's a small thing, but it's made a big difference in my life.

Every night, just before I go to bed, I think of one thing from that day that I'm thankful for and tweet it out into the world. Sometimes, these tweets are about my family, friends, or others in my life; sometimes, they're about things as simple and silly as macaroni and cheese or a movie I watched that particular day. The point of the exercise is to find one thing I can focus on, even if just for a few seconds, to be thankful for, and put the rest of the world out of my mind.


The idea actually came from my therapist — another thing I started doing in 2017, going to a therapist — as a way to break from cycles of negativity I was experiencing after the election.

For instance, in June, I tweeted about how I was thankful for my dad, writing that "he's a good dude who always did his best."

In August, I watched my beloved Chicago Cubs put up 17 runs on the Pittsburgh Pirates. That same month, I tweeted about how thankful I was to hang out with my friends Will and Tim after their band played a set at Lollapalooza.

In October, I expressed my gratitude for Kayla, my wife and all-around favorite person on the planet. I also took a moment to appreciate the crisp weather of fall in the Midwest.

What at first seemed like a hokey ritual soon turned into one of my favorite parts of the day.

These deliberate reflections gave me a fresh sense of ease and control over my own life. I felt less stressed and more appreciative, less likely to have knee-jerk negative reactions and more eager to find ways to make a positive mark on the world. While the list didn't erase any of the many ongoing horrors of the world, it did help me put matters in perspective.

I'm nowhere near the first person to experience the benefits of being thankful. Researchers have been studying this tactic for years.

A 2009 University of Manchester study found that switching your brain into a state of gratitude right before bed had a positive effect on sleep quality and duration. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published a paper in 2003 highlighting the positive effects of "gratitude journals" on one's sense of mood and well-being. The Journal of Religion and Health published a 2015 study linking gratitude with physical health and hopefulness, and a 2012 Social Psychology and Personality Science paper found ties between thankfulness and an increased capacity for empathy.

Whether it's something like the proximity of my parents or the kindness and care of the people at my local pet supply store, making my list has helped me hone in on the mindset I needed to unlock those benefits.

As with all things related to mental health, it's important to find what works for you.

Some people benefit from therapy, others from medication; some swear by exercise and eating well, while others see help in the form of routine. As for me, it's been a combination of the above that's helped me cope with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues I sometimes struggle with.

As we enter 2018, I hope to build on some of the progress I've made over the past year, to reflect on what I'd like to change and reinforce what I love about myself. As long as I'm growing and improving with each passing day, working to overcome my flaws, I'll always have something to be thankful for.

True

In 1945, the world had just endured the bloodiest war in history. World leaders were determined to not repeat the mistakes of the past. They wanted to build a better future, one free from the "scourge of war" so they signed the UN Charter — creating a global organization of nations that could deter and repel aggressors, mediate conflicts and broker armistices, and ensure collective progress.

Over the following 75 years, the UN played an essential role in preventing, mitigating or resolving conflicts all over the world. It faced new challenges and new threats — including the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, a Cold War and brutal civil wars, transnational terrorism and genocides. Today, the UN faces new tensions: shifting and more hostile geopolitics, digital weaponization, a global pandemic, and more.

This slideshow shows how the UN has worked to build peace and security around the world:

1 / 12

Malians wait in line at a free clinic run by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Mission in Mali in 2014. Over their 75 year history, UN peacekeepers have deployed around the world in military and nonmilitary roles as they work towards human security and peace. Here's a look back at their history.

Photo credit: UN Photo/Marco Dormino

Biases, stereotypes, prejudices—these byproducts of the human brain's natural tendency to generalize and categorize have been a root cause of most of humanity's problems for, well, pretty much ever. None of us is immune to those tendencies, and since they can easily slip in unnoticed, we all have to be aware of where, when, and how they impact our own beliefs and actions.

It also helps when someone upends a stereotype by saying or doing something unexpected.

Fair or not, certain parts of the U.S. are associated with certain cultural assumptions, perhaps none more pinholed than the rural south. When we hear Appalachia, a certain stereotype probably pops up in our minds—probably white, probably not well educated, probably racist. Even if there is some basis to a stereotype, we must always remember that human beings can never be painted with such broad strokes.

Enter Tyler Childers, a rising country music star whose old-school country fiddling has endeared him to a broad audience, but his new album may have a different kind of reach. "Long Violent History" was released Friday, along with a video message to his white rural fans explaining the culminating track by the same name. Watch it here:

Keep Reading Show less
True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less

The legality of abortion is one of the most polarized debates in America—but it doesn’t have to be.

People have big feelings about abortion, which is understandable. On one hand, you have people who feel that abortion is a fundamental women’s rights issue, that our bodily autonomy is not something you can legislate, and that those who oppose abortion rights are trying to control women through oppressive legislation. On the other, you have folks who believe that a fetus is a human individual first and foremost, that no one has the right to terminate a human life, and that those who support abortion rights are heartless murderers.

Then there are those of us in the messy middle. Those who believe that life begins at conception, that abortion isn’t something we’d choose—and we’d hope others wouldn’t choose—under most circumstances, yet who choose to vote to keep abortion legal.

Keep Reading Show less
@frajds / Twitter

Father Alek Schrenk is known as one of the "9 Priests You Need to Follow on Twitter." He proved his social media skills Sunday night after finding a creepy note on a parked car and weaving a lurid Twitter tale that kept his followers on the edge of their pews.

Father Schrenk was making his nightly walk of the church grounds to make sure everything was fine before retiring to the rectory, when he found a car parked by itself in front of the school.

Curious, he looked inside the car and saw a note that made his "blood run cold" attached to the steering wheel. "Look in trunk!" the note read. What made it extra creepy was that the two Os in "look" had smiley faces.

Keep Reading Show less