How thankfulness helped me salvage a tumultuous 2017.

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

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.

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

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The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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