Although I rarely read magazines of any kind, I was gifted a subscription to one. Because it had landed on the top of the stack of reading material on the kitchen table, I flipped through it as I slurped my spaghetti squash, spinach, mushroom, zucchini, and tomato sauce (made from prime specimens out of my garden) concoction for dinner.
Now, I do realize that I’m not your average American with my vegetarian, label reading, mostly unprocessed diet, daily yoga or exercise, meditation, and other alternative lifestyle habits. Some may even label me extreme. I know my kids are more than tired of hearing my sermons, as they call them.
But, surely I can’t be the only one disgusted by what I saw in the magazine. And it was one of the better ones!
The main focus of the issue was Thanksgiving recipes. Although the dishes did sound and look delicious, (No matter how much I will them not to, my taste buds still like the not-good-for-me stuff.) I couldn’t help but cringe at the thought of how bad for me “Pumpkin Tart with Whipped Cream & Almond Toffee” or “Pepper Bacon Fried Turkey” had to be.
As I flipped through the pages, an insanely attractive woman on what had to be expensive Egyptian cotton sheets promised me that her product would make me “sleep like a baby.” Who looks like that when they are going to bed? Certainly not me. Know what else can help you sleep like a baby? Physical exercise. Learning to calm your mind. Relaxation and breathing exercises.
On another page, I learned that an oversized glass and bronze light fixture costing $1260 could make my small dining space feel bigger. So, that’s what I’ve been missing all this time! (No matter that I don’t even have a dining room.) For that kind of money, I could almost add one, make a big dent in my monthly bills, or make a big difference in the life of someone less fortunate or the lives of many animals. One light fixture? Really?
Next, Julia Roberts flashes me her pearly whites and tells me that “Life is beautiful” with the “fragrance of happiness.” The page has one of those panels oozing the scent. Just smells like the cosmetics section of a store to me. I’m willing to bet that the perfume doesn’t have any essential oils known to actually elevate a person’s mood. Smelling that for too long would put me in a bad mood and give me a headache.
To the magazine’s credit, there was a politically correct ad for a bank with a woman in a wheelchair, an ad for a stevia sweetener, and 4 pages of salad recipes.
The dream life is just that…a dream
Like so much of the media with which we’re inundated with everywhere we turn, the magazine left me feeling inadequate, not happier than before opening its cover and promoted unhealthy lifestyle habits. And here’s the kicker: these things are pushed on us as the standards that we are supposed to aspire to and end up comparing ourselves with!
If I didn’t make and serve the right dishes for Thanksgiving dinner in a stunning dining room on a fabulously set table, I wasn’t living up to the standard of the hostess with the mostest. If I had trouble sleeping, all I had to do was down a magical sleep-inducing elixir and problem solved. According to the magazine, happiness could be found in a bottle of perfume.
Decades ago in another life, I used to buy into this elusive crap and would spend hours planning and preparing a Thanksgiving meal, decorating my home the “right way,” and trying to look like the women in the magazines. While there is value in these things, I did them for all the wrong reasons from a sense of lack and needing approval.
Although I did cook some fantastic food, if I do say so myself, created a comfortable home for my family, and kept in shape out of vanity, you know what my efforts ultimately got me? Depressed, unhappy, and exhausted. Despite my good intentions, I never even came close to achieving a life like the ones in the magazines and never could because it doesn’t exist!
Now that I know better, I do better. I cleaned up my eating habits, exercise and do yoga for my health and happiness (OK, maybe a little vanity still), have greatly simplified my lifestyle, and minimized my needs while finding gratitude for the small joys that I previously took for granted.
All of these practices are proven to increase well being and happiness. And you know what? They’ve worked for me. After decades of depression culminating in a suicide attempt, I’m the happiest and mentally healthiest I’ve ever been.
On their deathbed, I’m pretty sure no one ever thought, “I should’ve gone with a neutral in the living room instead of that green.” or “I should’ve fixed the cranberry salad with the pistachios for Thanksgiving that year.”
When put like that, these things seem trivial – laughable even – because they are when looking at the big picture.
Gratitude is good for your health
It’s been shown that unhappy people make more frequent social comparisons than happy people and a materialistic mindset has been linked to unhappiness and other negative emotions. Ironically, the more a person pursues happiness, the less happy they become. The Huffington Post article, The Key Ingredients You Need To Be Happier, quotes June Gruber, professor of psychology at the University of Colorado Boulder as saying:
If your spotlight is so strongly focused on how you can become happy, that actually backfires, paradoxically, and people report feeling less happy the more they try to pursue it. Don’t focus on the pursuit of happiness; focus on other people, things you’re grateful for and doing things for others as opposed [for] yourself.
Living with gratitude and mindfulness improves health and increases happiness. For an in-depth look at proven ways gratitude benefits you, visit The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life. For easy ways to work more gratitude into your life, visit 14 Creative Ways To Practice Gratitude.
I love this blog on the Momastery website, Give Me Gratitude Or Give Me Debt.
Seems to me that Thanksgiving – and every day for that matter – should be about appreciating the good that’s present in our lives, not about the perfect dish, dining room, or light fixture. I can guarantee you that we’d all be happier and less stressed if we adopted this philosophy.
So, this Thanksgiving instead of the holiday being a four-day weekend food-fest that marks the kickoff to the frenzied holiday shopping season, treat your brain, body, and mind with kindness and respect and find gratitude and joy in the details of the life that you have right now: family, friends, a good laugh, sunshine, a walk in the woods, the companionship of a furry friend – and maybe even the same old light fixture in the dining room.
Happy Thanksgiving to you.