Thanksgiving, gratitude, and wiser holiday shopping

Black Friday rolls toward us in a tsunami of spending.

tsunami wave with a dollar sign
Tsunami of spending

But there is a way we can resist the onslaught of commercialism with our sanity and our wallets intact: gratitude.

Remembering all we are grateful for

If we are mindful of all the blessings in our lives, we are better able to resist the temptation to spend too much.

table set for Thanksgiving dinner
Counting our blessings

In his column “How to Defeat the Impulse Buy” in the New York Times, David DeSteno discusses his study on impulse buying. His findings reveal a lot about our spending habits.

Willpower alone isn’t enough

Willpower alone doesn’t help curb impulse spending, according to DeSteno, and in fact relying on willpower alone will lead to failure. Marketers have perfected the time-pressured sales pitch of Black Friday and the holiday season in general.

ad for Black Friday saying entire store is 30 percent off
Time-pressured marketing on Black Friday

Instead of relying on willpower, we need to cultivate gratitude.

Gratitude leads to what DeSteno calls “financial patience,” the ability to give up the immediate gratification of a purchase today in exchange for a purchase in the future. Study participants who felt grateful had twice as much financial patience. The takeaway for us is that financial patience can help us resist the temptation of those moonlight madness deals.

Cultivating gratitude can help us stick to a budget

Being mindful of all we have to be grateful for can help us stick to our budgets. And it can restore our ability to think clearly in the face of amazing deals, never-this-low prices, and limited quantities available.

This year when I go out shopping I plan to take a gratitude list. What about you? Will you give this a try?



Tracking the neighborhood wildlife: My photo safari

One of my favorite adventures is a photo safari. I’m on a tight budget, so I book my safari close to home — very close. I take a walk in my neighborhood, cell phone or camera in hand, and document the local wildlife.

What I found right in front of me the other day was fascinating.

close up of praying mantis head
Anybody recognize this guy?

Continue reading “Tracking the neighborhood wildlife: My photo safari”

An Attitude of Gratitude

On Facebook recently a friend challenged me to name 3 things I was grateful for every day for a week. I didn’t make it. Does that mean I’m an ungrateful wretch? I hope not.

grumpy cat staring straight at you
Ungrateful? Moi?!

The truth is that I was frustrated by trying to come up with 3 fresh items for my gratitude list without repeating myself. But if I felt blessed to have such wonderful friends on Monday, surely I felt the same on Thursday. Since the point of the challenge was to open my mind rather than make me cranky, I gave up in frustration and embarrassment.

Luckily I found this article on the website for the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California. It offers 6 sensible and easy tips for keeping a gratitude journal which made which made me feel better about the whole stupid challenge. Here’s a quick summary of their tips:

6 Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal

  1. Easy does it. Don’t expect to write in your journal every day. Let go of expectations that can snuff out our good intentions.
  2. Decide that you really want to feel more grateful. Just writing stuff down won’t magically change your attitude. The point is to become more mindful.
  3. Go for quality over quantity. Instead of making a long list, stick to just a few things, or even just one, and then explore that in depth.
  4. Yes, things are nice, but thinking about the people we’re grateful for will result in a greater change in our outlook.
  5. When something good happens unexpectedly, write it down. These happy surprises can touch us deeply if we slow down and let them sink in.
  6. If you’re stumped, think about what it would be like if you didn’t know certain people or have certain things.

Number 3 really resonated with me: quality over quantity. It’s easy to say, “I’m thankful for my friend Lucy.” But to take a pause and dwell on what makes Lucy so special, what my life would be like without her friendship (see #6 above), that to me lays the groundwork for a practice of real gratitude.

So I rushed right out and got myself a small notebook in which to jot down the people and things I am thankful for.

gratitude journal
My gratitude journal

One of the things I am very grateful for is photography, especially outdoors. I love approaching a subject from multiple angles and trying to capture a mood, or a meaning, that I might otherwise have just walked by. And I’m thankful for the magic that happens when a shot that I thought was terrible turns out to be good. That’s what happened with this photo, which I took on a trip to Seaside, Oregon with my family.

heron in the river in Seaside, Oregon
Heron in the river in Seaside, Oregon

I had fun editing this photo and applying different effects. I wanted the image to feel dramatic, and I wanted to emphasize the rhythmic element of the ripples in the water. Looking at this picture reminds me of the fun we had on that vacation, walking on the beach, cooking each other meals, and watching Mel Brook’s movie Young Frankenstein. I guess photos are another way to chronicle who and what we’re grateful for.