The Disappointment Dilemma

Posted on August 26, 2014
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The Disappointment Dilemma


Disappointment can be a fleeting feeling or it can be haunting. This failure of expectation is perplexing because in most situations another person is involved that shatters one’s hopes or expectations. Remember the senior prom and the excitement of picking out the perfect dress? Then the feelings that flooded you when you learned that your best friend already bought it.  Or what about the young woman who expects that she will be seeing a sparkling diamond for their birthday and receives theatre tickets instead? With disappointment there are multiple layers of sadness.


The feeling of disappointment is oftentimes best expressed in a picture.  After the Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes split, the media ran photo after photo of the disappointed look on daughter Suri’s face with her mother said “No” to a puppy. Holmes became a sharp contrast to Disneyland Dad who apparently says, “Yes, Princess” to whatever Suri, age 6, wishes.


But in life we do not always get what we want and so we are stuck with the disappointment dilemma which affects us on three different levels — expectation preparation, immediate letdown, aftermath decisions.


Expectation preparation: The major problem with disappointment is that we are unable to prepare for it, whereas, we are able to invest emotional and physical energy in expectation. A bride who is left at the altar has spent months overseeing preparations for a party and emotional energy looking forward to the day.  But even if it is a birthday celebration or a dinner event, the person who is ultimately disappointed was prepared to


The immediate letdown: This often one in which a person feels as if they were kicked in the stomach.  But because someone else is in control, the person who is hurt can do little more than make some feeble statement such as, “It’s all right, I understand.”  In fact, in many cases, it is not all right, and you don’t understand.


The feeling of disappointment is oftentimes best expressed in a picture.  After the Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes split, the media ran photo after photo of the disappointed look on daughter Suri’s face with her mother said “No” to a puppy. Holmes became a sharp contrast to Disneyland Dad who apparently says, “Yes, Princess” to whatever Suri, age 6, wishes so she will never be disappointed.  But in this world called life, disappointments happen.


There is a double sadness, one of hurt and one of sadness that your best friend or beau missed the cues – cluelessly or deliberately.


Aftermath decision: If a person in our lives disappoints us once or twice it might be understandable.  But what happens if it becomes a pattern?  It can only become a pattern if you allow it to happen.  To protect yourself and maintain self-respect, say something, in a kind but firm way.  If you lose your friend because he or she is insulted, then they weren’t your friend.  Have a good cry. Then move on with gratitude.

A wedding gift from Frank Sinatra, Projo

Posted on May 27, 2014
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When news surfaced that the man with the golden voice had whispered his last words, the local media contacted my parents. Vince Esposito, my father, had been Frank Sinatra’s sound consultant. I can still hear my mother’s voice quivering that mid-May 1998 when she called: “Frank is gone. Daddy is beside himself. The TV stations are calling us. You need to come home. And be sure to wear your engagement ring. I already told them the story.”

What came to be called “the story” was played out in New York where I had been living. My father was there for a rehearsal with Ol’ Blue Eyes. I stopped by to say hello to them on the way to meet my fiancé to pick out an engagement ring.

At the studio I gave the guard my name and explained why I was there unexpectedly. He motioned to a member of Frank’s team who stage-whispered: “Hey Vince, some doll claiming to be your daughter is here.”

Within minutes Jilly Rizzo appeared and, in his familiar body-guard monotone voice said, “She is his kid. Now show some manners.”

It was a brief visit with my dad, Frank and Jilly. But when I said I was off to Tiffany’s, Jilly and Frank exchanged a glance. Then Jilly handed me an address and said, “Go upstairs. Knock twice. Wait. Knock twice again. He’ll be expecting you.”

I called my beau who grumbled that Harvard MBAs do not shop in the jewelry district. But he relented. Once inside the man said nothing. He simply opened a black velvet pouch of rock garden-size diamonds and poured them onto a velvet tray. I shook my head, “Too big.” The jeweler turned and went to a black wall phone. We heard him say, “Jilly, she doesn’t want them.”

He returned to the counter and took out a pouch of smaller diamonds. Again I shook my head, but this time I asked to see rubies. He brought us to another room and rested a tray of red gems on the case. “That’s the one, the ruby set in platinum circled by diamond chips,” I gushed.

Anxious to leave, my beau took out his checkbook. The jeweler went to another wall phone and raising his voice said, “Get, Jilly. What she wants is a kids’ ring.” After a few minutes he turned to us saying, “OK, it’s yours. And as for your check, no money changes hands here.”

My beau in his three piece pin-stripped suit stiffened. “The Watsons always pay; this is a purchase.”

I pleaded, “Please, a price.”

“Sure. Six-five-zero.” The check was written. The ring was placed on my finger. The two men nodded. We turned to leave.

With the jeweler behind us, we walked toward the door. I glanced back for a split second and saw the expressionless man tearing up the check. Then raising his right arm above his head, he flicked his wrist, opened his hand, and confetti floated all around me. Suddenly, I felt like a bride.

Rita Watson is an All About You relationship columnist.

Providence Journal link: Rita Watson: A sentimental wedding present …

Copyright 2014 Rita Watson

The spirituality of non-violence, ProJo

Posted on May 4, 2014
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Nonviolence is a form of spirituality 

Spirituality takes many forms in people’s lives. Teny Oded Gross, executive director of the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence, finds spirituality in working with young people who had been members of gangs.

“We are surrounded by spirituality and beauty if we allow ourselves to see it,” he says. “The institute’s work is about love and beauty, these kids don’t see hope. Many don’t think they will live beyond the age of 20. But once they feel that life is worth living, they remove themselves from risky behavior.”

Q: Nonviolence is a challenge in today’s society. What strategies do you use to bring together so many different people under an umbrella of peace?

A: You assume that underneath, we all want the same thing — to grow safely, happily, and be fulfilled, whether you are a cop, a judge, a mother or a gang member. But if you try to build bridges, you find that people are afraid to give up their power. They don’t want to look soft or naive. Here our deputy chief of police sits with our young people. At our table our assistant director of training can be sitting next to someone worth millions and someone who has just come out of jail. Both have something to learn from each other, and that’s the beauty.

Q: How do you perceive nonviolence as spirituality?

Just listen to the words of Pope Francis, Martin Luther King, Ghandi, the Dali Lama, Jesus. Moses said people had to get away from the tribe to get their heads together. There is a way to calm things down and change when you are trying to change the conflict — you need to be contemplative. Or it could be swimming or running or doing photography.… When kids see there is hope, they see that gang life is suicide.

Q: How do you expand hope?

I love the rituals of religion. I have a certain ritual I follow when going to the museum. We go to the RISD Museum with the kids to expand their imagination, where they see the beauty of what we can produce. RISD is a teaching museum and exhibits classic teaching in that it shows how people have lived.

Q: What captivates them at the RISD Museum?

A: One is the mummy room. That is quite mind blowing to them, that is one of the big hits. The young Cambodians find the Buddha even more mind blowing.

Q: Many young people in your program have apparently faced violence. Is there an underlying anger and how do you deal with it?

A: Yes, plenty have anger and trauma mixed. But there is a variety of things that help — a finding of a purpose, something to wake up for. Jobs are important. We need to keep pushing society for employment. Self-esteem goes if we don’t have a check at the end of the week. Purpose and dignity are gone. Having a job is part of spirituality and pay for work is a token of gratitude.

Q: How do you foster the spirit of forgiveness?

A: Forgiveness is part of the journey where nonviolence starts. We look at documentaries about forgiveness. Then they take ownership for what they have done. They confront what was done to others. Also we are engaged and we are tolerant of failure. It takes six tries and failures to get out of gang violence. We tell them you might fail a few times because of willpower, but when we fall back — like with a diet — we start again.

Q: How do you feel that nonviolence can be curbed from the perspective of a national mind set?

A: I trust patience. You can’t push it in a timeframe. Also at some point you have to humanize the enemy. The pain their mother’s might have felt when they lost a child is the same pain a gang mother feels when she loses a child.

Q: What is your dream come true for the young people in your program?

A: I want young people to be open to the beauty of life that comes with skills. It saddens me we incarcerate so many; it is a destroyer of lives. And I wish for society to see their lives as being worth as much as ours. It can be an education. If we see that everyone has the same value, violence would be dismantled.

One example of the institute’s work:

It was noted in their recent February report that at one school to encourage participation among kids who listened but did not give answers, the ISPN AmeriCorps team created their own version of the “I Am” poem.

Gross noted in the report, “Once they had completed it, they all wanted to stand up in front of the class and share their poem.… Some spoke about their cousins getting shot. Others spoke about how bullying had affected them. Twenty-six poems were read and it was like experiencing 26 lifetimes of happiness, fear, loss, everything.”

Their website is

Rita Watson, MPH, writes on spirituality and health for the Journal’s Thrive section.

Grandpa’s Garden from “Gram’s Wisdom” Projo

Posted on May 4, 2014
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Grandpa was a man of many loves — his family, his garden and his fig tree. The house on Beach Street had a large front porch overlooking the water with a backyard extending to the next street. A garden bloomed in the middle of the land. On the first Saturday in May the pastry shop closed for “Family Day” and the men gathered for the garden ritual. “Big boys playing in a big sandbox,” Gram would say, adding, “But they are providing for us.”

Gram was up at dawn on planting day serving black coffee and pastry to the men and preparing for their return at 10 a.m. for breakfast. “I need you to help,” Gram would say. “Start by dropping potatoes in the pots and scrubbing them clean.”

Gram made potato and egg omelets with sausage in her large black frying pans. Then she sliced three loves of Italian bread, poured olive oil and oregano on them and heated them in the oven. “Then after Papa and the boys eat, we can go help them plant.”

We loved planting and would race along the grape arbor and past the fruit trees to the large empty field of rich black soil that, by afternoon, had small trenches for seeds and string attached to sticks defining the rows.

As Grandpa handed us the seeds he’d say, “Remember to measure the distance between seeds using these twigs.” Then we would start with the radishes even though we knew that the bunnies would get to the bitter red salad garnish before we did. And since Grandpa never took a chance on planting cool-season vegetables in April — that day he also planted the peas, lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower.

He waited for the late May sunshine before putting his tomatoes, eggplants and peppers into the earth. At that time came the next ritual — replanting the treasured fig tree.

We would sit under the giant weeping willow and watch him savor this moment. He moved the tarp from the rowboat which covered the mound of earth that protected his prize. He pushed away the boat, then carefully removed the dirt that kept his tree warm all winter. Later his brother-in-law came by and they lifted the tree from its snug place in the earth, removed the protective potato sacks and then, holding the tree upright, they placed it in the soil.

When Grandpa called out, “Nancy, Annunziata, where are you?” she brought them a bottle of wine made from grapes in his arbor and admired their work.

“People should never drink before dinner,” she lectured us. “But this moment is special. Today they toast the tree of succulent fruit from the old country.”

Rita Watson: Grandpa’s garden was a family ritual | Lifestyle – Style, Travel, Weddings & more | Providence Journal

Rita Watson, an All About You relationship columnist, is writing “Italian Kisses: Gram’s Wisdom.” 

Start a new “Happy Gratitude Tradition” Projo

Posted on April 22, 2014
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Newspaper link: Say thanks, take risks to enrich your life

BY RITA WATSON/ Special to The Journal

The legend of the Easter Bunny evolved from the early 1500s with tales of rabbits laying eggs and hiding them in gardens. Eventually parents made nests out of straw hats, placed them in their gardens, and filled them with brightly colored eggs for children to find. The tales have little to do with the Christian holiday, but rather depict a springtime celebration, a time for rebirth. Using a basket, a beautiful vase or a painted flower pot, here are thoughts on how couples may create a “Happy Gratitude” tradition.

You can watch gratitude grow within your home by choosing a special holder to fill with ideas for catching happiness. Our mother, who ran her own antiques shop, was a basket collector. When she turned 92 she gave me two signed Longaberger Baskets dated 1992. Today one sits on a table filled with egg-warmer chicks made by our mother’s mother at the age of 81. And one basket is being filled with gratitude sayings.

How to start? Spend a half an hour one day and find quotes on gratitude and love, either from books or the Internet. You can type a group on a long sheet and cut strips of sayings or tape them to index cards so when one resonates you can put it up on a mirror or the fridge. Every few days add a new quote. Whenever you begin to feel joy slipping through your fingers, reach in to remind yourself to be grateful.

To strengthen relationships, a new article from the Greater Good Science Center, “Is Your Marriage Losing Its Luster,” suggests revealing yourself emotionally, taking an out-of-character risk, and starting a bedtime gratitude ritual.

To make your basket, vase or flower pot more couple-centered, each of you over time can add color index cards designated as “risk,” so that once or twice a month you can pull out a surprise. When you reveal yourself emotionally you are taking a risk by telling someone you love a secret, serious or silly.

A risk can also help spruce up your routines. Add to your gratitude holder such suggestions as going to a karaoke bar and singing, signing up for a couples’ baking class or taking dancing lessons. New experiences are bonding mechanisms and your brain remembers the excitement — which triggers the love hormone.

An offshoot of the gratitude plan is one of the easiest and perhaps the most fulfilling ritual that takes place at bedtime. Think of a different compliment each night that you will share with each other before turning out the lights. A gratitude tradition will plant seeds for lifelong memories.

Rita Watson is an All About You relationship columnist and an incurable romantic.
Coppyright 2014 Rita Watson

Gram’s kitchen: She was the “Pizzagaine Queen”

Posted on April 8, 2014
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Rita Watson: At Easter, Grandma always held the culinary throne

Published on 06 April 2014

Grandma’s kitchen was a sacred place where she tightly held her culinary secrets. Essentially she was “a little of this and a pinch of that” type of cook. While she often let us roll out the dough for her homemade pasta, only as Easter approached did she bring us into her flour-filled world. It was also the only season of the year in which Gram encouraged relatives to share a piece of their “pizzagaina,” the Neapolitan pizza rustica.

Although Gram was convinced that no one could compete with the texture, moisture, and meats in her treasured recipe (one that’s impossible to reprint since she measured by handfuls), she was always on the look-out to be certain that she remained unrivaled. On the Saturday before Easter her in-laws and cousins came by for the women’s brunch and exchange of their hearty pies. As they arrived, she would whisper to us, “No matter what the others taste like, be sure you say something nice.”

In one of our handwritten family recipes from her, you can see why Gram believed in the power of food. For this dish, she diced meats that included baked ham, prosciutto, capicola and pepperoni to go along with the requisite Italian cheeses.

After mixing the ingredients together and placing them in a large baking dish, she blessed herself before cutting a large Easter cross into the crust.

When the church bells rang out at noon on Saturday, Gram placed her prize on the dining room sideboard and waited for the family. As each one arrived with their dish, she placed them on either side her own masterpiece.

For Gram, the best part of the brunch came after the last relative had said, “good-bye.” Her twinkling blue eyes would light up. It was time for her pizzagaina critique. We can still picture her taste testing.

“Zia Agatha always uses too much mozzarella. I could tell this was hers with my eyes closed. Concetta’s is still too watery. This one is Aunt Gal’s. I don’t even have to taste. Just look how she skimps on the meat. And Antoinette, can you imagine she used boiled ham instead of baked ham? And look at this one. Millie claims she made it herself, but this is her husband’s. He always makes the crust too thick.”

As she went down the line tasting each version, Gram became ever more convinced that she still reigned as “Pizzagaina Queen.” Once satisfied, she would percolate a pot of demitasse. Then we would sit at the window seat watching for Grandpa to reclaim his home.

“We have a lot to be grateful for,” Gram smiled. “It’s a lot of work, all this cooking. But this is what keeps family together.”

Rita Esposito Watson, an All About You columnist, adapted this from her upcoming “Italian kisses: Gram’s wisdom.”

How to help children overcome tantrums, Projo

Posted on April 6, 2014
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Rita Watson: Help children overcome tantrums

… Published on 31 March 2014

We have all witnessed a child’s tantrum in a supermarket, pharmacy, or even walking along the street. It might be over a candy bar, a toy, wanting to get out of the stroller, or just wanting to go home.

What is a parent to do? Jane Dennison, a Barrington pediatrician affiliated with Women & Infants Hospital and the Brown University clinical faculty, has practical advice for specific age groups. And Angela Stewart, a clinical psychiatrist at the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center, talks about a research-based approach that focuses on building positive relationships.

“Praise and building self-esteem is a key aspect of our outpatient program at Bradley Hasbro for 5 to 12 year olds,” Stewart said. “It is a structured approach that helps parents come to see the value of ‘Let’s build positive relationships while building children’s self-esteem.’”

“Praise is the main teaching tool because children listen to praise; whereas, if they get too many directives, they shut down.”

Dennison raised four boys with her husband, a geriatrician. “Semi-verbal children have an overwhelming ‘need’ feeling,” she said. “When they want something, they want it now. What they are trying to do is to change adult behavior. Oftentimes this comes from overstimulation or hunger. And it probably occurs when a parent is trying to squeeze in one more errand even though both parent and child are tired,” she said.

What happens next is a familiar scene: The child throws a tantrum and oftentimes drops to the ground and screams.

Dennison’s suggestion: “In the home, walk away. If you are in a market shopping, and there are groceries in the cart, go to customer service and say, ‘I’ll be back, but I need to leave now.’ What a parent should not do is to give into a child’s tantrum for a candy bar.”

What about the child who throws food across the room? Stay calm and say, “We don’t throw food. If you throw it, you lose it. And there is nothing more to eat,’” Dennison says.

Tantrums begin to taper as children’s verbal skills develop. But for those children who continue the behavior, Dennison said, “Parents should not think at their child’s level. A parent’s job is to remain calm, perhaps saying, ‘I said no to the ice cream and that is not going to change.’ Screaming at children does not work because it turns parents into tantrum throwers.”

Some things do change with children ages 7 to 13. During the teen years and up to the early 20s, behavior becomes a bit more aggressive.

“They start slamming doors, hitting doors or walls and stomping feet,” Dennison said. “Hopefully parents have been though enough years of rational parenting to say, ‘I understand you’re angry at everything today,’ and then changing the subject, ‘Do you want something for dinner?’ It’s important for a parent to hit the mid-zone. Even with a teen who might say, ‘Get out of my life,’ a parent should not react because the next statement might be, ‘But first will you drive us to the mall?’”

When a teen is screaming, it is not helpful to scream back. Instead of saying, “You are never to the mall if you talk to me like that,” Dennison suggests something such as, “I’ll be unloading the dishwasher or putting groceries away. When you want to talk to me I’ll be here.”

Today we live in a text message society. When a teen cannot have a rational conversation with a parent, he or she might turn to texting. A parent might even say, “Write me what you are feeling and I’ll read it.”

Dennison pointed out that “kids today send long, multiple texts. It is their way of unloading.”

Every parent worries that their children will not outgrow tantrums, but they do.

“By 24, most have settled down because they have learned that tantrums are not a useful social technique,” Dennison said. “It turns people off and attracts adult attention. However, if tantrums continue — kicking or slamming doors, hitting fists against a wall — that is the transition to requiring anger management.”

With regard to families who seek treatment for tantrums, Stewart explained, “It is often those who are confused, embarrassed, disappointed and angry. Parents often feel a wide range of emotions and worry about their child’s future. It is important that they remain calm, whether their children can bring themselves back to a state of calm or remain in a heightened state; the main role of the parent is to reestablish calmness.”

She suggests time-outs, praise, special time, rewards and preventive measures to limit the tantrum.

Rita Watson, MPH, is a Thrive columnist reporting on health and spirituality.

Spirituality: Professor teaches practice of gratitude, ProJo

Posted on March 25, 2014
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Rita Watson: Salve Regina professor teaches gratitude

Published on 24 February 2014

Gratitude has been in the health news because of scientific research looking at ways one might behave in a grateful manner, even if we are not feeling grateful.

Paula Martasian, Ph.D., has been teaching a course on gratitude for close to seven years at Salve Regina in Newport as well as heading a charity for her late father, Nick Vuono, a Jefferson Award winner who helped people with special needs. Her guiding principle is loving-kindness, wishing blessings to others. Martasian says, “I see loving-kindness as the practice of keeping hearts open for compassion. When we do this, it opens us to live with gratitude even for those people we may not like.”

Recalling the Dalai Lama’s visit to Salve Regina in 2005 she exudes so much excitement that he might have been there yesterday. “He is mesmerizing. It was a grand event, and the Dalai Lama talked directly to students, emphasizing that they should become the peace that the world needs and to bring that peace out into the world.”

With regard to her work, she said: “When practicing the attitude of well-being there is a shift in consciousness — and two key components are compassion and gratitude.

“I start each day with 20 minutes of loving-kindness. One does this by first focusing on yourself, then to those closest to you. Next onto the world. Then you even send blessings to those who annoy you.”

Martasian, an associate professor of psychology, has been collecting books that students and colleagues have suggested for her through the years. Of the first books to influence her were those by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.

She said: “My courses are based on the works of people such as Martin Seligman and his books, “Flourish” and “Flow” and the Dalai Lama’s “The Art of Happiness,” and loving-kindness authors Sharon Salzberg and Pema Chodron.”

She began teaching the course at the suggestion of her department chair. “I gave students two choices. They could write out three things that went well in their day and explain why. Or they could keep an Attitude of Gratitude Journal and write five things each day for which they were grateful,” she explained.

“Students have told me that by ending their day listing five things for which they are grateful or three things that went well, even on their worst days, peace and harmony was restored.”

While she is unable to give specifics due to confidentiality, she said, “Students dealing with personal challenges — health concerns of their own or a family member, or financial issues — told me that when they listed what they were grateful for, they could actually smile and felt better able to deal with their challenges.”

Martasian believes that the spiritual journey is entwined with daily life and one must keep learning to in order to grow.

“A new idea that I am incorporating into my work is based on the “Naikan: Gratitude Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection,” by Gregg Krech. I went though this entire book and did a summer workshop at Grace Yoga Studios in North Kingstown. It was one of the major influences in my ongoing development of living with grace, gratitude, compassion and happiness.

“Judy McClain, the director and founder, created a space to advance people’s awareness of mind, body and spirit,” she continued before explaining her nightly ritual.

Ironically, her nightly ritual reminds her that she is doing too much and overbooking herself between her commitment to students, heading up her late father’s charity, and volunteering to cook for the North Kingston Community Meal Program.

She said people come for meals to the FirstBaptistChurch in Wickford or the NorthKingstonUnitedMethodistChurch and also doing the cooking are volunteers from the First Baptist Church of North Kingston and St. Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church.

Each night she follows three steps, assigning five minutes to the first two and 10 minutes on the third, answering these questions:

1. What did I receive today?

2. What did I give today?

3. What trouble did I cause?

She said, “For me, the trouble I cause others is from overbooking. I’m on a cook team in which one of four churches cooks every Sunday. Sometimes I find myself in conflict because in addition to teaching and volunteering, I am president of the Nick Vuono Charity fund. He was my father and won the Jefferson Award for his work in providing adaptive toys, equipment and computers.”

In many ways it seemed her father lived the message of the Dalai Lama, who has said, “The highest good one can do with one’s time is to serve others.”

She added: “There is a service component to our Salve Regina curriculum. Our students and all those who maintain an attitude of gratitude and serve others are answering the Dalai Lama’s call — Be the peace the world needs.”

Rita Watson, MPH, is a regular contributor to The Providence Journal and a relationship columnist for The Providence Journal’s “All About You” section.

Ways to chase away the winter blues, ProJo

Posted on March 25, 2014
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Rita Watson: Ways to chase away the winter blues

March 25, 2014

For a winter that does not want to leave, the reality of seasonal affective disorder, and the blues that many feel after Valentine’s Day, it may be time for a pair of rose-colored glasses.

A Twitter follower, author and Atlanta teacher Lisa Arends, summed up the sentiment, “Even my eighth graders are tired of snow days.” Indeed from children to adults, it is easy to feel cranky and out of sorts during a season in which we have shivered through too many cold and snowy days.

Rebecca Laptook, Ph.D., at the Hasbro Children’s Partial Hospital Program, has ideas to help children. And here also are the top five mood boosters for adults.

For young children through early teens, if you are stuck inside, Laptook said, “It is helpful to make a list of fun family activities to do such as board games, card games, Pictionary, and Charades, as well as baking or art projects. Activity helps improve moods so it can be good for children to get outdoors and play in the snow. While indoors put on music to dance, or play a family round on X-Box Kinect or Wii.

“And remember to keep some structure to each day,” she added. “Make certain to schedule time not only for family activities, but also for relaxation. And in addition to responsibilities such as homework and chores, this is also a good time for getting in touch with friends,” she said.

With adults, while we often read of the value of remaining positive, it is difficult to break the blues cycle when we start slipping into sadness. Here are top five mood boosters that might help.

Family and friends: The top mood booster is spending “time with family and friends,” says Dr. David Spiegel, a psychiatrist and medical director for the StanfordCenter for Integrative Medicine, StanfordUniversity.

In an earlier interview with him he pointed out that being socially isolated “is of the same order of magnitude as the risk that accompanies smoking or having high cholesterol levels.”

Even if you are not in the mood to socialize – and few people are when they are feeling low – at least call a friend.

Exercise: The best-kept secret to chasing away the blues is exercise. Published research studies often report that exercise will help lighten your mood. How much exercise is enough? Start small, at intervals of 10 to 15 minutes, and you’ll feel better. Walking 30 minutes a day is good for your mood and memory.

Back away from anger: Sometimes when you are blue you find that everything bothers you. You have a short fuse. Watch it. “Anger Kills,” is the title of a recent books by Dr. Redford Williams, chief of the division of behavioral medicine, department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at DukeUniversity.

He said to me earlier: “When you find yourself in a situation that triggers hostility and anger, ask yourself whether the situation is important enough to be worth your continued attention, whether your reaction is appropriate to the situation, and whether you can change the situation.

“Most times, the answer to all three will be ‘No. So find alternative responses, and back off,” he added.

A happy face: Smile, even if you do not feel like smiling until suddenly you start to laugh. Put a broad smile on your face and take a walk. You’ll be amazed at how many people smile back at you. And eventually you will find yourself laughing.

Laughter increases the number and activity of cells that help us fight disease and decreases stress-related hormones. Laughter is contagious, according to longtime studies by Robert Provine, Ph.D., University of Maryland. Through his research he has shown that when you hear other people laugh, you tend to laugh as well, pointing out that laughter does something special to our brains to trigger the laugh sounds within us.

Try gratitude: When the blues linger, Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis, would remind you that gratitude is the answer.

He tells me that “Gratitude is an attitude, not a feeling that can be easily willed. Even if you are not satisfied with your life as it is today, if you go through grateful motions the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. It is like improving your posture and as a result becoming more energetic and self-confident.”

Emmons added: “Attitude change often follows behavior change. By living the gratitude that we do not necessarily feel, we can begin to feel that gratitude that we live.”

Smiling, saying “thank you,” sending thank-you notes, and making gratitude visits are attitude boosters.

Choose a mood booster that suits you, because, according to Punxsutawney Phil, we have a long winter ahead. It is time to take it upon ourselves to chase the blues away until we can take those long happy walks in the warm sunshine.


Rita Watson, MPH, is a columnist for the Journal’s Thrive section.

Gratitude is the secret to keeping love alive, Projo

Posted on March 25, 2014
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Gratitude is the secret to keeping a lifelong love alive

Keeping a relationship vital is about choices — the choice to love, to be grateful, and to forgive.  While it is easy to be grateful during happy times, who wants to be grateful during tense and trying times? Although it seems unfair, learning to be grateful even during a relationship low point may be the secret to lifelong love.


A new research study has confirmed what we all know intuitively – love and gratitude are a potent mix.  After volumes have been written on ways to enhance relationships and find the magic that contributes to lifelong love, questions asked of married heterosexual and monogamous couples indicate that gratitude is the “glue” that binds.


Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are collaborating with the University of California, Davis, on a three-year project for the purpose of “Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude.”


In the love and gratitude study, 77 partners answered relationship questions for two weeks at home. They then made two visits to the lab where they were asked to be specific about a situation with their spouse for which they felt grateful.  They were also rated by four judges who were observing them.


After a thank you, they recorded and rated their feelings. Then they swapped roles so that each of the partners took part in different interactions; that of giving and that of receiving an expression of gratitude.


The results confirmed the work of Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the UC Davis, a leader spearheading gratitude studies from a scientific perspective along with HofstraUniversity professor Dr. Jeffrey Froh.


In an earlier interview with Emmons he said: “Gratitude is an attitude, not a feeling that can be easily willed.” Even for those not satisfied with life as it is today, he pointed out, “if you go through grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. It is like improving your posture and as a result becoming more energetic and self-confident. Attitude change often follows behavior change. By living the gratitude that we do not necessarily feel, we can begin to feel the gratitude that we live.”


After the couples’ experiment saliva was tested for the gene CD38, the love hormone trigger, and it was found that “there is something about the genes that control our oxytocin system, which systematically predicts our ability to experience positive moments with someone close to us.”


Furthermore with expressed gratitude participants said they felt more loving. According to the report published in February’s Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience journal and Berkley’s Greater Good Science Center, “They also reported feeling more peaceful, amused, and proud. They perceived their partner as being more understanding, validating, caring, and generally more responsive.”


Gratitude is magic.


Rita Watson, MPH, is an All About You relationship columnist.

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