THE BLOG
11/24/2015 03:45 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Countdown to the Solstice: Gratitude

This is the first blog in our newest series as we count down to the darkest day of the year: the winter solstice. Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring some of the brightest lights of hope in our community -- the true shooting stars in our field.

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As we welcome the season of giving and light, I write my annual gratitude list, which includes a reflection on the opportunity to engage in such meaningful work. When I'm called to write, it's often in the middle of a public crisis. "How can I stay so positive? How do I navigate out of the darkness?" people often ask. The answer is something at the very core of Flawless's mission: gratitude. I live my life from a place of gratitude -- it is a spiritual practice for me. Everything I do is fueled by gratitude, by the privilege I have of seeing a glimpse of our country's mental health crisis coming to an end. I do this work everyday for many hours, and everyday I can see the bright light in the shadows.

Gratitude is good for us, too. Recent studies show how gratitude can lead to better immune systems, healthier hearts, better sleeping patterns, more meaningful relationships, and greater overall well-being in humans. Other research has shown that people who exhibit gratitude on a regular basis tend to score higher on happiness scales. A simple thank you, it seems, can go a long way.

I am incredibly thankful for the work that I do, and for the brightest moments I've had, the moments that have driven out the darkness, the moments where radical hope and change are palpable. As the winter solstice approaches, and with it come the darkest days of the year, it's time for us to celebrate the light and express our thanks.

Today, I reflect on the moments this year that inspired me to revel in the light and that have renewed my hope for progress. The list below contains every puzzle piece that will help end our mental health crisis. Here is what thank you looks like to me this Thanksgiving:

  1. The Emotion Revolution Summit, co-hosted by Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation. At this event, which looked at changing the culture of schools by focusing on Social and Emotional Learning, we were inspired by listening to Lady Gaga speak about her own challenges with anxiety and depression. The power of researchers, policy makers, educators, philanthropists, and high school students coming together to create "kinder and braver schools" is a true game changer for prevention.
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  3. The Kennedy Forum. Once again this year, we were one of the sponsors of the Kennedy Forum, which works to transform the ways addiction and mental health are treated in the health care system. One of the highlights was listening to Martin Luther King, Jr. III powerfully articulate his thoughts on mental health as a civil rights issue. At the Mental Health America Policy Breakfast, we also had the opportunity to hear Patrick Kennedy discuss his powerful memoir and the integrated changes needed in mental health policy.
  4. CEO Summit on Mental Health in the Workplace at the NYSE. We joined NAMI-NYC Metro and the CEOs of top Wall Street companies to talk about changing workplace culture so that it actively supports the mental health of employees. The CEOs spoke openly about their personal connections to mental health issues and how they could create a culture of brain health in the workplace. This was the first-ever summit of its kind and the start of a revolution for better health in corporate America.
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  6. Saks Institute Spring Symposium. Held at the USC Gould School of Law, this year's topic focused on the important shift happening at universities: Schools are actively changing and making mental health a priority on campus -- with very effective results for the health of college students.
  7. The Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy. This symposium is a leading hub of progressive policy as it's related to behavioral health. Discussion this year focused on how policy must put an emphasis on human relationships and peer support in the behavioral health care workforce, which is facing a challenging shortage of staff. Keeping in the theme of holistic policy changes, Dr. David Satcher, the former surgeon general, spoke about how important prevention is, emphasizing the need to focus on children's mental health and education.
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  9. Music Festival for Brain Health. We attend this inspiring event every year as it's an exciting opportunity to hear about the innovative breakthroughs in brain research. We are especially pleased about the work of One Mind Institute (IMHRO), as they just announced a new partnership in prevention with Partners for StrongMinds. Partnerships like this are a unique find in the world of mental health, and we honor this organization for modeling more effective collaboration.
  10. On a Personal Note ... This year my son started high school and his success has kept me in a state of awe everyday. Initially, while there were external factors, such as technological and administrative challenges at the school, which made the transition rocky, he weathered them flawlessly. He showed good humor, perseverance, and balance; he has made many friends, is running on the cross-country team, and has finished the first term with all A's and one B. The solid health and success of my high school freshman is the number one shooting star that I am celebrating on this national day of thanks.

As we come together with friends and family and reflect on our own "gratitude lists," let's light a candle to signify bright hope, the shining light we see in the shadow. The days may be getting shorter and darker, but our light of hope for whole health has never been brighter!