Me, Only Better: 6 Weeks to a Better Me

Ordinarily I'm a self-improvement skeptic. But when everyone around me started sending not-so-subtle hints, I decided to suck it up and see if I could become a nicer, healthier, more organized person.
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Yes, I am a Cancer -- a crab, in case you need reminding. And yes, we were in Maryland, on vacation. But those facts had nothing to do with why, after a week of my low-level grousing (How could we forget the sunscreen? Why is our hotel so far from the beach?), my husband presented me with a gift: a souvenir T-shirt featuring a cranky crustacean and the words, "Don't Bother Me, I'm Crabby."

I had to laugh at his 100-percent cotton intervention. One of the reasons I love Rob is that he accepts my imperfections. But in looking back, I realize that perhaps I'd allowed myself to grow a tad complacent about that. It's one thing to ask for patience with a passing dark mood. It's another to expect someone to coexist for weeks on end with a grouchy, messy, gossipy, slothful person whom even I don't like.

I resolved to enroll in a Better-Me Boot Camp: I'd choose six of my most disagreeable habits and devote a week to improving each. The goal? A nicer, more livable Sandy.

Week 1: Be More Grateful

Objectively, I lead a charmed life: wonderful husband, adorable 4-year-old, nice house. You'd think I'd count my blessings daily. But no. I'm too focused on how that same husband forgets wet laundry in the washer, the kid still can't write his name (unlike that little ginger-haired genius in his class), and the house needs a new roof. When I survey my kingdom, I'm much more likely to pick at the imperfections than revel in my many gifts. Why?

"Studies show that negatives -- what we don't have -- stay with us more than positives," explains Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, author of The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want. "It probably kept early humans from eating a poisonous plant twice, but it can really hijack your emotions." A proven antidote? Keeping a gratitude journal or writing gratitude letters. "You don't have to send them," says Lyubomirsky. "It's the writing that makes a difference."

I groaned at this hokey idea. But, grudgingly, I started typing out a nightly list, and lo and behold, I started to feel luckier, humbler, happier. My husband was another big winner: Noting his small favors -- the dinner waiting after work, the closet he'd painted, the credit card bill he'd paid (after I forgot) -- reminded me daily that the guy I married is greater than the sum of his wet laundry.

Chances for Long-Term Success: High
Experts say giving thanks also makes for more grateful kids, so now I've got my son counting his blessings every night at bedtime.

Continued on page 2:  Week 2: Stop Swearing


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