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Archive for the ‘newsletter’ Category

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

Give Thanks

The time is coming to give thanks.  Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  I’m a holiday-lover, so there’s a lot of competition, but Thanksgiving always ranks near the top for me.

Let me give you a bullet-point list what I’m thankful for.  In no way is this complete.  I’m offering simply to prompt you all to do the same.

  • the freedom to change the station when the Kars for kids ad comes on
  • the slick look of pavement when it rains
  • Christmas season in New York City (I know this is a cliche, but I love it so)
  • the sausage grave my wife makes every Christmas morning
  • my wife, Sue (ok, another cliche, but if you knew her and all the she puts up with…)
  • of course, our 3 kids, now 29, 26, 23
  • our new dog, Max, 3 months old, 80 pounds, a rescue mutt from Alabama; he is systematically destroying our house but we love him to pieces anyway
  • Mozart’s Jupiter symphony
  • Tom Friedman and David Brooks columns in the NY Times (ok, so I am a liberal, I hope that’s all right)
  • That I am turning 69 and coming out with a new book with John Ratey in 2019
  • hot dogs with lots of mustard
  • and sauerkraut
  • taramasalata (it’s a Greek spread…. to die for)
  • the salt air when you cross over onto Cape Cod
  • NAMI
  • button-down collar shirts (I’m a preppy)
  • lying in bed, watching TV with Sue late at night
  • the fact that I can still play squash a little bit
  • all of you who read this newsletter!

…. what are your favorite things?

Dr. Hallowell’s 2017 Thanksgiving message

Dr. Hallowell’s 2016 Thanksgiving message

Monday, November 20th, 2017

Dr. Hallowell’s Thanksgiving Message

Each Thanksgiving I compose a note from me to the readers of this newsletter in which I try to highlight one or two reasons I feel thankful, and offer some reason(s) we all might feel thankful.

But why bother?  Well, the fact is that feeling grateful is actually good for you.  Studies have shown that people who take the time regularly to take stock of the positives in their life and make it a daily practice to offer expressions of gratitude not only feel good for having done but enjoy better health and longer lives than people who don’t.

It turns out that being grumpy, bitter, cynical, and pessimistic are bad for you, not to mention the people around you.

But you don’t have to be Polyanna to feel grateful.  You say quite honestly that your life is very hard, and yet you are grateful to able to live it.  You can say quite honestly that you’ve suffered more losses than you care to count, but you are grateful still to be in the game.  You can feel disappointed in humanity in general, but love and feel grateful for the good and generous people you do know.

So what’s one specific reason I feel grateful right now?  What’s something in my life right now I am especially thankful for?

Right off the bat I think of my son, Jack, and the fun we are having developing a business right now. Jack graduated last June from Elon and he got a job working for New York Life.  They put him in their Boston office, which is actually in Waltham, near where we live, so Jack is living at home.

As Jack became excited about his work in the world of numbers and financial planning, I said to him, “Boy, do I wish I ever had your help when I was younger.  I never figured out how to manage money.”

With that remark, our business idea was born.  It turns out MOST people who have ADHD, like me, have a terrible time managing money.  Jack inherited ADHD from me, but he actually is very good with managing money.

Jack proposed that he work up some plans to offer a specialized financial management and planning service aimed at people who have ADHD.  I loved the idea right away because I knew what a great need there was for it.

Once he’d put enough thought and planning into the idea, we told people about it on my podcast (“Distraction” is the name of the podcast) and we received an enthusiastic response.  If you’d like to listen to the actual podcast, just go to this link.

Out of nowhere, a new project was born.  Jack, age 25, and me, about to turn 68, combining our skills and experience to offer a much-needed service to a group of people we understand very well.

I am sure you have some specific project, person, or other blessing for which you feel thankful.  To add another item to my list, I am grateful to all of you and the support you give my work.

This is the best of life: connecting with others in useful, warm, and unexpectedly rewarding ways.

  With all the blessings this season and the expression of gratitude can bestow, I wish you all bounty and good cheer.


Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

Autumn Ode

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?

   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—

While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,

   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn

   Among the river sallows, borne aloft

      Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;

And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;

   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft

   The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;

      And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

That’s the final stanza of John Keats’s “To Autumn,” a poem that many deem the most perfect poem ever written in English.  Its perfection aside, I love it because I love autumn best of all the seasons, and I love words best of all the artistic media, and I love Keats because his images resonate with me deeply, and I love the suggestiveness of the line, “And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.”

The whole poem teems with suggestion, with activity, with life.  Hedge-crickets sing.  I have no idea what a hedge-cricket is, but I can imagine their song.  To quote another line from Keats, “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter still.”

I mourn with the wailful choir of small gnats, and I all but bleat with the full-grown lambs, and whistle with the red-breast from a garden-croft.

Such images, such words, such beauty.  This is the same man who wrote, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty—that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” Those words, which on their face seem absurdly reductionistic, stir me deeply and persuade me Keats was right.

What useful truth do we have but the truth that we feel, and what do we feel most deeply but that which is conveyed by beauty?  The poet-physician, William Carlos Williams, put it like this: “So much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens.”

It is in the images, in the beauty, that we find the truest expressions of what it means to be human, the fears and hopes and loves that infuse the images with all that we want to say, try to say, but can’t.

While we still have life to live and breaths to take, let us savor the beauty that we find and the beauty we create.  Let us not settle for the surface meaning, but honor our one chance on this earth by going as deeply as we can, trying as persistently as we are able to apprehend, appreciate, and even love what lies beneath, behind, and beyond.

Let us always listen for the gathering swallows as they twitter in the skies.

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

Snow Days. What Do You Do?

Note from Ned

Snow day.  This is my second snow day in a week.

For kids, snow days are an unalloyed delight.  But for adults, especially small business owners like me (my medical offices amount to small businesses), they are a disaster.  My patients miss appointments, they get annoyed, my practice loses income, all of us who work there get anxious.

Of course, we deal with it, we’ve dealt with it before, and we will again.

But then at home, there’s shoveling.  And where I live, you’re responsible not just for your yard, you’re also responsible for the sidewalks.  Since we live on a corner, we have lots of sidewalks.  Fortunately, other than clearing a path to get the newspaper and let the mailman in, we’re able hire the man who cuts our grass to clear away the snow.

Which gives me free time on snow days.

Which I adore.

Once my anxiety subsides, I settle in for a long’s day’s whatever-I-want-to-do.  What would you do?

For me, today it was working on the memoir I am writing.  Although writing always causes me distress–it’s in the nature of the work, only idiots like me do it–I am loving this project.  It’s not like anything I have ever written before.  I just hope other people will enjoy reading it.

But it got me to wondering, as I sat down to write this monthly note, How do we decide what to do on a snow day?  How do we decide what to do when no one has decided what we’re supposed to do?

I settled on the memoir as priority #1.  I wonder what I would have chosen if I were not working on that.  For that matter, I wonder why I chose to work on that.  There’s plenty of other things to do, lightbulbs to change, and of course there is nothing, blessed nothing, beckoning me to do that as well.

When you were a kid, there was no doubt.  You’d have fun!  Didn’t really matter what you actually did, you’d have fun for sure.  Maybe play outside, maybe watch TV, maybe go over to a friend’s house, maybe catch up on overdue homework (maybe!), who knows, but you’d have no trouble deciding.

But now, as an adult, if you got a snow day, what would you do?  Let’s say, due to the snow, you could not go anywhere, you were stuck at home.  And let’s say you were lucky, your electricity did not go out (we lost ours for a few hours yesterday and it got pretty cold inside–my wife and I huddled under the covers).

What would you do?  Cook up a storm?  Pay bills?  Watch old movies on TV? Fool around with your mate?  Read a book you’ve been meaning to read?  Surf the Internet for the perfect whatever? Plan a vacation?

My point is we can get so scheduled that when an unexpected free day opens up, we are truly lucky.  But what to do?

        I can’t write all day, not many people can.  So I had to fill in my day with other activities.  I just bought a pressure cooker, so I spent an hour or so learning how to use it.  I was scared of it, so was my wife, so we approached it like it was a bomb.  We handled it with great care.  But, with time, we followed the directions and in 90 minutes cooked a very tasty pork shoulder.

      What else?  I called my friend, John Ratey, and asked him to send me his latest thoughts on the science behind ADHD for a talk I am giving soon and a book John and I are soon to write.  I called my 3 kids, and managed to connect with 2 of them.  And now, I am writing this note from Ned.

You know, every advice book you ever read tells you to live this day as if it were your last. But no one does that.  Still, to tell you the truth, if this were my last day, other than consulting with attorneys and arranging for my funeral, I am not sure I would have done anything terribly differently.

Tom Friedman’s new book, which I highly recommend, is called, Thank You For Being Late.  It’s kind of a paean to snow days.  Of course, Friedman being Friedman, it’s chock full of arresting insights and trenchant analysis, but it is also a cautionary reminder to remain open to free time, ready for snow days, equipped with an imagination that’s ready to pounce, rather than feel bad about what you’re missing by not being at work.

One last thing.  As you know, those of you who read these notes, my passion is to connect with people in general, and you readers in particular.  Please email me.  Sometimes I feel sort of isolated, wondering who reads these.  I’m a terrible marketer, I’m not like my friends Joe Polish or Tim Ferris who are genius marketers, so I rely on luck. But I’d love to hear from you!  What’s on your mind?  Email me at drhallowell@gmail.com.  About anything.

And try listening to my podcast, called, simply, Distraction.  But it’s really about connection.  It’s dedicated to trying to build a community, to bring people together, to create networks of warmth, humor, and joy.  You can download it on iTunes, or go to our website, distractionpodcast.com, and, of course, it’s free.

Goodbye for now.  Enjoy all your snow days.

Monday, November 7th, 2016

How do you plant a seed of gratitude?

Note from Ned

Nov. 8, 2016

Today is election day.  I can hardly wait to learn of the results.

I think it’s fair to say this is an election like no other; the ugliness that emanated from the process is unlike anything I have experienced in my lifetime. Whether you will be pleased or disappointed in the outcome–and if you consider positions other than the presidency as well as the ballot questions in every state, it’s likely no one was 100% pleased–I want to say to you, “Well, here we are, alive and kicking, so let’s get on with our lives and improve the world.”  Let me suggest one way how.

I did an episode of my “Distraction” podcast today (which you can download and subscribe to on iTunes) in which I talked a bit about gratitude.  After living through the months leading up to this election, I thought it would be good for us all to name and cherish what we’re grateful for (having spent months being made painfully aware of what we are definitely not grateful for).

I was talking about how to rid your mind of the weeds that grow there, like kudzu, crowding out the lovely flowers that should abound there.  I proposed one way to get rid of those weeds, or at least cut them way back, namely, to plant seeds of gratitude.

How do you plant a seed of gratitude?  You pause for a moment–you have to pause, you can’t do this on the run–and then you look out across the terrain of your life and you identify one thing–one person, one place, one possession, one talent, one quality, one memory, one bit of good luck–for which you feel grateful.

That feeling of gratitude plants the seed.  Let’s say, for example, in my case I feel grateful to have a mind that allows me to write these words to you right now.  Once I name it–as I just did–and let the feeling of gratitude wash through me, then the seed is planted.

The next step is always the next step with any seed you plant.  You tend to it, water it, make sure it gets sunlight and does not get frostbite or be attacked by hostile bugs and vermin.  Each day you fuss over the little seed you planted.  Each day you look for growth.  Pretty soon that seed has germinated, sunk roots, and broken the surface of the place where you planted it.  Next thing you know, it is growing on its own.  You still have to tend to it, but not as often, as its own strength sustains it.

If tomorrow I come back to that little seed I just planted–the seed of feeling grateful that my mind allows me to write well enough to be read–and water it with a few seconds of attention and appreciation, then the little seed will do what tended-to seeds do, and start to grow.

Before very long, that seed will have broken the surface and will begin to displace some weed of self-doubt that I have allowed to grow for too long.  My little seed will turn into a strong and beautiful flower in my mind.  I will be able to see it as I walk through my mind every day.  I will see beauty, rather than ugly weeds.

We’ve all seen way too many ugly weeds over the past months.  I propose that all of us plant some seeds of gratitude, water them, fuss over them, and watch beauty displace the ugliness.

We all have the ability to be gardeners of our minds.  We can all grow such lush and lovely flowers there.  We can also help others do the same.  When you pay a compliment, for example, you are planting a little seed of self-regard in that person.  With luck, the person will be able to accept it and water it himself or herself.

We can all be regular Johnny or Jill Appleseeds, planting beauty in ourselves and in each other wherever we go.

Let’s get to it.

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