“There’s no formula. Keep busy with your work and your life. Replay the good times. Be grateful for the years you had.” —Betty White
Betty White died in December, a few weeks shy of her 100th birthday. She was an American icon who was fiercely adored for her incredible comic timing and brilliance. She was a firecracker in my book. Funny, witty, and determined to create her art for eight decades.
The original Golden Girl, a remarkably successful, woman next door, graced the entertainment industry. Betty White won the screen actors guild life achievement award, five Emmys plus winning a best actress Emmy for a comedy series in 1986. She championed animal welfare with the same tenacity as she had her career.
From her seven seasons of the Golden Girls, we witnessed Rose Nyland’s evolution from naïve and dimwitted country girl to a woman who poignantly journeys life’s transitions of aging. But Betty was neither gullible nor foolish; she mastered challenges fabulously.
Betty was a trailblazer for women in entertainment, figuratively and literally, by pounding the pavement. Determined to the work she loved, she persistently woke up each day and adjusted her lens.
Her long life gave Betty a perspective that we all need today. It is the perspective of choosing to change our life through a shift in mindset. Deciding to make even the most infinitesimal choices can move the needle to bring more peace, less stress, life satisfaction, and better physical and emotional health.
Here are 3 tips from Betty White’s Life that we can consider for ourselves.
Betty often said that she was lucky to be in show business since the 1940s. She recalls being so excited to get work that she took whatever came her way. She was grateful to have opportunities even if they were not her cup of tea.
Even in the latter part of her career, she had trouble saying no to opportunities. This grateful mindset undoubtably gave her favor for her willingness to work and spirit of teamwork. The people who knew her say she was a joy to be around.
Gratitude is more than a list of good things you can recall. Being grateful is a dynamic and energetic practice. It’s a discovery that you get to choose whether the glass is half empty or half full. Maybe it happens after a trip to the grocery store, and you hear yourself complaining about waiting too long. Whenever the awakening occurs, it’s a chance for a reboot.
The daily reminder to be grateful is gentle, inviting, and addicting. Gratitude practice is forgiving. Resist the temptation to be a hard taskmaster with yourself. It’s O.K. to miss a day or more. If you forget or neglect gratitude, it welcomes you back without judgement.
Gratitude is infectious. Like yoga and meditation, it is a practice that beautifully enhances more than your quiet and stretching. The benefits of gratitude extend outside of the increased feel-good hormones; it spills into your mindset.
Optimally, it’s suggested that we practice gratitude daily, choosing one specific form of expression. If you’re thinking you need to first feel grateful, consider how many times you have set out to do something not being in the mood and then enjoying the experience. Use your will; pause and be quiet. Encourage the expression of feeling in your body and stay with it for about two minutes.
You can journal about something that has happened to you or about someone who you are grateful to have in your life. It can write as little or as much as you want. Handwriting is better since you get to slow down and contemplate.
You can purchase a special book and pens, light a candle, play soft music and make it a ritual experience. Or you can get a marble notebook. Whatever works for you, just write from your heart and don’t worry about grammar and spelling. Let the words flow.
Write a Gratitude Letter
Decide to write a letter to someone who was instrumental in your well-being.
Writing a simple thank you note for a meal or a gift is always a good way to show appreciation. The gratitude letter bumps this practice with details regarding the person you appreciate and the gift you celebrate. Your gratitude letter can be hand-delivered, read to the recipient or snail-mailed, or you may decide not to share it.
Take the time to expand your perceptions of why you are grateful and for what reasons you feel appreciation. You might want to express gratitude to someone you knew as a child, a parent, a teacher, a family member, or a friend. Be specific with heartfelt honesty and transparency. How many people can you think of who you would love to honor and appreciate by writing a letter?
Record 3 to 5 Things that Went Well Today
In this practice, record and elaborate on daily happenings that you recognize as blessings. It can be as simple as getting a parking spot in a crowded area, getting a coveted item on sale, seeing a rabbit in your garden, or seeing the smile of a child.
You might include noticing you learned a new communication skill with someone you tend to be irritated with; perhaps you enjoyed your exercise routine, or you are grateful you were able to have lunch with a friend. The point of the exercise is to slow down and notice.
Before you go to sleep at night, you might also adopt, on occasion, the practice of contemplating the 3 things that went well during the day. Meditate on the wonder of the blessings that occurred as you fall into rest. Bonus points if you also do this practice before you start your day.
Years after her husband, Alan Ludden, passed, Betty regretted waiting to marry him. She grieved the time they could have had together. She understood loss.
She gave us humor because she experienced, as we do, the beauty in the ashes. Yet, Betty was familiar with gratitude, the lovely energy it takes to make the choice to yield into where it feels good to be alive. Like us, she needed to move forward and continue living.
The women I speak to often tell me about their inner hurts. Some find themselves unsure of how to exit this state. I, too, have looked for this exit by living in denial, insisting I was fine. Being a recovering perfectionist, I could hardly admit there was something that needed fixing. That would have been too difficult.
Instead, I plodded forward, pushing, demanding, performing off and on camera as though it was all quite peachy. I discovered through therapy that the way out is through. This means to take the risk to feel, process, acknowledge, give a good cry, and allow myself permission to be flawed.
Researcher Dr. Kristen Neff reminds us to recognize our common humanity. We, as sentient beings, share in our experiences of loss, grief, loneliness, and hopelessness. We share the experiences of hope, adventure, enjoyment, and love. Her findings are key to the necessity for self-compassion and kindness.
Yielding to being charitable to oneself naturally grows in an atmosphere of gratitude. The beauty of existing on this planet with beings just like us is the prospect for connection. Unfortunately, if we have been hurting and hiding from others, we have likely isolated ourselves from the possibility for trusting again.
We can find hope in our situation by seeking out help when we need it. There is nothing more lovely than the sound of someone’s voice encouraging you and loving you. What do we risk not having when we decide to hide?
“Don’t take yourself too seriously,” White said. “You can lie to others – not that I would – but you cannot lie to yourself.”
A few years ago, during an interview with Katie Couric, Betty was asked her thoughts on the escalating tensions in the U.S. She shook her head and said, “We are not in the best place we’ve ever been. I think it’s the time to buckle down and really work positively as much as you can. Instead of saying oh this is terrible or he’s terrible say alright. There’s nothing I can do about that right now, but I can do the best in my little circle. So, if I do that, maybe you’ll do your best, and we’ll get through this.”
Betty was forthcoming, she didn’t sugarcoat her observations. I believe her grateful inclinations allowed her to reach into her silver lining even during troubling times. She noticed how doing the best you can with those close to you can have far reaching effects. She pointed out the hope in doing even the little things can have a ripple effect in your life.
Being biased towards a grateful mindset means you resist focusing on things that displease you. More importantly, it arises out of self-compassion and kindness. The more mindful we are about our capacity for criticizing ourselves and others the more we see the need to opt out of the half full glass perspective.
We make mistakes, life can be extraordinarily painful and difficult, but we get to decide what we do next. Choosing to be kind to yourself and practicing self-compassion can be as simple as a morning prayer or intention. Today I choose to be kind to myself, and I choose to be grateful. If I falter, I start again with compassion. I am doing the best that I can.
Thank you, Betty White.
What small steps can you take to bring gratitude in your life? Which of the three tips that Betty lived do you resonate with most? Which gratitude practice will you adopt in your daily routine?