Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 2, 2013

Mental Wellness: Time to grow 'Novembeard'

Local columnist

---- — Yesterday I started growing a beard to help raise money for students who are going to Oklahoma with Alternative Spring Break.

I have a friend who works at the Father Fred Foundation and they are really hurting due to the added need from the government shutdown. There are more than 200 individuals with mental illness on the wait list for housing through Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing. I’m sure you too know of immense needs in our community.

As we enter November, we know that holidays are quickly coming. More than most of us can remember, needs are popping up all over. Yet, how do we make an impact on the world without constantly feeling guilty for not doing enough? Research studies continue to show us that the happiest people are those who live with giving hearts. We should not be driven by guilt, but rather toward finding our own small steps in the right direction.


My grandmother used to always make me open the door for her. I hated it, especially as a teen, but now I am so happy that it is a habit. Miniature moments of valuing others can slowly make an impact on how we see the world. When we open the door for a stranger, genuinely ask a clerk how their day is going, or give change to a donation jar, it can’t help but change us into something better.

Seek Genuine Thankfulness

Notice I didn’t say “find genuine thankfulness”; instead we seek it. Through this process of moving toward a deeper appreciation of what we have, we pursue contentment within the current situation. It’s so easy to think, “If only I had (insert item/to-do list thing/or other craving here) then I would be so much happier.” The idea behind this myth is that when we are comfortable, we are happy. The times in my life that have created the most happiness are usually when I have overcome adversity or seen my own self in a new way, not when I was most comfortable.

Share Your Toys

As people who live in a fairly individualistic society, with social norms that value the individual over community, it’s easy to focus on what we have. Yet, when we share the experiences, resources, and toys that we value with others, we grow in our own appreciation. We also experience deeper fulfillment by inviting others into our lives. Further, we gain important insights into how others see the world.

As we enter the rapid-fire season of holiday celebrations, may you seek ways to find deeper happiness through micro-volunteering, seeking genuine thankfulness, and sharing, whether you grow a sweet beard or not.

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC is a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. If you want to join him or donate for Novembeard visit