Book Bag: ‘The Positive Shift’ by Catherine A. Sanderson; ‘Making Mirrors,’ edited by Jehan Bseiso and Becky Thompson

Published: 3/7/2019 4:09:29 PM

By Steve Pfarrer


By Catherine A. Sanderson

BenBella Books

When it comes to maintaining a bright outlook on life, Catherine Sanderson admits she can struggle. “Positive, optimistic thoughts don’t come easily to me; I have to work for my happiness,” she writes in her new book, “The Positive Shift.”

But Sanderson, a longtime professor of psychology at Amherst College, says there are many steps people can take to fight negative thinking, reduce stress and bring more joy to their lives — both on a day-to-day basis and over the long haul.

“[H]ere’s the good news for those who struggle to feel happy,” she writes in her book’s introduction. “No matter our natural tendency, we can all achieve greater happiness and better health by making relatively small changes in how we think about ourselves and the world.”

Sanderson, a regular public speaker on issues such as emotional intelligence and the mind-body connection, believes that our mindset, or thought pattern, can have a significant effect on our psychological and physical health. Changing those patterns, she notes, can go a long way to toward improving health.

In her book, she offers many common-sense tips for improving one’s outlook: spending time in nature, doing volunteer work, reducing online activities, getting a good night’s sleep, and not comparing your life to those of other people.

Sanderson also looks at the age-old question  of whether money can buy happiness and concludes that, in general, it can’t. However, if money is used to buy worthwhile “experiences,” such as a vacation in a memorable location, rather than material goods, the possibilities improve, she says.

She describes how her brother Matt, a diehard Chicago Cubs fan and season ticketholder, debated what to do with four tickets he had to a 2016 World Series game at Wrigley Field. He could take his wife and kids to the game — or he could sell the tickets for about $10,000 and do or buy something else with the windfall.

Her brother opted to take his family to the game, Sanderson says, where they all enjoyed a unique experience they can talk about for years to come: “That’s the type of happiness that money truly can buy!”

Ultimately, she says, happiness can radiate outwards: “people who are happy help others around them see the world in a more positive light, take small daily stresses in stride, and stop and smell the roses.”


Edited by Jean Bseiso and Becky Thomposn

Olive Branch Press/Interlink Books

“Making Mirrors” is something of a community poetry project, an effort to give voice to some of the millions of people displaced by the Syrian Civil War and turmoil elsewhere in the Mideast and other parts of the globe.

Published by Olive Branch Press, an imprint of Interlink Books of Northampton, “Making Mirrors” features dozens of poems by refugees who have made their way across the Mediterranean Sea from the Mideast to Europe, and poems written in their honor. The book is edited by Jehan Bseiso, a Palestinian poet and aid worker, and Becky Thompson, an American poet and professor who has been working with refugees in Europe the last few years.

The contributors to “Making Mirrors” offer a variety of poems — long, short and in between — that speak to a loss of home and identity. In “My People’s Story,” Palestinian poet Ibtisam Barakat uses a simple but effective metaphor to describe the experience: “We once lived rooted / Like the ancient olive trees. / Now we’re birds /Nesting on songs / About homes we miss. / Storms and distances, / Decide our address.”

There are also indelible images of war, as in Hajer Almosleh’s “140,” which begins with as stark an image as imaginable: “I spend the day looking at corpses / crouched against each other / the bomb / has found the baby’s soft spot / aimed with precision / and fell / ripping through the mother’s hands / still cradling the baby’s head ...”

“As the refugee crisis fades from the front pages of newspapers,” the editors write in an introduction, “and refugee voices are drowned out by other horrors … Making Mirrors is a plea against historical amnesia and its twin, psychic inertia.”

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at









Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


Copyright © 2020 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy