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News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Be healthier through gratitude

Our brains are hardwired to pay attention to the negative, and for good reason. Our ancestors, who were alert, watchful and worried, survived. Those who weren’t were eaten.

But today our DNA’s disposition puts us into a state of unnecessary chronic stress – stress that raises our blood pressure, causes anxiety or depression and hurts our health in many ways.

“To survive better in our 21st-century lives, it’s important to learn to react less automatically and negatively to the stresses that bombard us. We can do this by practicing skills that increase our capacity for appreciation, and for calming our bodies and minds,” said Renée Burgard, LCSW, a psychotherapist who teaches mindfulness and stress reduction classes at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and at Silicon Valley companies such as Google and Apple.

But how?

One way is to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude,” Burgard said – and gratitude is about more than saying thanks.

“Gratitude is paying attention to what we have, and cultivating a heartfelt sense of appreciation for it,” she noted.

In short, it’s rewiring your brain to counteract the negativity bias by paying attention to what’s positive. Research shows that people who focus on gratitude feel better, sleep better and are less likely to feel depressed. They’re also more generous to others. And, in studies of adolescents, they’re happier in school. But you can’t just snap your fingers and feel gratitude.

“It’s important not to force it,” Burgard said. “Instead, pay attention to what you appreciate, and what you feel thankful for. It takes practice.”

Following are Burgard’s three simple ways to get started.

What’s not wrong?

When you’re tense or upset, ask yourself, “What’s not wrong?” This practice, from the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, helps you find the good in your life during hard times. You may be insanely busy on a project, but you have work that you enjoy. You may be fighting with your spouse, but you have a shared family you love. No matter what the situation, stop for a minute to consider what’s not wrong.

“It’s hard to access gratitude sometimes,” Burgard said. “What’s not wrong is a bridge to gratitude. It’s a way to think about positive things in our lives without forcing it.”

Three good things

“Each night before you go to sleep, think of three good things – or ‘not wrong’ things – that happened that day,” Burgard said. “Write them down, and spend a little time reflecting on what brought those things into your life.”

This is a classic gratitude practice that helps you pay attention to the positive in your life.

Take in the good

This practice is from Rick Hanson, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist who wrote the book “Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence” (Harmony, 2013). Think back to a positive experience, and remember everything you can about it. Relive it in your mind. Breathe in deeply, taking in the pleasantness. Then breathe out and imagine that you’re sending the pleasantness to every cell of your body.

“By focusing on and staying with a pleasant memory, you’re rewiring your brain,” Burgard said. “Remember, our brains are Velcro for negative and Teflon for positive. You need to stay with pleasant memories and events to make them stick.”

If you’re glued to your smartphone, you can take your gratitude practice with you wherever you go. Try the apps Gratitude! and Live Happy on the iPhone, or the Attitude for Gratitude Journal on the Android. There are many others – most inexpensive or free – so check around.

And if you’re inclined to dismiss the gratitude movement as psychobabble, take a moment to reconsider.

“Paying attention just once a day to what you appreciate is enough to have an effect on your life,” Burgard said. “There’s science behind it. Gratitude is a way to open the door to more happiness.”

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