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News

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Gregory Helfrich

Updated 11:28 a.m.:

Santa Clara Sheriff’s detectives have arrested a Los Altos Hills man they suspect repeatedly molested a child decades ago.

Detectives arrested Gregory Helfrich, 54, on a warrant at his Old Page Mill R...

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Schools

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students


Courtesy of Jessica Harell
Blach Intermediate School seventh-grader Paris Harrell, who loves science and animals, recently received a scholarship from the local branch of the AAUW to attend Tech Trek camp.

It’s not every day that a junior hig...

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Community

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner


Federici

Longtime Los Altos resident Mario Federici, who turned 98 Feb. 24, is a man of many languages. He shared his knowledge with thousands of students during his long career as a teacher.

Federici was born and raised in Italy, where he stud...

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Comment

Attend an event, get involved, have fun: Editorial

You don’t have to run for city council to get involved in the community. Sometimes it can be as simple as attending a Los Altos event. You’ll have plenty of opportunities, as the May and June calendars are bustling with activity.

The Dow...

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Special Sections

Racing around Monterey

Racing around Monterey


Gary Anderson/Special to the Town Crier
The easy handling of the VW Golf R, above, makes for an ideal ride along the Big Sur coast.

 

When automotive journalists are asked to list their favorite places in the world to drive, Monterey alway...

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Business

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations


Courtesy of Eureka
Eureka, a new restaurant in downtown Mountain View, highlights local craft beer and whiskeys on a menu of food spanning from sea to farm.

Craft beer and fancy whiskeys headline the menu at Eureka, the new restaurant that opene...

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People

Stepping Out

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'


Courtesy of Palo Alto Players
The Baker’s Wife, left, and Cinderella’s erstwhile Prince stand out in the Palo Alto Players production of “Into the Woods.”

Little Red Riding Hood sets forth at the outset of “Into the...

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Spiritual Life

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International


Courtesy of Los ALtos United Methodist Church
Hidden Villa will bring some of its farm animals to Los Altos United Methodist Church Sunday to support the nonprofit Heifer International.

Los Altos United Methodist Church is scheduled to salute th...

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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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