The Glad Game: What It Is and How to Play

The Glad Game

In 1913, Eleanor Porter wrote a book about a girl named Pollyanna who sees the world in a positive way. When Pollyanna starts to feel low, she plays “the Glad Game” and thinks of things to be happy about and thankful for. She teaches the people in her community to play the game and to spread joy. The book was a big success and was followed up with TWELVE more Pollyanna books called – you guessed it – “Glad Books.” In 1960, Disney made a movie based on these books, bringing Pollyanna and the Glad Game to a whole new generation of children.


My mom was one of those children that Disney’s Pollyanna touched. To this day, it is one of her favorite movies of all time. Mom played this game with my sister and me when we were growing up. And now it’s my turn to teach this game to my own children. I want them to look at the world, see what is wonderful in their lives, and not dwell on what they are unhappy about.

Don’t get me wrong … venting is healthy.

Expressing dissatisfaction is totally normal and good for us. Whether it is with family or friends, being able to talk about the things that are getting you down is important. Along with the Pollyanna game, my mom gave us a safe zone at home for doing just that. As an adult, I have a close circle of friends with whom I can share irritations, and my mom and sister are on speed dial. These people keep me sane on crazy days.

There is, however, a difference between healthy complaining when it is a rough day and using negativity to connect with others. NOMB Writer Emily addressed this in a recent post: “Why Is It So Wrong To Be Happy?” In her article, she recognized that nowadays, sharing happiness is seen as a social taboo while relating through common antagonisms is acceptable. “Happiness seems to be the thing that everyone is chasing,” she wrote, “so why are we afraid to celebrate it?” Why, indeed.

It only takes a moment.

A spark of optimism will spread positivity just as a small amount of negativity will turn a bad minute into a bad day. With either, the domino effect they cause can turn into a week and even a year. So, I am going to celebrate what is going well in my life and the lives of those around me. There is a lot to be glad about.

Let’s play the Glad Game:

  • I have an amazing husband who has put me in a position to be a stay at home mom (my dream job). When he’s not out of town for work, he does bath time and bedtime WITH STORIES each night. When I screw up, he’s one of the most forgiving people I have ever encountered. I love you, honey!
  • My children are wired, and that energy is actually really positive. For the most part, they handle their own disputes. They help each other when they fall. All three of them insist on bunking together because they find security in each other. And they may have one of my last nerves on speed dial, but more often than not, they are sunshine.
  • Our families care about us and check on us and do everything they can to make sure that we feel loved. I am thankful for my family, my husband’s family – OUR FAMILY – and their constant communication and commitment.
  • I am happy to be able to volunteer at church and school and in our community. It is a gift to volunteer. I like that people see my involvement as a positive thing and reach out for events and activities. It is a blessing to be a person that can be counted on. And I appreciate this quality in other people. Thank you – you know who you are.
  • Traffic: we live in NOLA. I am embracing the road-sharers and the New Orleans’ potholes. The crazy drivers (cyclists included) and the holes aren’t going anywhere, so I am looking at the colorful houses and happy children getting on school buses and the person in front of me at the stoplight without brake lights (watching him VERY carefully) and feeling the love.
  • Social Media: you are giving me an opportunity to reconnect with old friends, become better friends with new acquaintances, and the opportunity to share positivity with others.
  • And ETC. Etcetera is the phone calls and emails and text messages. The interaction with friends and not-friends. With each interaction, I am going to look for the good, the positive, and try my best to have good thoughts and share only kind words.


Here’s a smidge of healthy venting: This post was an accident. My original post disappeared into the drop box ether. I was furious and close to a meltdown. The day had already been trying. This should have sealed the start to a bad week. It was an easy gateway for my grumpy mommy to make her appearance.

But I started thinking about what was going right. I remembered my mom teaching us the Glad Game and started to play … Singing in the car with my kids on the way to school. Finding my favorite sandwich meat at Costco. Seeing a friend. Making a great pot of chili. My four-year-old napping. Writing this post … Playing this game.

I am going to try to be Pollyanna today and try to be more like her every day. Try it with me. It is wonderfully infectious.

What are you glad about this week? #thegladgame


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