The Golden Girls is the television equivalent of mac and cheese: comfortable, broadly appealing, and best consumed under a blanket on a rainy day (or any other time, really). But beyond the cheesecake, boyfriends, and pastel floral prints, the iconic sitcom also offered some incredible advice about living a thriving life — mixing in lessons about focus and prioritization, self-care, and interpersonal connections.
At Thrive, we’re all about science-backed Microsteps — small but meaningful actions we can take that have both immediate and long-term impact. Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia were all about tiny behavior changes that led to major results. Here are four examples of Microsteps straight from The Golden Girls that are just as important and effective today as they were when the show was on the air.
Sophia Petrillo (played by Estelle Getty) may be an octogenarian and a stroke survivor, but she doesn’t let either of those things get in the way of living her best life. One episode of the show features a look inside how she spends her day, and it’s pretty powerful. Instead of sitting around idle, Sophia prioritizes activities that matter to her.
She starts the day off by purchasing a nectarine at the market, then steps in to act as a consumer advocate when her fellow shopper was sold subpar produce. Then, she makes her way to the boardwalk, where she conducts a band comprised entirely of other mature women in an attempt to raise money for a clinic. Finally, she signs on for her shift as a hospital volunteer, and brings the nectarine to one of the pediatric patients who contracted HIV from a blood transfusion.
That is a pretty packed schedule, regardless of your age, and a great reminder to fill your calendar with meaningful activities.
Thrive Microstep: Schedule time on your calendar for something that matters to you.
It’s easy to get caught up in our day-to-day responsibilities, but it’s important to give yourself time to do things you care about — whether it’s getting in a workout, visiting friends, or reading a book. If you need an extra nudge, set a reminder to hold yourself accountable.
In another episode, Rose Nylund (played by Betty White) becomes increasingly frustrated when she is unable to fall asleep at night. She tries everything she can think of to catch some ZZZs — except counting sheep, because she’s allergic to wool.
At one point, when Dorothy Zbornak (played by Bea Arthur) gets worked up about something, Rose offers to make her a soothing cup of her special blend of tea — the very kind she drinks when she can’t fall asleep. Dorothy, in her infinite wisdom, points out that this tea is loaded with caffeine and rather than helping her sleep, it’s actually keeping Rose up at night.
But it’s worth clarifying that Rose was onto something: Some teas — like lavender and chamomile — are great caffeine-free before-bed options to help ease you into sleep mode.
Thrive Microstep: Set a daily caffeine cutoff.
As much as we love a nice cup of coffee or tea in the morning, drinking it too late in the day can hinder our ability to fall asleep. Try switching to decaf beverages after 2 p.m. to make sure your body has plenty of time to prepare for a good night’s rest.
Blanche Devereaux (played by Rue McClanahan) knows a thing or two about how to unwind, and one of her favorite ways to do so if getting all hot and steamy… in the bath. At one point, she tries to install a hot tub at the house, presumably because she wants to be able to enjoy the calming benefits of a nice soak al fresco (with or without a gentleman caller).
She’s definitely onto something: Taking a bath or shower helps you relax and prepares your body for sleep at the end of the day.
Thrive Microstep: Take a hot bath or shower before you go to sleep.
Bathing before bed doesn’t just serve the practical function of getting you clean, it also helps you symbolically wash the day away, and eases you into sleep mode.
Living with your best friends is great, but it’s also a good idea to branch out and develop a rapport with other people in your life who you interact with. In the Golden Girls’ case, this includes befriending two undercover police officers on a stakeout in their house (including a very young, pre-ER George Clooney), campaigning on behalf of a candidate for city council, and getting to know their temporary housekeeper.
Dorothy especially makes an effort to connect with people, most notably Jimmy, a younger, reclusive man who hadn’t left his apartment in 22 years. Initially he thought he was in love with her, but later realizes that he really valued her friendship, and making that human connection was enough to get him out of his apartment.
Thrive Microstep: Each day, make a connection with someone you normally take for granted.
Whether it’s someone you tend to pass by or someone you’ve never quite connected with, thinking about other people and their experiences can help you build new relationships, let go of a grudge, or enlarge your own perspective. It can be as simple as asking yourself, “What might this person be feeling?”
These are just four of the many, many lessons the girls imparted on us over the years. Like their cheesecake supply, there’s a lot more where this came from.
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