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Gratitude: It's not just for Thanksgiving

Practicing gratitude forces your brain to focus on the positive, rather than the negative events and occurrences that take place throughout the day. While some of us are naturally inclined to see the glass as being half-full, others are predisposed to hone in on factors that are beyond our control and to feel overly taxed by inconsequential irritants we are confronted with on a daily basis. Like the lady talking too loudly on her cell phone or the highway accident that brought traffic to a screeching halt. Again. When you allow yourself to become too easily rattled by these things, know that you are adversely affecting your overall health and wellbeing. Just think about your body’s physiological reactions! Your muscles become tense. You might clench your teeth. Your breathing becomes rapid and shallow. And your blood pressure rises. I mean, who needs that in their life? Increasing your self-awareness is the first and most important step in order to take control of these types of situations. Once you notice it happening, you can learn to take some deep breathes, relax your muscles, and let it go. As with most things, it becomes easier with practice and you’ll eventually be able to regain your composure in no time at all.

So here’s an exercise in gratitude that will train your brain to become more like that glass-half-full type of person: WHAT DO YOU FEEL GRATEFUL FOR? And, while you can start by listing things such as your health and your family, I’m ultimately requesting that you step it up a notch. I want you to describe (in extensive detail) at least five things that you feel grateful for every night before going to bed. And not just in your head, but on paper, in conversation with your significant other, or even spoken aloud to yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything big or particularly meaningful. For example, I was grateful for my cup of coffee this morning. Although I usually prefer it iced, the smell of roasting coffee beans and warmth of the mug in my hands made me realize that the holiday season is actually upon me. My coffee, topped off with a hint of vanilla, helped to awaken all of my senses after a night of restless sleep. I happily anticipated the little surge in energy that the caffeine would provide me long before I could even physically detect it. I truly enjoyed that 10 minutes of calm before a busy day of traveling… and my “I heart LA” mug always manages to put a smile on my face.

Okay, now it’s your turn to identify the things that you are grateful for. The more frequently that you engage in this exercise, the more that you will actively look for these small but positive moments throughout the day. Your brain will begin to automatically catalog a touching moment that you witness between a mother and daughter, the lively conversation that you had with a stranger at the grocery store, or the colorful gecko that visits your balcony at night to catch insects drawn to the light in your window. Before long, your focus will subtly shift from negative to positive. After all, Thanksgiving Day only comes around once a year to remind us to show appreciation for our loved ones- not through gifts- but rather by sharing a meal and just spending quality time with one another. It’s a holiday that truly encourages us to set a few moments aside to simply reflect upon the things in our lives that we are thankful (or grateful) for. Therefore, I intend to challenge myself further today by placing my inherent snarkiness on the back burner. I’m certainly open to infusing my life with a little more positivity and I hope that you are as well.

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