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Practicing Gratitude This Thanksgiving

    Thanksgiving is approaching quickly, and I cannot help but think of the importance of gratitude. Gratitude from the latin word ‘gratia’ which means thankfulness or gratefulness. If you go on Amazon and look for a gratitude journal, you you will see countless pages of suggestions. Not the usual 5-20 or so. There is a reason for that. Many studies, including those at UC Berkeley and Harvard, have shown that consciously counting ones blessings tends to make people happier and less depressed. Gratitude reduces pain, improves sleep and releases toxic emotions. Expressing gratitude triggers the good hormones and activates the reward center of the brain. That is a big bang for your buck, so to speak.

     Optimism and gratitude have also been linked to people living longer lives, and having a healthier mentality. Optimism has been shown to activate areas of the brain involved in mood regulation. Another interesting fact is that people who work the hardest, tend to live the longest, and pursuing your dreams is what counts, more than achieving them. So in other words being actively engaged in life, and being positive and grateful, is the key to good mental health and a long life.

     During challenging times it can be dicult to think of something new you are grateful for each day. But if you look each day, there are things to be grateful for that you might otherwise not have noticed. Gratitude is a way of reframing our daily experiences to see the brighter side. The silver lining.

     If you aren’t already practicing gratitude, I invite you to include this as a part of your daily meditation, prayer or journaling. In whatever way you chose to go inward, take a moment each day and try to come up with three things you are grateful for. These can be simple things, a beautiful home, healthy family, healthy pets, good friends, financial security. Ok, those are not so simple but easy to take for granted over time. As you develop the practice and endeavor to come up with new things each day, this is when you will begin to notice things people did for you or said to you, that you might not have otherwise noticed. It may be a struggle some days to find something new. But they are there. Little acts of kindness, laughing with a stranger at the checkout stand, kind words, kind acts. They are there, I invite you to recognize them.

     Our family has a tradition at Thanksgiving of going around the table and sharing what we are grateful for each year. It isn’t always easy, some years there are more challenges than others. But it reminds us all that there are always good things too. And that is what we want to focus on.

Have a happy and fulfilling Thanksgiving.

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