Gratitude is a habit we build gradually. It is not a spontaneous emotion. Gratitude is appreciating, focusing on, and being thankful for, what we have — not focusing on what we do not have. Practicing gratitude is a challenge, because we live in a culture that bombards us with advertising designed to focus us on what we do not have - and make us discontented.

Grow gratitude by expanding what you are grateful for. Look for small things to be grateful for. For example: a beautiful day, a relaxing shower or bath, a string of green lights on the way to work or shopping, a good cup of coffee or tea, a family gathering or meal, air conditioning on a sweltering hot day, medications when you have a sickness or ailment, a helping hand from someone. Be grateful for things you take for granted. Your freedoms, a place to live, enough food to eat, clothing, education, a job, family, doctors, medication and hospitals when you or loved ones are ill or injured.

Deepen your gratitude. Take time to focus on, linger and really enjoy what you are grateful for. "Savor" is the psychologists' term for this. Don't just notice good stuff and rush by quickly to the next event in your fast-paced life. Emphasize gratitude for people more than things. Express gratitude to more people, both large and small, past and present. Do it in person, by a handwritten note, by email or via text. Identify a teacher, a mentor, family, friends, colleagues, coach, teammate, people who provide services, etc. They will love it and you will feel better. At the dinner table, go around and have each person state something specific they are grateful for that day and how it makes them feel.

Keep a gratitude jar or box. Drop in little slips of paper where you write down specific events you are grateful for throughout the year. Take them out and review them on New Year's Eve. Daily, for three weeks, keep a gratitude journal. List everything you can think of to be grateful for that day. You will be amazed! And you will become much more alert for things to be grateful for. Do all this and Thanksgiving will be a part of your daily life — not a once a year observance.


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