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Finding Gratitude Even When Things Go Haywire

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola

Happy Thanksgiving! If you live in America and this is a holiday you look forward to and celebrate with a hearty meal with friends and family, then gratitude is the backdrop for every spoonful you eat. But what if you’re not feeling particularly grateful today?

What if life seems like it’s gone just plain haywire, or what if you’re just not “into” it like everybody else seems to be — whether it’s thanks giving or Thanksgiving? Or, even if you were “into” it at the start of the day, what if something’s happened to spoil your mood and put a downer on the rest of the day?

These are all fair questions and valid feelings, no matter what the stereotypical image of Thanksgiving says you’re supposed to be thinking and feeling. The good news is you don’t have to “do” thanks giving a certain way or on a special day. Even better news is there are ways to cultivate feelings of gratitude that go beyond this one single day.

To that end, The Washington Post offers up some fun ways to cultivate a year-round spirit of gratitude. From appreciating your toes to keeping a gratitude journal, it is possible to make gratitude an essential part of your everyday life.

The plain facts are, even though America is where we celebrate Thanksgiving — purportedly an extension of gratitude, with feelings of happiness an extension of that, only 1 in 3 Americans reports being “very happy” in their lives. What’s worse, nearly 1 in 4 Americans reports feeling no life enjoyment at all.

So how did we get in this spot? How can you be sad with no joy at all in the midst of the Land of Plenty? If you’re feeling like you’re in the middle of a haywire circle of chaos and havoc, please realize it’s OK to get off the merry-go-round and just live in the moment, if only for that one moment.

While you’re there, breathing in, breathing out, think about what IS, rather than what could be or should be or would be — all intangible targets that keep moving even as you begin to reach them. You see, when you stop reaching for the intangibles and live in the moment for the moment, even if you’re in the midst of the most unhappy times in your life, or feeling some of the worst anxiety or problems in your life, it is possible to make small, steady changes that can help you cultivate a feeling of happiness and, ultimately, of gratitude.

Research shows that being mindful of what you HAVE, rather than what you wish for goes a long way toward feeling grateful. Studies also show that the very actions of hugging someone or sending a thank-you note or just purposely reflecting on the good things in your life can cultivate feelings of happiness and gratitude without your even realizing it.

As the Post article says, one way to flex your gratitude muscle when life events leave you uninspired is to identify and express gratitude for seemingly "useless" or insignificant things. It could be a certain smell in the air, the color of a flower, your child's freckles or the curvature of a stone. Over time, you'll find that doing this not only give you a sense of exhilarating freedom, but will really hone your ability to identify "good" things in your life. In fact, you may eventually find that "bliss" is closer than you imagined.

Happiness is also about identifying and having a sense of purpose. This purpose could be your career or your family, or it could be gleaned from volunteering or learning a new skill. Ultimately, the more positive changes you can make to live in the moment instead of always reaching for something just out of reach — such as taking time for yourself each day, appreciating the simple pleasures in life and making connections with friends and family — the more happy and grateful you will be.

The bonus is as these feelings of happiness and gratitude become part of your life, the better your physical health will become.