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Practice gratitude

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Some of the most important questions you can ask yourself as you pursue wellness are, "How grateful am I really? To whom am I grateful? How am I expressing my gratitude?"

Prior to my health crisis, I was grateful for many things I had accomplished, acquired and experienced. But gratitude was not a dominant emotion for me and I certainly was not intentional about expressing it.

When I hit my health crisis and became a Wellness Seeker, I had to rethink and reshape my life. I came face to face with my ambitions and competitive drive. I had to answer the question, "Where did all my ambitious energy and competitive drive lead me? What has my perfectionism brought me?"

The answers were not good. My intense striving to achieve goals took me to a place of intense pain and weakness.

While reflecting on my own pursuit of success, I frequently said, "I’m just grateful to be alive. I’m grateful to have a chance to redo some things. I’m grateful for a loving family to help me through this. I’m grateful I can still think and make changes."

I found myself grateful for the simple things—a long night of sleep, renewed energy and signs of returning strength. I found myself grateful for the things I was learning about wellness.

I also developed a mindset of wanting to enjoy the process. Frankly, I never thought much about pleasure in the journey when it came to the goals in my first 50 years of life. I played to win.

Only winning was important. Enjoying the process was entirely secondary.

Today, as I pursue wellness, I truly enjoy the process. I am grateful for every day and each good thing that comes into my life.

The "good thing" might be an hour playing with a grandchild on the floor, a quiet walk with my wife or reading a letter from a person whose life has dramatically improved since they became a Wellness Seeker.

Gratitude is far more than spoken words or written notes to say "Thank you;" it must become a perspective.

Developing an "attitude of gratitude" means, first of all, that you place new value on the things that are truly important in life. Gratitude often requires an adjustment in priorities. Ask yourself, "What am I most grateful for today?"

The more you focus on the things and people for which you are deeply grateful, the more you will shift your focus from what you don’t have to what you do have. That shift in perspective can be as dramatic as a sudden earthquake. A positive, uplifting cycle takes hold. Gratitude for what is creates an increased level of alertness for what might be. People with gratitude enjoy greater enthusiasm for life. That enthusiasm generates an abundance of determination, optimism and energy. There’s a deep feeling of joy—being blessed, satisfied and well-nurtured. When you believe your life is filled with satisfaction and meaning, you experience a sense of abiding purpose and fulfillment.

Psychologist Robert Emmons, Ph.D., has spent 20 years studying what makes people happy. He has concluded, "When people consciously practice grateful living, their happiness will go up and their ability to withstand negative events will improve."

Perhaps the simplest way to make gratitude a focus of your emotional well-being is to keep a Gratitude Journal. Every day, or at least once a week, write down the things for which you are grateful. From time to time, take a few extra minutes to write down why you are grateful for these things in your life.

Attitude and gratitude researchers assert that you can choose to have gratitude even if you don’t feel thankful.

Emotions follow thoughts. You can choose to concentrate on the blessings in your life. The more you think on the good things, the more thankfulness you will feel. Your heart and head will come into harmony.

Over time, what you consciously think about will become your basic attitude and perspective.

Intentionally choose to express gratitude every day.

Adapted from Michael Ellison’s book 10 Keys to Creating Wealth and Wellness. Michael Ellison’s "Journey To Wellness" is a part of "Your Body, His Temple."


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