As we enter the autumn season and the holidays approach, those of us who are conscious of our waist lines realize the delicious dangers that await, and may even start to plan our New Year’s resolution to shed the holiday pounds.  However, for many people, the weight we gain on our minds rather than our mid-sections is of much greater concern.  Family stress, financial difficulty, and seasonal depression can make this time of the year especially difficult.

One possible way to combat this “emotional obesity” is to go on a mental diet and feed yourself with positive thoughts and emotions.  A very powerful emotion is that of gratitude.  While it may sound naive or idealistic to be “thankful for what you have,” being thankful and appreciative of the good, satisfying things in your life can improve your overall health.  Your focus shifts from problems and shortcomings, thereby relieving stress.  It is a well established medical fact that increased negative stress can lead to mental, emotional, and physical difficulties or illness, so any reduction in such stress can be beneficial.

Here are a few tips to cultivate that “attitude of gratitude” in your daily life:

Adjust unreasonable expectations.  A good deal of stress comes from people and circumstances not fulfilling our expectations.  While it is good to have standards, having unreasonable or impossible standards only will set you up for disappointment.  By setting reasonable goals, you will have plenty of opportunities to be thankful.

Choose to be thankful.  Whether we like it or not, gratitude is a choice.  There is an old axiom which states that while we cannot control our circumstances, we can control our response to circumstances.  When faced with a difficulty, we can choose to sink ourselves into bitterness and frustration, our we can choose to shift our focus to the positive aspects of the situation or other areas of our lives.  Decide today to no longer let circumstances dictate how you react.

Appreciate the little things.  Too often we take for granted those daily blessings.  Whether it is a nice home, delicious meal, steady employment, or loving family, it is easy to forget to appreciate such things.  We encounter these things every day, and so every day we have one or more chances to be thankful.  Try to build up a habit of showing gratitude for ALL that you have, not just the big stuff.

Slay the green-eyed monster.  It is tough to be thankful for what we have when all we can think about is what others have.  Envy and jealousy for the personal or material success of others impairs our vision to the point where we cannot see all the good around us.  Too much time is spent worrying about what we think we should have or what we believe we deserve, when we can instead be grateful for what we actually do have.

The power of gratitude lies in its ability to free you from oppressive thoughts and actions.  When you are grateful for what you have or receive, your focus shifts and you are immediately free of disappointment, envy, and frustration.  You will obtain a sense of fulfillment because you have something that gives your life value and meaning.  Such positive feelings not only generate a wonderful outlook, they also cause a reduction in stress that can lead to better overall health and well-being.  By loading up on a daily thanks-giving meal, you can be healthier in body and mind!

Challenge Step

Start a gratitude journal!  Every day for the next 30 days, write down three things that you are thankful or grateful for.  Try to write three different ones every day.  Then, at the end of the 30 days, review your journal so you can fully appreciate all that you have in life!

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