It’s that time of year again.  We’ve rounded the corner towards the holidays and the beginning of a new year.  In the United States, Thanksgiving is mere inches away. That means the season of gratitude has arrived!

Amongst the advertisements for the hottest electronics gadgets, dolls that can talk, and the touting that a particular brand of broth will make your meals more special, you will also see the leanings toward expressions of appreciation for what we have.

Yes, darling, this is the time of year to express gratitude.

To be honest, though, gratitude shouldn’t be reserved for only Thanksgiving.  The regular practice of showing appreciation for the goodness in our lives deserves more than just one day in a year.

The holiday season isn’t just about turkey, letters to Santa and families gathered around the fire with cocoa and cookies.  This time of year is also notorious for bringing about the shadows in our lives – depression, loneliness, and family squabbles. Not to mention the never-ending seeking of perfection. Our inner critic seems to put in overtime!

Take it from me, kitten: the introduction of a regular gratitude practice can help push the shadows towards the corners of your mind instead of always being your standard reaction to life.

A funny thing happened to me on the way to 37.

I had opened the gate on my white picket fence life and stepped out. I found myself dissatisfied with where I was in life.   Though the divorce had been necessary, it didn’t change the belief I held that I had somehow failed.  I had choices: I could continue to flagellate myself and live in a world of negativity, fear, and hatred.  I could choose to hold grudges for every slight.  Or, I could choose to turn to the brighter side of life.

It was a turning point.

It began with some kind words from a good friend, some boudoir photos, and the creation of a gratitude journal.

I soon oozed sex appeal and confidence, which to be honest, had always been part of my inner being.  When I walked into a room, men looked.  Children and dogs adored me. And not because of a change of clothes or a new hair color, but because I had begun remaking myself from the inside out.

I realized that everything around me was a miracle. I began to understand that each day was a fresh.

I began to embody the knowledge that I could step into courage at any moment. That I didn’t have to be perfect.  That I could choose love instead of giving into fear.

That I could choose to be grateful.

And I’ll be honest: sometimes gratitude has a heavy quality.  There have been times that have been incredibly challenging and maybe in that moment I didn’t understand the why.  But in the long run, I’ve learned that even the crappier times allowed me to learn something – about others or myself.

So, yes, darling, I came to realize that those times that I was lost in the pure ickyness of something eventually turned back around to the way that I truly know is wonderful for me.

I’m going to challenge you to take gratitude beyond Thanksgiving.  Because, darling, when you allow yourself to create a practice of gratitude, the big picture view of your life will begin to feel (and look) a whole lot better.

Do you want to know a secret about gratitude? You also need to allow yourself to receive all the goodness you’re offered.

How often does someone give you a compliment and you begin to point out all the problems with it?  Or if your partner tells you that look beautiful, do you accept the compliment with grace or do you push it aside?

Gratitude is a process of acknowledgment while receiving is an active process of taking in and experiencing of what you are grateful for.

Through the gifts of gratitude I realized that if I was going to be grateful for the gifts in my life, I needed to actually allow my heart to be open to actually receiving those gifts.

So, when someone gives you a compliment, open your heart and allow it to wash over you.  Celebrate those big (and tiny) victories in life.

Receiving is not taking – it isn’t stealing nor is it grabbing.  And, darling, it isn’t selfish. When you receive, you  are not taking a gift away from anyone. Every person has their own beautiful gifts to receive each and every day.

I know, my dear, that sometimes that inner critic will try to tell you that you are selfish – or that you don’t deserve to receive the blessings in your life.

Trust me, darling: YOU are worthy .  In fact, when you celebrate your victories, revel in gratitude, gracefully accept compliments and receive all the goodness into your world, you’ll inspire yourself to strive further – and inspire those around you.

Allow yourself to take this Thanksgiving week as your turning point.

Create in your life the opportunity to carry the spirit of giving and receiving beyond Hanukkah and Christmas. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus – and he is there within your heart and can be found in giving and receivingin love and gratitude.

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