When I moved to Florida, sight-unseen, from my beloved Colorado, I hated it and vowed I’d never stay.  I’ve now loved living here for decades and have created a life beyond what I ever thought possible.  How did I shift from hating Florida to loving it?  I learned to construct happiness… independent of my location or circumstances….and my world changed forever.  I then began sharing the principles I learned with clients and saw their lives transformed too.  It all begins with GRATITUDE.

Have you noticed how easy it is to be grateful when you feel good and your own life is in order?  But what happens when things aren’t so tidy?  That’s when we’re tested.

Sure, it’s easy to complain.  That’s become a cultural norm.  Think about the last time someone initiated a conversation with you. Did it begin with a complaint, a judgment, or some other form of blame?  (e.g., “Can you believe ________ ?” “You’d think they would ________!”, “Next time I/we should  _____!”)  Those invite us to assume a shared experience.  Plus, we want allies to validate our perspective!  It’s become the lazy route to camaraderie!  But what if you knew that focusing on blame or judgment could become a bad habit?  A habit that would actually create more struggles in your life?  It’s true. You really do get what you focus on!  But there is another way.

Consider finding positive things to appreciate!  That felt impossible back when I was mired in disliking Florida.  So I began with the smallest thing I could think of.  I could appreciate a flower…or a bird….or a winter day without a parka.  Gradually, I began to see other things to appreciate.  And as I practiced, more opportunities to be grateful began to come my way.  That’s how it works.  Likes really do attract likes.

In fact, research has been conducted on gratitude. Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami asked participants in a recent study to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics.

One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.

Think about that the next time you get snagged by the people or circumstances surrounding you.  Rather than complaining or blaming, consider finding something positive to feel good about.  I’m living proof that if you look hard enough, you can always find a positive.  This holiday season, I invite you to be trend-setter!  Be the one who finds something to appreciate at every turn.  And help others by gently guiding discussions away from petty grievances.  Let gratitude be your greatest gift!