By Jackie James

Thanksgiving may be long over, but the need to practice gratitude shouldn’t end. If anything, the beginning of a new year—a new DECADE, even—is the perfect place to start.

Even on our darkest days, we have plenty to appreciate in our lives, even if it is just being alive. Making the most out of what we have—even the awkward, scary, cringe-worthy moments—can mean the difference between authentically living your life or just going through the motions. Life is far from perfect, but we can find perfect moments if we truly appreciate all that we have.

Not only does being grateful give you hope for the future, it also instills a sense of peace and purpose in your life. Gratitude-The-Attitude has a far-reaching affect—people who are thankful are happier with their lives overall, and that attitude carries over into their relationships. Aren’t you more likely to want to hang out with someone who is appreciative, even for the small gestures and items, then someone who is disappointed they didn’t get what they wanted?

Being grateful forces you to view life from a positive perspective and can boost your sense of well-being, even though your life’s circumstances may be less than perfect. Being grateful promotes positive self-talk, so instead of questioning your life’s challenges, you revel in the small victories, which eventually rewires your thinking. Even if you are in the worst of life’s situations, celebrating what’s good in your life—even if that’s a very small sliver—can provide you with the will and faith to get through your tough spot. Eventually, you might even find yourself in a place where you can help others.

Did you know that grateful people—even those in dire situations—have lower blood pressure, better sleep, improved immune systems, more overall satisfaction in their lives and compassion for others? Expressing gratitude can be a shared experience or it can be personal, like keeping a private journal of what makes you thankful but either way, the benefits are the same. Focus on what is going right in your life instead of what is going wrong, and your entire mindset can change for the better.

Instead of dwelling on the sad, scary, and overwhelming instances in life, pause for a moment to appreciate a beautiful sunrise, and the promise of a new day. Thank your family, or friends, or neighbors or even your pet for unconditional love. If you have food to eat and clean water to drink, be mindful that not everyone has those luxuries in life, and that being thankful for those little luxuries is a constant reminder that someone ALWAYS has it worse than we do. Lastly, practicing gratitude every day gives us the opportunity to be present in our own lives, to live life in all its glory and to appreciate every moment we are given. Spread the gratitude-attitude and make each day count!