We often like to speak about thankfulness and gratitude this time of year and, yes, the movies for children are often filled with messages of gratitude and compassion. But, in spite of this, it’s quite easy to get caught up in daily resentments and the stress of feeling that we’re not enough or that we don’t have enough of what we want in our lives.

I recently saw an old video of people rushing into a store for Black Friday, as soon as the doors opened at midnight. The shoppers trampled each other, fighting one another, to carry out large screen televisions on their heads. And on Saturday, I saw a video from the day before, showing people trampling each other as soon as the doors opened to a Victoria’s Secret store in order to leave with an arm-load of hooded sweatshirts. Does anyone really need a hoodie from VS or, even, a large screen television so desperately that they are willing to resort to physical violence and the well-deserved embarrassment of a less-than-flattering cameo in a viral video? Of course, we all know the answer to that is no, but, still, there it is, plenty of people willing to put their heart and soul into grabbing that one thing (or many things) they feel that they must have or that they feel entitled to.

When we’re willing to claw our way to that electronic gadget that we think we ought to have or that will make our children love us forever and ever or to that piece of clothing or beauty product to make us look like enough, and many of us have been guilty of this very thing at one time or another, we have lost our center and our connection to our true self, the One who knows that we are already enough.

Of course we all love to have shiny new objects (or most of us do, anyway, or the commercials wouldn’t work) and many of us desire to make positive changes in our lives. The desire for change is certainly worth having, as it drivers us to get out of bed in the morning to create a better life for ourselves and for those around us. Wants and desires, they make the world go around, they inspire us to progress, and they create passion in our lives. In fact, my book, The Passionate Life: Creating Vitality & Joy at Any Age, is about taking such action to follow our wants, desires, dreams, whether completely life-altering path changes or subtle, but no less powerful, tweaks in our path toward better health, greater joy, and a better world. But, wherever we want our path to take us, we have to start with acceptance and gratitude for where we are right now. It’s from this place of acceptance (for example, “I know and can see with a clear vision that this is the truth of my current situation.”) and of gratitude for what we already have (that which we already have to power us on our path) that we can most powerfully and sustainably generate the life we want. A nice perk of this is that such acceptance and gratitude spares us from the danger of being trampled and clawed during the holiday shopping rush…only to find ourselves with objects that soon dull and lose any meaning.

Although I’ve been speaking about and writing about the power of gratitude along with generosity of spirit , as the best ways to jump-start joyfulness and a more passionate life, I, myself, noticed, recently, that I was feeling less than enthusiastic. I was focused on frustrations and losses. Sitting in silence, feeling immersed in the heaviness and darkness of the moment, I suddenly felt some relief in the weight on my shoulders and saw the glimmer of light breaking through the cracks in my own heart. “There’s a crack, a crack in everything. That’s where the light gets in,” sang Leonard Cohen. That light and the lightness of being was the sudden realization of my gratitude for all of the like-minded souls I’ve recently met along my journey. My heart felt full as I thought about the privilege of being present among some of the most giving and caring people and gratitude that we can be there for each other, supporting each other on our paths, together bringing compassion and light into a world that is aching for it. As my mood changed dramatically and I could feel the joy being brought about my gratitude, I remembered the Buddhist saying, “It only takes one candle to light a dark room.” With this joyfulness, I can continue on my journey to bring light to those who need some help lighting their own candle.

The researcher and psychology professor, Dr. Robert Emmons at the University of California-Davis, showed in his extensive research about the effects of gratitude on our emotional and physical wellbeing, that people who make a practice of feeling gratitude feel physically healthier and have a more optimistic perspective. However, in this world consisting of the constant message, “You are not enough,” it’s easy to forget that we are enough and that we have so much power that, together, we can light a light so bright that every dark corner would be lit. Because of this, Emmons found that the feeling of gratitude is something that needs to be cultivated daily through conscious effort.

So, I have committed, once again, to the practice of writing a list every day for what I feel grateful for. I started today and came up with twenty things to feel grateful for, so far. I plan to keep adding more as the day continues. Having this plan makes me more aware of things that I’m grateful for throughout the day. What a wonderful reminder to be joyful!

Why don’t you join me? Together we can have gratitude to simply have life, to be present to breathe every day, to have the opportunity to work on improving ourselves. How lucky we are to have the opportunity to grow and learn, no matter our age. Having gratitude for what we have, and looking for silver linings in the less-than-ideal situations, can bring us feelings of optimism, peace, and enthusiasm to keep on our trek as peaceful warriors. As Dr. Deepak Chopra wrote, “Gratitude is a fullness of heart that moves you from limitation and fear to expansion and love.”

All of this, the ups and downs, the ebb and flow, the dark and light — this is the adventure we call life, and having gratitude for this adventure, all that it consists of, allows the darkness to be the catalyst for making the light that much brighter.

I’d love to hear from you about your gratitude journals, whether you already have one or if you feel inspired to begin one with me. Let me know about one thing that you are most grateful for or let me know if you notice a change in your life just by taking this one step. Send me an e-mail: [email protected]!

The above blog is an excerpt of Dr. Mara’s Newsletter — November 25: What are You Thankful For?Read the whole newsletter HERE! Andsign upto receive The Passionate Life Newsletter in your in-box rightHERE!

Check out Dr. Mara’s internationally best-selling book, The Passionate Life: Creating Vitality & Joy at Any Age, now available in paperback and on e-book!

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