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How to Cultivate Joy with Gratitude

by Michelle Grim

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I love food, so those who know me will not be surprised by my confession. But, it’s not just the food that makes me swoon over Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving brings me joy because of what it inspires. It gives me an excuse to practice gratitude openly, and to engage in that practice with the people I care for most.

My family has gotten to know my…enthusiasm for gratitude, and at Thanksgiving they all come mentally prepared for it as we sit down to our special meal together. But, the first time I sprung the question “What are you grateful for???” on my now-mother-in-law, her fork stopped mid-air, mouth still open, but nothing came out. I might have been a little too eager.

Gratitude, Joy, and Pain

All joking aside, although I really do love gratitude, it can be a practice that takes effort and a willingness to move outside your comfort zone. Expressing gratitude does not erase difficult emotions or discount the fact that you might be struggling. What it does do, however, is give you more access to the positive side of the spectrum. And, interestingly enough, it appears to be the most potent way to access joy.