How many times were you asked as a kid, "What are you thankful for?" You probably got that question frequently around Thanksgiving. Being a good child when I was asked I always answered it in the expected way without much thought or passion. My list always had my parents and teachers first and then the usual suspects.

I even competed with friends to see who could come up with a longer list. The long list impressed my teachers and my parents but the actual purpose of the exercise was lost on me. Maybe it was just to keep me busy while others prepared the Thanksgiving dinner.

Now that I am older I have a greater appreciation for the question and my answers. It is the feeling of gratitude that is important.

What is the purpose of thinking about what you are grateful for? It is simply to notice how many good things touch our lives and to truly appreciate them again. It is not necessarily to make a long list unless that helps you to notice the good stuff and feel appreciation.

Many of us (I include myself here) tend to dwell on what is not going well in our lives. That can make us feel inadequate and sometimes helpless. We lose our feeling of confidence and control. What better way to counteract that then to think of times when things were going well and to feel gratitude and appreciation for it once again. It definitely helps change my mood!

Even in challenging times there are things to feel grateful for. Years ago I lost my job because the company I worked for went bankrupt. Although I was upset about the loss of income I knew I was destined to find something better and was grateful for the unemployment check to hold me over until I actually did.

The better we are at quickly regaining that appreciative and grateful feeling the more open the heart is to what is possible for us. How do you access that grateful feeling? Where do you feel gratitude in your body? When I want to feel gratitude I simply think of my grandchildren. The flush of warmth in the area of my heart and stomach is wonderful. Try finding an access point for yourself and then notice how it feels in your body.

The objection I have for asking someone to make a list is that it is an activity of the mind. My mind is often critical and is apt to go through the list and discount everything as unimportant or not worthwhile. That is the danger. Instead by feeling the feeling I am not evaluating anything but just enjoying it and that is so much more meaningful and worthwhile. Try it!

Take action

1. What are you grateful for? Sit quietly visualizing a few meaningful choices and feel the feeling of gratitude.

2. Notice where in your body that feeling is felt and which of your choices brings it to you most quickly or most intensely.

3. Use that visualization as an access point when you need it.

Author's Bio: 

Alvah Parker is a Practice Advisor for Attorneys and a Career Coach as well as publisher of "Parker's Points", an email tip list and "Road to Success", an ezine. Subscribe to these free publications at her website and also receive a values assessment as a gift