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Choosing to Be Grateful

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When the sun shimmers and pours through the city with dazzling glory, London lights up, the crisp cold comes to life and everything is not just more bearable, but full of joy. And so it was last weekend. I meandered through Kensington on Sunday soaking the beaming rays and felt a sense of excitement -- that scent of festive energy in the midst of these resplendent buildings, walking past my favorite Natural History Museum and the V&A.

Coming across this quote a few hours later -- "Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude," AA Milne, Winnie the Pooh -- I realized that breathing the sun on this cold November day had sprinkled some magic in the air and that today had in fact been filled with thankfulness. We often don't recognize or give a name to those fleeting feelings, those moments when we feel on top of the world or look at everything with a sense of loss. And we don't always need to. But sometimes, acknowledging that gratitude and describing that feeling to yourself re-affirms it and may have an even more powerful effect.

A fascinating New York Times article I read later that same day reminded me that it was Thanksgiving. "In a nutshell, acting grateful can actually make you grateful," writes Arthur C. Brooks in "Choose to Be Grateful... It Will Make You Happier."

He goes on to write:

But we are more than slaves to our feelings, circumstances and genes. Evidence suggests that we can actively choose to practice gratitude -- and that doing so raises our happiness...

How does all this work? One explanation is that acting happy, regardless of feelings, coaxes one's brain into processing positive emotions.

In the slightly more elegant language of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, "He is a man of sense who does not grieve for what he has not, but rejoices in what he has."

I want to start making a note of things that I'm thankful for each day, recognizing those small moments in the day that might otherwise go unnoticed. Recognizing those moments and expressing gratitude are the building blocks for a happier day.

Happy Thanksgiving!