by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

The season of Thanksgiving is upon us. For the Hallmark card company this means sales.

Annually, sales of thank-you notes spike in December and January, undoubtedly fueled by the 58 percent of moms who, according to the Hallmark Research Department, actively teach their children to write notes of appreciation for gifts they’ve received from family and friends.

My mom taught me thanking others in some tangible way is good manners. Certainly we appreciate kindnesses shown to us. But is that all there is to gratitude — expressing thanks for how much good we have or being grateful when something good happens?

What about when things don’t go our way? When we’re having a bad day? When we’re going through difficult times? When we’re stressed, anxious or sad? Where is our gratitude then? Perhaps we’ve become too dependent on outward circumstances, allowing them to dictate how we feel, rather than the other way around.

Suppose gratitude is not merely a passing sentiment. Maybe gratitude is not so much about what happens to us, but more about how we happen to the world around us.

Consider gratitude as an attitude, a point of view and a state of being. With gratitude as the premise for every thought, feeling and action, how would your day change? Do you doubt that your mental state impacts everything and everyone around you?

One Christmas, my daughter gave me a magnet inscribed, “If Mamma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy.” We laughed about it, but actually, that magnet expressed how she felt. I started realizing how my attitude affected my entire home. Certainly my attitude influenced my actions, my mood, my tone of voice. And consequently, my attitude impacted every member of the family, day by day, for better or worse.

I soon learned that my attitude didn’t influence only my family. You can test this for yourself. Walk into a store or workplace or a meeting. Think happy thoughts. Count your blessings. Hum your favorite song. Smile. Walk confidently with joy in each step. And watch the people around you. See how they respond.

Then try the reverse. This time think unhappy, miserable thoughts. Grumble to yourself. Slouch. Drag your feet. Frown. And watch those around you. I bet they run for cover and avoid even making eye contact with you!

I’ve found gratitude to be an unlimited and infinite resource. A wellspring that never runs dry. A resource that is available in any and every moment. How is this possible, you ask? Because a grateful heart is our divine nature, inherent in each of us as children of God — unconditional Love, infinite Good.

It’s no wonder that gratitude can transform even the most desperate of situations into one of hope, optimism, and certainty of a better and brighter day.

How can we live in a state of joyful expectation? A grateful heart begins with the moment. This moment. Make a conscious choice to be present in the moment. Get off automatic pilot. Think about what you’re doing, what’s happening around you. Ask yourself, do you feel gratitude right now in this moment? There is always something to appreciate, even in the worst of times.

I’ve started to begin each day with recognizing the good that is present. Waking up pondering my God-given grateful heart helps me see the good around me. Making gratitude a daily practice will change your life. It has mine.

What can gratitude do for you? Gratitude can quiet anxiety. Relieve stress. Soften anger. Make you feel lighter, happier.

Gratitude will lift you up. Build you up. Strengthen you. Nourish you. Sustain you. Comfort you.

Gratitude eases worry. Brings clarity of mind. Helps you forgive. Affirms that good is stronger than evil. Assures all is well, all will be well. With a grateful heart you can handle anything that comes your way.

Gratitude gives you a zest for living. Enables you to savor everything life puts before you. Helps you see your life as a gift instead of as overworked, mundane, or burdensome. You’ll find contentment. Satisfaction.

Gratitude makes you feel blessed. And impels you to bless others. So great is the healing power of gratitude.

Endless are the reasons for thanks-giving during this holiday season and in every moment of every day of the year.