With The Thankful Project beginning on Friday and Thanksgiving following closely on its heels, I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude lately. Ask any happiness scholar or expert, and he or she will probably tell you that one of the keys is thankfulness. But why? How does being thankful make us happier, when our circumstances haven’t changed at all?

Well, it’s all about attitude. If we’re struggling with something–say, not being able to afford nice new clothing for a special event–our attitude determines our focus and our perspective. And gratitude changes our attitude. Instead of being upset or dejected over our lack of funds, for example, gratitude makes us thankful that we have enough money to pay our bills. That shift in focus makes all the difference–paying our bills is certainly more important than having a new dress to wear, right? Once we align our perspective, we’re happier.

But what about when things are genuinely bad, and a misaligned focus isn’t the problem? How can gratitude help us when, for example, a family member is sick?

In these moments, gratitude is even more important–not because it will fix the situation or change the outcome, but because it can give us the strength to get through it. Gratitude helps us stay positive. It helps us appreciate the good moments in the middle of tough stuff. And it reminds us that, even when the situation looks bleak, there’s still hope.

As we enter into November and speed toward the holiday season, may we all remember to look for that hope every day. No matter what our lives are like–no matter what our current situation–may we remember that there is always something to be grateful for. And, if it’s not easy to identify those things, may we look harder rather than giving up.

Now, let’s do this.

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