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Living in gratitude is a choice that will improve your life.

Start the day with a moment of gratitude, and you will be setting a pattern for a more positive outlook, no matter what happens.

living in gratitude©

Approach everything with gratitude, and reap benefits from lower blood pressure to better sleep.

There’s a lot of scientific research on this: Dr. Robert Emmons, psychology prof at UC Davis, has written many books and papers on  happiness and the mental and physical benefits of gratitude. He’s considered the top international expert on the subject. (See him on YouTube — yes, there are a lot of classroom lectures, but they’re free and easy to understand. There’s gratitude in getting a quick education on positive psychology without paying tuition.)

Emmons’ research with thousands of people proves what spiritual guides, from yogis to priests, have taught us for centuries: Practicing gratitude is the way to a better life.

This is not about religion or spirituality, although gratitude in a life of faith transcends all.

It’s just as simple for an atheist to live in gratitude as it is for the most fervent believer.

Don’t believe me? Try this. Try to be angry about something and grateful at the same time.  At the height of adrenaline, when your blood pressure is soaring, and your brain is overheated with stress chemicals, try stopping for a cool moment of gratitude.

It’s impossible to be stressed and relaxed at the same time.

Of course, this is not always easy. Once primed for negative emotions, our brains will default to corrosive patterns that harm our mental and physical health.

Yet huge advances in neuroplasticity show our brains are resilient; they can be trained. Choosing to live in gratitude is choosing to retrain your brain, to focus on the good rather than the bad.

This is not touchy-feely stuff; this is science.

For doubters, here’s a simple test: The next time you see a pundit barking about some politician’s gaffe or some public policy initiative they didn’t support, imagine if they took some deep breaths and focused instead on gratitude.

Again, it’s impossible to be negative when living in a moment of gratitude.

Take a short break and try it: Concentrate on just one thing in your life for which you are truly grateful. Think about why you are grateful. How do you express that gratitude?

Now, in that moment of gratitude, could you really be negative?

Living in gratitude is a choice that will improve your life.

TOMORROW: A first step in practicing gratitude