A Little Love

Last week was my birthday and my family was out of town so I was on my own to celebrate. A friend called and asked what I wanted to do for my special day? He said, “you need to decided and then ask.” 
This was WAYYYY outside my comfort zone and because I didn’t want to be alone on my birthday, I took on the challenge. 
I had a week filled with coffee dates, lunches, phone calls, thoughtful gifts and an extra special dinner at my favourite restaurant.

On monday night, I was at a gathering of my mastermind group. This is with 8 other women and part of the groups deliciousness is when it’s your birthday, they give you the gift of words. Each person takes a turn telling you what they love and appreciate about you. (this is not your ordinary mastermind)

I’ve not been feeling 100% these last few weeks and because of my decreased energy, my emotions have been close to the surface. The giving of words from these lovely women spoke to my heart as well as my absolute belief in the power of Gratitude, in a way that had tears of joy streaming down my face.

I had the good fortune someone recorded it, I’ve listened to it several times since and it’s like getting a new gift over and over. It may seem self-indulgent to keep listening to it, but like a bouquet of flowers, words blossom and their beauty is revealed as the light changes in the room and from a new angle.

Have you ever considered recording what you love or appreciate about someone? Giving it to them as a gift?

Gratitude can be shared in a multitude of ways. You never know how vital it might be for that other person to hear over and over. For example:

• If you have an IPhone there is a record button on the text, then you send it like a text.
• Most phones have a “record message” feature and send it via email or text
• You could call when you know they won’t pick up and leave a voicemail.
• Invite them for a coffee or walk and tell them face to face. (The old fashion kind of recording…directly into their ears)

Leave a comment below on your favourite ways to show your Gratitude to others? 

What Type of Kindness Will Make You Happiest?

A new study investigates four types of kindness practices to see which one has the greatest benefit.

By now, you may have heard the news that helping others is good for your well-being, too. For example, studies suggest that people who spend money on others become happier and actually reduce their blood pressure. Other research has found that people who volunteer improve their mental health over time.

But if we decide to practice more kindness, are all types of kind acts equally rewarding? Would helping out a family member boost our happiness more or less than volunteering among strangers?

A new study published in The Journal of Social Psychology sought to test out this question by investigating how different types of kind acts affect our happiness. Ultimately, the researchers found that a wide range of kind activities are good for us—and we don’t have to be Mother Teresa to tap into the benefits.

Researchers asked 683 adults from over two dozen countries—from the United States and Brazil to the United Kingdom and South Africa—to complete at least one act of kindness daily for a week, such as helping a neighbor, writing a thank you card, or paying for someone’s movie ticket. People were encouraged to carry out more kind acts—or different types of kind acts—than they normally would. One group was asked to direct their kindness towards people they were close to (i.e., friends and family), while another group was kind towards people they were less close to (i.e., acquaintances and people they didn’t know as well).

Other participants were asked to make an effort to practice self-kindness—for example, by meditating, going on a walk, or dancing to a favorite song. A fourth group didn’t engage in kind acts themselves, but they tried to observe acts of goodness carried out by other people—for example, when someone volunteered, bought coffee for someone else, or simply stopped to pick up litter. The researchers compared all these groups to a control group of people who went about their lives as usual.

According to a survey question administered before and after the experiment, participants who performed any of these kindness activities became happier compared to the control group. Somewhat surprisingly, the four types of kindness tasks didn’t have different effects on happiness.

The researchers had initially predicted that participants who were kind to others would become happier than participants who practiced self-kindness or merely observed kind acts. They had also predicted (as some prior research suggests) that being kind toward close friends and family would be more beneficial than being kind to strangers.

But this wasn’t the case; kindness in any form made people feel equally good. Why?

Because this study was a real-time kindness experiment, the results may be more reliable than past research in which people simply recalled memories of being kind. According to Lee Rowland—lead author of the paper, director of research at (which supported the research), and research associate at the University of Oxford—being kind to others, whether or not we are close to them, may be inherently rewarding for us and activate an evolved neuro-biological system involved in caring for others. He also suggests that observing kindness is a way of noticing the good around us—rather than seeing a world full of stress and bad news—which could boost our mood.

According to Rowland, this research is a reminder to “think more about other people and not so much on yourself”—both for their benefit and for your own.

From the Greater Good Science Magazine

Back In Time

I had an unexpected treat at the gym today. I was on a stationary bike and the video playing was that of the biking portion of the Camino de Santiago. A wave of Gratitude washed over me as I traveled in time to the beauty of Spain and the Camino.

Where do you go when you wish to transport yourself to a place of bliss through imagination? Do you know you have this ability?
I actually have a playlist of places, experiences and moments that I conjure up and bask in, when I need to shift from a negative thought to a positive one.

When you use your imagination to travel back in time, your mind has the ability to re-ignite those cells such as: happiness, bliss, calm, love or excitement, in the simple act of remembering them. When you go into imaginative detail, those thoughts have the power to change your mood, your heart rate, how you heal after an injury or even surgery.

On the other hand, when you replay any fear, anger, sadness or overwhelm from the past, those negative cells are activated as well. Your body in turn is flooded with cortisol and you go into a fight, flight or flee mode. This has the ability to negatively alter your health.

Don’t underestimate the power of your mind to alter your experience from moment to moment. You are a creative and exceptional machine. Use your imagination as a tool, be aware of your thoughts and feelings as they are moving you in the direction of your predominate thoughts.

Have some fun with this influential practice… take yourself on a ride to a joyful time.

Then notice the difference in how you feel.



Humans are born with abilities to discern and alter our environment as well as the people surrounding us. A small child has no issue conveying his or her: needs, angers or frustrations to the adults in the room. It may take a few attempts to get what they want and you’d think it was the end of the world if/when you fail to provide it, however, once the need has been satisfied or an alternate solution is presented, the child moves on without blame or anger. They let go of what seemed so grave at the time and move on. It may seem selfish, however, when we break the word down it means Self-Ish. Being True to Self.

Somewhere on our life path, we loose our innate ability to be Self-Ish. The practice of asking for what we need, free of holding grudges toward those who can’t or wont provide them for us. We begin to identify with our grievances as if they were us. Keeping them alive for years, decades or even a lifetime. The fundamental drawback of never letting go of what has hurt, disappointed  or you disapprove of, you inadvertently strengthen them to the point they cause physical, emotional or financial decay. The irony of this practice is: when you hold anger toward people, they become part of your life

Imagine you have a backpack strapped to your shoulders. Inside this pack is a collection of all the grievances you think about, talk about and worry about. Now, to each grievances, assign a 10lb (4.5kg) rock. Each rock remains in the backpack until you release it through forgiveness. Take a moment now to write down all the things you’re unwilling or unable to forgive or let go of. Big grievance, little ones, ones know are absolute… ALL OF THEM!

Now, for each assign a rock: add those numbers together.  Potentially you’re carrying: 10 – 50 – 100 – 5000 lbs of useless emotional weight. Does this make sense to you?

Each and every grievance you hold in your life is a self imposed burden. Even if the other person did an unspeakable wrong, holding that grievance will impact you far more than the other person. They are busy worrying about their life, their grievances over family, work or everyday life issues. If you think for a second they are loosing sleep over what you can’t forgive from the past, you are categorically mistaken. You are damaging your own health and most likely the health and enjoyment of those around you.

Carrying grievances or being unable or unwilling to forgive others or self can produce:

  • Chemical imbalances: Resentment causes imbalance in the  hormones from the various glands of the body, producing many physical symptoms and diseases.
  • Weakened immune system: The stress of bitterness weakens the immune system and heightens your susceptibility to physical ailments. Often doctors can trace physical disorders to a point in time when bitterness began to develop.
  • Premature Aging; Grievance have been linked to fatigue and loss of sleep. Soon your eyes and facial features reflect your inner distress.
  • Depression: It takes emotional energy to maintain a grudge. When your emotional energy is exhausted, you become depressed.
  • Stress: Hating someone produces stress hormones in your body. You become worn out and unable to cope with daily challenges.
  • Detrimental emotional focus: Bitterness and resentment create an emotional focus toward the person who offended you. This focus causes you to become like the one you resent. The more you think about his/her actions, the more you begin to reflect the basic attitudes that prompted the initial problem.

What to do about it?

In part 2 we look at how forgiveness immunizes you against depression, premature aging, stress, obsessive  thinking and illness.

Guide to Becoming More Grateful

 Guide To Being Grate-Full

1. Keep a Gratitude Journal. Establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits, and good things you enjoy. Setting aside time on a daily basis to recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your personal attributes, or valued people in your life gives you the potential to interweave a sustainable life theme of gratefulness.

2. Remember the Bad. To be grateful in your current state, it is helpful to remember the hard times that you once experienced. When you remember how difficult life used to be and how far you have come, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind, and this contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness.

3. Practice Calming Your Mind Through Meditation. Click on the link below for further guidance on meditation..

4. Prayers of Gratitude. In many spiritual traditions, prayers of gratitude are considered to be the most powerful form of prayer, because through these prayers people recognize the ultimate source of all they are and all they will ever be.

5. Come to Your Senses. Through our senses—the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear—we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive. Seen through the lens of gratitude, the human body is not only a miraculous construction, but also a gift.

6. Use Visual Reminders. Because the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude. Often times, the best visual reminders are other people.

7. Make a Vow to Practice Gratitude. Research shows that making an oath to perform a behaviour increases the likelihood that the action will be executed. Therefore, write your own gratitude vow, which could be as simple as “I vow to count my blessings each day,” and post it somewhere where you will be reminded of it every day.

8. Watch your Language. Grateful people have a particular linguistic style that uses the language of gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance. In gratitude, you should not focus on how inherently good you are, but rather on the inherently good things that others have done on your behalf.

9. Go Through the Motions. If you go through grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. Grateful motions include smiling, saying thank you, and writing letters of gratitude.

10. Think Outside the Box. If you want to make the most out of opportunities to flex your gratitude muscles, you must creatively look for new situations and circumstances in which to feel grateful.

Content  By Robert Emmons

  1. Do you find gratitude difficult?
  2. Is gratitude part of your daily or weekly experience?
  3. Do you find some people impossible to feel gratitude towards?

Understanding Chemo Fog In Breast Cancer Patients

Chemo fog is a condition related to degeneration in cognitive capacity, often reflected by impaired memory, difficulty in retaining attention, lack of speed in processing information and word fumbling. It is also referred to as cognitive deficit or chemo brain. Studies show that 75% of cancer patients across the world experience varied levels of cognitive impairment, and for almost 35% of these patients, this condition persists for months and even years following the treatment. According to an article in the ASCO Post, 20% to 30% of women experience prolonged deficits in cognition after breast cancer treatment.

Factors causing Chemo Fog in breast cancer patients

Studies from mid to late 1990s, which assessed cognitive function in breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, found that a large section of patients showed impaired cognitive performance during neuropsychological tests. This led to the belief that chemotherapy had detrimental effects on cognition capacity. However, since 2000, studies have delved deeper into this issue and revealed that cognitive impairment is not always associated with adjuvant chemotherapy but is also found in patients before its initiation. Furthermore, cognitive impairment is also found in women with breast cancer who did not undergo chemotherapy but were treated with hormonal therapies such as Tamoxifen, Anastrozole and Letrozole.

In fact, degeneration in cognition is now attributed to the toxic effects of chemo on neurological cells, changes in hormonal levels, clotting or inflammation in the brain, and genetic predispositions. Apart from these factors, surgery, radiotherapy, endocrine therapy, cancer related psychological burden and disease related life disruption also add to the overall worsening of this impairment. Due to high survival rates, breast cancer patients are likely to live with these problems for a considerable time and for some women the decrease in cognition can be persistent, lasting for decades after treatment.

Understanding Chemo Fog from Patient Experiences

For years, women suffering from breast cancer have been sharing their experiences in online forums in the form of millions of freely shared messages that provide information and support to other patients, care-givers and patient advocates. The conversations and messages shared over these sites are rich sources of information as to:

  how people feel about their symptoms of cognitive deficit

  • what effect it has on their daily lives and
  • how are they coping with these symptoms.

Scry Analytics used VoCP, (discussed below) as well as direct narratives from patients in online forums, they analyzed more than 5.5 million breast cancer messages written by 170,000 users in 22 unrestricted cancer forums. Analysis revealed the following interesting insights with respect to chemo fog in breast cancer patients.

The infographic given below shows that out of 5.5 million messages from various users, 21,890 messages mentioned cognitive deficit and out of these messages, the largest number reported symptoms associated with both hormonal and chemotherapy followed by those associated with chemotherapy alone.

For patients undergoing chemo and hormonal therapy together, their symptoms worsened after receiving hormonal therapy. Finally, most patients on chemotherapy attributed such symptoms to the use of Taxane.

Therapies discussed for mitigating chemo fog

Using VoCP, further analyzed messages to find references of therapies and drugs by patients that help with cognitive deficit and observed the following:

  • 62 messages suggested cognition enhancing agents like Methylphenidate (Ritalin) or Modafinil (Provigil)
  • 116 messages said that Vitamin B12 and B6 were useful
  • 69 messages suggested the use of Acetyle-L- Carnitine

Suggested lifestyle changes for mitigating symptoms of chemo fog

It has been observed that patients with symptoms of cognitive deficit become overwhelmed when many things are happening simultaneously. They refrain from socializing, cannot concentrate for extended periods of time, and get distracted easily. For such patients it takes substantially more effort to complete a task, exacerbating all the other symptoms like fatigue and depression. While conducting this analysis of 21,890 messages, they found that along with taking supportive drugs for alleviating the signs of chemo fog, patients often resorted to various lifestyle changes that helped them.

Some popular methods reported by patients include:

  • Using lists, calendars and planners to help focus and remember vital details
  • Organizing their living and work spaces so as manage deficit in memory and cognition. Playing word games to alleviate symptoms and improve brain function
  • Getting ample amount of sleep (at least 8 to 9 hours)
  • Doing moderate exercise, such as walking, yoga or meditation
  • Managing stress by listening to music, knitting or reading (as calming activities)
  • Consulting a physician for symptoms of depression or anxiety as these may exacerbate chemo brain symptoms
  • Improving nutrition and consulting a nutritionist to improve diet
  • Taking multivitamin B complex and other similar supplements
  • Increasing social activity

Factors that can aggravate symptoms of chemo fog

By analyzing these messages, they discovered that for breast cancer patients, in addition to the cancer treatment, the following factors can amplify their symptoms of chemo fog:

  • Poor sleep
  • Fatigue related to treatment
  • Chronic stress
  • Under-treatment or over-treatment of pain
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Lack of exercise or activity
  • Poor nutrition
  • Side effects of medicines for other conditions, e.g., nausea and sleep medicines


Cancer-related cognitive impairment is an important clinical problem that negatively impacts the quality of life of patients; this problem is becoming more acute since patients are now living longer. The analysis provided by Voice of Cancer Patients gives meaningful insights from patients’ point of view and sheds light on unresolved issues where more resources and research should be focused. Successful management is often hampered by the lack of pathophysiology of such symptoms, and a better understanding of this problem may lead to better treatment options.

Voice of Cancer Patients and Our methodology

Online healthcare forums contain millions of freely shared messages that are rich sources of patient data, which can be analyzed for understanding patients concerns. However, analyzing such information is difficult because this data is intrinsically unstructured. Furthermore, large volume of such data adds to complexity, making any meaningful analysis difficult. Voice of Cancer Patients (VoCP) uses parallel and distributed computing, Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, and rule-based algorithms to process unstructured text and to extract various attributes of patients, drugs, regimens, side effects, and their supportive therapy. This platform also provides an interactive visualization interface that can be used to explore relations among various entities and extract meaningful insights. VoCP works as follows:


Portions of this article were originally presented as a poster in ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) Breast Cancer Conference, September 2015. For additional research regarding Voice of Cancer Patients, contact: Dr. Sangeeta Aggarwal, Chief Medical Information Officer, Oncologist-Hematologist, Scry Analytics, Inc. Email: or


  1. Schagen SB, Wefel J S, “Chemotherapy-related changes in cognitive functioning,” can be found at
  3. Ahles TA, Root JC, Ryan EL, “Cancer- and cancer treatment-associated cognitive change: an update on the state of the science,” J. Clin. Oncol. 30(30):3675-3686, 2012.


I believe this saying with every fiber of my being… “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” ~William Arthur Ward 

I try to live it, however, there are times when I forget, am lazy or simply forget my manners.

What present in the form of a heartfelt and overdue Thank You,  have you neglected to send?

Today is a new day ~

• give that compliment to your coworker

• send the thank you note for last years birthday gift

• show your appreciation to the clerk at the grocery store.

Start the conversation with; “You know, I’ve been meaning to say thank you for………………..”   


This is a practice I discovered in 2010 through Abraham Hicks. I use this easy 68 Seconds To A Happier You and it’s made a significant difference in the quality of my life. I hope you find some value in this scientifically proven quick fix to negativity.

Positivity in your Words, Thoughts and Actions

Positivity ~ it’s a word that has been overused in western society. Remember when you were young and you’d repeat a word over and over again. The word lost all meaning and became ridiculous. It seems to me, Positivity has suffered a similar fate and I’d like to get back to the heart of what it means to be Positive using a simple 68 second technique.

As with Gratitude, when you toss Positivity around without integrity, you dilute the impact to a state where it has little effectiveness. Have you ever heard a 5 year old apologizing to his sibling at the urging of his mother? “Joey, apologize to your sister and say it like you mean it” “I’m SOOORRRREEEEE”. It’s an exchange of words. Emphasis is applied on the right vowel, however Joey’s not fooling anyone, certainly not his sister. If you only say the words and not feel them, you’ve lost the impact.

Your home-play for today  ~ concentrate on one thing in your life you feel Positive toward. (it’s easier to expand Positivity when the root strength of the actual emotion is there to start with) Write it down if it helps and work on one word at a time. It’s important to relax and not make this feel like work, it’s home-play, not homework. If you manage this once a day, job well done. Of course in time working up to remembering one good thing, once an hour is something to strive for. However…baby steps and keep in mind, there are no wrong answers here. If the only thing you can find to be positive about today is the fact your dog likes you, go with that.

OK for the next 68 seconds, try and stay in the realm of pure positivity about this one good thing in your life. Gently move any negative thoughts off to the side, if only for a moment or two. As you inflate the emotion of Positivity you allow yourself to vibrate at a level where you attract more of what you are concentrating on.

This is a quick exercise, just over a minute of expanding your Positive thoughts. How this works is: you GET-IN to the Positive feeling, GET Positive and GET-OUT. Quick bursts of Positive Thoughts. You don’t want to spend too much time on this. Reason being is: after a minute, our mind finds negative thoughts and attaches the negative thought to the Positive one, causing us to doubt & negate the Positive feeling.

A thought reaches a combustion point at 17 seconds of pure undiluted focus. It draws another thought to it and it is exponentially more powerful. At the end of another 17 seconds, 34 seconds total, the next thought combusts and evolves to a higher level of energy. Again another 17 seconds to 51 seconds continues the process, and finally, if you can continue a pure thought for 68 seconds on any given subject, it will be on its way to manifestation. The key word is pure, meaning Positive focus, strong energy, no resistance; to not slip into lackful thinking. (Abraham Hicks)

How are you doing with the process? Are you finding any of this helpful?

How Gratitude Changes People

Why Gratitude Is GoodBy Dr. Robert Emmons

This essay originally appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

Gratitude journals and other gratitude practices often seem so simple and basic; in our studies, my colleagues and I often have people keep gratitude journals for just three weeks. And yet the results have been overwhelming. We’ve studied more than one thousand people, from ages eight to 80, and found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:


Higher levels of positive emotions

More alert, alive, and awake

More joy and pleasure

More optimism and happiness


Stronger immune systems

Less bothered by aches and pains

Lower blood pressure

Exercise more and take better care of their health

Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking


More helpful, generous, and compassionate

More forgiving

More outgoing

Feel less lonely and isolated.

So what’s really behind our research results—why might gratitude have these transformative effects on people’s lives?

I think there are several important reasons, but I want to highlight four in particular.

1. Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. It magnifies positive emotions.

Gratitude imageResearch on emotion shows that positive emotions wear off quickly. Our emotional systems like newness. They like novelty. They like change. We adapt to positive life circumstances so that before too long, the new car, the new spouse, the new house—they don’t feel so new and exciting anymore.

But gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something, and when we appreciate the value of something, we extract more benefits from it; we’re less likely to take it for granted.

In effect, I think gratitude allows us to participate more in life. We notice the positives more, and that magnifies the pleasures you get from life. Instead of adapting to goodness, we celebrate goodness. We spend so much time watching things—movies, computer screens, sports—but with gratitude we become greater participants in our lives as opposed to spectators.

2. Gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret—emotions that can destroy our happiness. There’s even recent evidence, including a 2008 study by psychologist Alex Wood in the Journal of Research in Personality, showing that gratitude can reduce the frequency and duration of episodes of depression.

This makes sense: You cannot feel envious and grateful at the same time. They’re incompatible feelings. If you’re grateful, you can’t resent someone for having something that you don’t. Those are very different ways of relating to the world, and sure enough, research I’ve done with colleagues Michael McCullough and Jo-Ann Tsang has suggested that people who have high levels of gratitude have low levels of resentment and envy.

3. Grateful people are more stress resistant. There’s a number of studies showing that in the face of serious trauma, adversity, and suffering, if people have a grateful disposition, they’ll recover more quickly. I believe gratitude gives people a perspective from which they can interpret negative life events and help them guard against post-traumatic stress and lasting anxiety.

4. Grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth. I think that’s because when you’re grateful, you have the sense that someone else is looking out for you—someone else has provided for your well-being, or you notice a network of relationships, past and present, of people who are responsible for helping you get to where you are right now.

Once you start to recognize the contributions that other people have made to your life—once you realize that other people have seen the value in you—you can transform the way you see yourself.

Challenges to gratitude

Just because gratitude is good doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Practicing gratitude can be at odds with some deeply ingrained psychological tendencies.

Give Thanks imageOne is the “self-serving bias.” That means that when good things happen to us, we attribute them to something we did, but when bad things happen, we blame other people or circumstances.

Gratitude really goes against the self-serving bias because when we’re grateful, we give credit to other people for our success. We accomplished some of it ourselves, yes, but we widen our range of attribution to also say, “Well, my parents gave me this opportunity.” Or, “I had teachers. I had mentors. I had siblings, peers—other people assisted me along the way.” That’s very different from a self-serving bias.

Gratitude also goes against our need to feel in control of our environment. Sometimes with gratitude you just have to accept life as it is and be grateful for what you have.

Finally, gratitude contradicts the “just-world” hypothesis, which says that we get what we deserve in life. Good things happen to good people, bad things happen to bad people. But it doesn’t always work out that way, does it? Bad things happen to good people and vice versa.

With gratitude comes the realization that we get more than we deserve. I’ll never forget the comment by a man at a talk I gave on gratitude. “It’s a good thing we don’t get what we deserve,” he said. “I’m grateful because I get far more than I deserve.”

This goes against a message we get a lot in our contemporary culture: that we deserve the good fortune that comes our way, that we’re entitled to it. If you deserve everything, if you’re entitled to everything, it makes it a lot harder to be grateful for anything.

Cultivating gratitude

Partly because these challenges to gratitude can be so difficult to overcome, I get asked a lot about how we can go beyond just occasionally feeling more grateful to actually becoming a more grateful person.

I detail many steps for cultivating gratitude in my book Thanks!, and summarize many of them in this Greater Good article. I should add, though, that despite the fact that I’ve been studying gratitude for 11 years and know all about it, I still find that I have to put a lot of conscious effort into practicing gratitude. In fact, my wife says, “How is it that you’re supposed to be this huge expert on gratitude? You’re the least grateful person I know!” Well, she has a point because it’s easy to lapse into the negativity mindset. But these are some of the specific steps I like to recommend for overcoming the challenges to gratitude.

First is to keep a gratitude journal, as I’ve had people do in my experiments. This can mean listing just five things for which you’re grateful every week. This practice works, I think, because it consciously, intentionally focuses our attention on developing more grateful thinking and on eliminating ungrateful thoughts. It helps guard against taking things for granted; instead, we see gifts in life as new and exciting. I do believe that people who live a life of pervasive thankfulness really do experience life differently than people who cheat themselves out of life by not feeling grateful.

Similarly, another gratitude exercise is to practice counting your blessings on a regular basis, maybe first thing in the morning, maybe in the evening. What are you grateful for today? You don’t have to write them down on paper.

You can also use concrete reminders to practice gratitude, which can be particularly effective in working with children, who aren’t abstract thinkers like adults are. For instance, I read about a woman in Vancouver whose family developed this practice of putting money in “gratitude jars.” At the end of the day, they emptied their pockets and put spare change in those jars. They had a regular reminder, a routine, to get them to focus on gratitude. Then, when the jar became full, they gave the money in it to a needy person or a good cause within their community.

Practices like this can not only teach children the importance of gratitude but can show that gratitude impels people to “pay it forward”—to give to others in some measure like they themselves have received.

Finally, I think it’s important to think outside of the box when it comes to gratitude. Mother Theresa talked about how grateful she was to the people she was helping, the sick and dying in the slums of Calcutta, because they enabled her to grow and deepen her spirituality. That’s a very different way of thinking about gratitude—gratitude for what we can give as opposed to what we receive. But that can be a very powerful way, I think, of cultivating a sense of gratitude.

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and the founding editor in chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology. He is also the author of the books Gratitude Works!: A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity and Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier.