How to kick-start gratitude – on Thanksgiving and year round

A Thanksgiving kick-start for gratitude: Four suggestions.

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Gratitude is an ethic that experts now see as equally secular and religious – not to mention a healthy recipe for Thanksgiving all year round. This is part of the cover story project of the Nov. 21 issue of The Christian Science Monitor weekly magazine.

The Monitor's weekly magazine cover project for Nov. 21 – "Gratitude: a healthy recipe for Thanksgiving" – explores how experts view the ethic of gratitude. They see it as equally secular and religious – and it has health benefits.

Sometimes thankfulness comes easily. Other times, especially when you're out of work, or overwhelmed with bad news, it can be a stretch. What happens when you're not "feeling it"?

Some gratitude advocates offer tips for kick-starting thankfulness during tough times:

"You have to focus on what you have, not on what you don't have."

– Joyce Bender is the chief executive officer of Bender Consulting Services in Pittsburgh.

"Pause before you begin a new activity – before taking that first sip of orange juice in the morning, for example – and be grateful for that orange juice…. I like to take walks in nature. It's so natural to feel grateful there…. Another idea [in a world full of bad news] is to read the news with special attention for what the opportunities might be – to send a donation, or to pray, or even to see that something went well in the world."

– Patricia Campbell Carlson is the executive director of A Network for Grateful Living in Ithaca, N.Y.

"When I feel down, I try to do two things: First, focus on other aspects of my life for which I am grateful (marriage, health, friends, kids); and second, think in terms of longer time frames. For example, [ponder] that for most of my working life, things have gone pretty well and it is unreasonable to expect a life journey without challenges. Finally, I have been sustained immeasurably by God's grace, which is everywhere and unconditional, and summed up, for me, in Romans 8:28." ("And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" New International Version.)

– Lawrence A. Comstock, of Wilton, Conn., joined a hedge fund in January through a friend's introduction after the institutional investment firm he owned closed during the financial crisis. He has been a member of Executives-in-Transition, a network of executives out of work as a result of the recession.

"While no one enjoys times of testing, I have come to understand that such experiences ­afford our greatest opportunities for personal and spiritual growth. It has been paramount for me to pray for openness to God's direction. The Scriptures also provide comfort, strength, and guidance. The fellowship in prayer and Bible study groups has been most gratifying. I've found solace in a church message board I recently passed on the highway – 'God may tell us to wait. He will never tell us to worry.' "

– Michael F. Magsig, of Greenwich, Conn., joined Korn/Ferry International, New York City, after a career in an unrelated field ended. He has been a member of Executives-in-Transition.

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