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We have a new puppy at our house. Buddy is a lab and Australian Shepard mix that wasn’t supposed to happen, but is an incredibly cute accident. But after a week and a half, I’ve decided to file this under “what was I thinking?”

Puppies potty all over the house and although he is smart, he can’t seem to understand that is an outdoor activity. Oh and the little puppy diapers - I have to wonder if the designers of those things have ever tried to put one on a squirmy ball of fur.

Crate training has also been a challenge. His whining is still better than having chewed up furniture, but not by much. He also enjoys chewing on hands, attacking feet and has the sharpest little nails and teeth that you could imagine. My hands are covered in scratches and bite marks despite the leather gloves that we’ve employed while playing.

I’m reminding myself again and again that this won’t last forever.

Don’t misunderstand. I love having a companion when I go to the farm for chores twice a day. I love watching him explore and play with the other dogs. I absolutely adore when he crawls on my lap, puts his head in my neck and falls asleep. I love puppy kisses and I’m so glad he is a part of our family.

I think I am his “person."

Life is just like that sometimes. You have to take the challenging, hard and uncomfortable parts to be thankful for the good and even great moments. To find your people.

For those of you who know me and spent time with me during the past couple of months, you know that I have been struggling. My mom’s health had been declining significantly at the end of September and she went from the farm to the hospital, to the rehab/nursing home and then to assisted living. It’s been a challenge.

But Thursday evening we celebrated Thanksgiving at the assisted living facility with the other families and I cried happy tears. My mom, knee deep in Alzheimer’s, has found her people. She is happier than I have ever seen her. She’s eating a variety of nutritious food, exercising and taking her medication. It’s an unbelievable transformation.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised during this season of Thanksgiving that simple gratitude can make such a drastic difference in my happiness level, but I am none-the-less.

Recently I read that there is new research that provides evidence that gratitude actually rewires the brain.

“Next to Mindfulness, “Gratitude Practices” seem to get a lot of attention both in and out of the boardroom, and for good reason! There is actual scientific evidence that proves how gratitude can change your brain, make you happier, boost your immune system, improve your relationships, and make you more productive.” (Clark)

“According to UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, regularly expressing gratitude (the quality of being thankful and readiness to show appreciation) literally changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps the gray matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier.”(Clark)

The research also indicates that the more you practice gratitude, the easier it gets. The brain increases dopamine production (the chemical in your brain that makes you feel happy).

During this season, it is customary to be thankful for all of the many blessings in your life, but I would challenge you to find new ways to express gratitude every day of the year. Make it part of your routine.

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”(Melody Beattie)

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