Like other quarterly tax payers, I recently sent in my final contribution for 2011. I put a Love Stamp on the envelope.

That never would have happened in the past. I would have fussed and fretted and grudgingly written out my check.

Although I grew up with constant messages to be thankful and appreciative, those feelings were not familiar friends. Most of the time, I’d compare myself to others and I always came up short.

My classmates were more talented, more attractive, more intelligent. Other people had houses and cars that were far cooler than anything I owned.

The only time I came close to being thankful was when I’d hear a story of tragedy or misfortune. Whew, I’d think, at least I’m not a starving orphan in Africa. Whew, the tornado missed our town.

Stuff like that.

During an especially dark and difficult period of my life, I was horrified to discover some dreadful personal behavior. When my teenaged daughter would arrive home from school, I would begin to list all the mishaps that had occurred during her absence.

Then one day, I heard myself. I felt remorseful and was determined to change.

I came up with a plan. “Let’s make a pact to tell each other three great things that happened during the day as soon as you get home.”

That sounds like such a simple thing, but what happened next was nothing short of miraculous. For starters, I had to pay attention.

But that wasn’t the biggest change. Suddenly, I found myself purposely making sure that I had good things to report.

My focus shifted and before I knew it, good things were happening that I hadn’t consciously instigated myself.

That was only the beginning. I discovered that when I tapped into genuine gratitude, I began to uncover resources that had been hiding in plain sight.

This was heady stuff. For the first time in memory, I began to love my life. I stopped comparing myself to other people.

Gratitude knocked self-pity off its pedestal.

Eventually, I began keeping a Gratitude Journal. That had a surprising gift for me as well. Not only was I consistently reviewing my days and noting the things for which I was thankful, I was creating a resource to stop me when I was tempted to backslide.

On a day when I was feeling less than confident, I’d grab my journal and see page after page of all the blessings that had already shown up in my life.

It gave me my perspective back.

Many people who’ve turned their lives around report that change didn’t happen until they’d hit rock bottom. Emotional pain was the motivater for change.

You could test that for yourself, I suppose. Or you could experiment with practising genuine gratitude right here and now.

Writer Gustave Flaubert said, “The greatest goal in life is the not the attainment of fame. The principle thing in this world is to keep one’s soul aloft.”

Gratitude is the propellant for blasting your spirit into higher realms.

Show your appreciation. Start your own Gratitude Journal. Don’t overlook an opportunity to thank someone.

It’s impossible, after all, to stay grumpy where there’s so much to celebrate.

When I first began making regular trips to London, I discovered that mid-November was a perfect travel time. It was a quiet time for my business and it was a quiet time for the travel industry so all sorts of bargains abounded.

Several of these trips had me away from home on Thanksgiving. Invariably, an American would ask me if the holiday was also celebrated in the UK. I’d politely point out that one of the things the Pilgrims were most thankful for was that they’d escaped from their British homeland.

On the other hand, British friends would tell me they wished they had a holiday focused on gratitude. I’d nod in agreement, but refrained from telling them that I never cared all that much for Thanksgiving. It always seemed a bit phony to me—and the menu never changed.

My feelings about Thanksgiving did change, however, and it’s become my favorite holiday. I remember the exact moment when that occurred.

My siblings and I were gathered at my mother’s house one Thanksgiving and I was sitting on the living room floor laughing hysterically at some silliness. The next moment,  I was engulfed by the thought, “I love being with these people.” I realized what a blessing it is to have a family that you not only love, but truly like.

From that time on, I decided to make every Thursday a mini-Thanksgiving Day. Sometimes I send thank you notes, sometimes I just meditate on current gratitude.

There’s one ritual, however, that I always include: I pay my bills on Thursday. Doing so used to be a source of dread, but that has been transformed because of a story I read in Living a Beautiful Life by Alexandra Stoddard.

In a chapter on creating rituals, Stoddard mentioned that she had a friend who had a bill paying ritual. She’d light candles, play lovely music, get out her favorite pen and write checks. It became an interlude in her busy life that she looked forward to.

It had never entered my mind that paying bills could be anything other than a necessary chore. I decided to test the notion.

My ritual is less romantic, but it’s a ritual nonetheless. It’s a time to give thanks for the blessings in my life that makes it possible to pay those bills, to contribute to the prosperity of others and to keep wealth circulating. I think about the recipient of each check (even when it’s a big impersonal organization) and send a silent blessing.

Both my attitude and bank account have been richer since putting this into action. Best of all, I discovered that one Thanksgiving per year just isn’t enough.