November is my favorite month! I have my birthday in November. Our wedding anniversary is in November. My favorite American holiday of Thanksgiving comes in November.

And you know what, they are all stacked together within 7 days to make the most action packed week of my year. Can it get any better?

Surprisingly, the answer is “yes”. Last year’s November brought to me a valuable concept and a habit. Since then this time of the year seems even more joyful and meaningful.

Many of you know that last year in November, I did a series called “11 Days of Thanksgiving” to express my gratitude towards the things I am glad to have in my life. But almost none of you know why I even started thinking along the lines of counting my blessings. That journey is not an easy one for to share, so I never did.

Now I am willing to talk about it because what I experienced since that open proclamation of gratitude seems like the best realization I have had. My hope is to share with you my journey, and what helped me stay strong in tough times, bear sadness when it seems impossible, and stay hopeful in the face of challenges.

In September 2013 my favorite aunt passed away. She was like a second mother to me. She was my confidant, my cheerleader, and a trusted adviser. Her wisdom, sense of humor, and non-complex attitude was inspirational to many people around her. She wasn’t even 60 yet. Her health was in a great shape – and not just for a person of her age. Her strength, stamina, and flexibility would beat that of a 10 year old child.

As you can imagine, the thought of not having her in my life had never ever crossed my mind. I had chatted with her just a week or two ago not knowing that it would be our last conversation.

Then one day suddenly, she was not there anymore. I did not know how to process this. I had seen death before but never before had it hit me so hard. I did not know how to fathom the vacuum created by the absence of one of my most favorite people in life.

This event has had a profound impact on my thinking, and the way I look at life. The change started with the fear of losing the closed ones. Soon it evolved into the fear of living a mediocre and short life which fails to leave behind a legacy. For a couple of months I was letting this fear lead my life.

Then one day, I came across a concept in a book which made me question my views, and ultimately made me act from a place of hope rather than fear. Interestingly, even that book was recommended by the same aunt. I got to it only because it served as a memory of a conversation we have had. So even in her death, she served as an inspiration to me.

The concept was of happiness and gratitude. It cannot be better summarized than this quote by an unknown person:

Itโ€™s not happiness that brings us gratitude, itโ€™s gratitude that brings us happiness.” – Unknown

I decided to test this for myself. I had nothing to lose.

Hence I started to take the inventory of my life. Every day, before going to bed and after waking up, I would think about just 3 things that happened in that day which I felt happy or satisfied about. It felt good at first, and simply great within a few days.

As Thanksgiving season approached, I decided to vocalize my gratitude. I realized that there are so many people who have impacted my life. I never took time to say to them how much that means to me. I am happy and thankful that our paths crossed. I chose Facebook for expressing my thoughts because many of them are on Facebook, and I wanted them to know my feelings.

Those 11 days were something else! I started with gratitude but I ended up with much more than that – joy, happiness, and hope! Those 11 days proved to me the tremendous power gratitude has.

Ever since then, when I go through tough times, rather than complaining about it or feeling sad, I instantly apply gratitude therapy. I start looking at what I have rather than what I don’t. This provides me the strength and courage to keep on.

Fortunately, this year was not as catastrophic but it was still quite eventful. You will know as I write about it in this year’s “11 Days of Thanksgiving” starting from next Monday – November 17. But I feel like it has brought out the best in me. This would not have been possible had I not have practiced the gratitude therapy. ๐Ÿ™‚

I highly encourage you to try this habit. If you feel like it, you can join me from next Monday, November 17. For 11 days, you can also share on your Facebook one thing – just one thing every day – that you are thankful for. If 11 days seems like a lot, make it 5 or 3. But I promise you the time you take to think about this will be worthwhile. The energy it provides you will last you a whole year and more. Just give it a shot.

I will be doing this on my Facebook page. Don’t forget to tag this page if you are OK sharing your gratitude with me. I will be honored!

As a final word, the practice of gratitude is probably the best kept secret to happiness and success. It is not rocket science that when you count your blessings you become more aware of the positives in your life. This puts you in a frame of mind that can find solutions to any problems, can see opportunities in any challenges, and can appreciate the brighter side of any experiences.

I wish you a November full of gratitude!

Thanks to Varun Kakde for the peaceful featured image.