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Oct 27, 2016 12:41PM

Lucky day: Finding gratitude on purpose

By Brandy Welvaert
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I've never put much stock in fortune cookies, palm readings or horoscopes, but once in a while, my mile-wide silly streak takes hold — and I go looking for luck.

Such was the case recently, when I typed "Pisces September 2016" into my internet browser's search bar, and happened upon a blog entry that referenced my two luckiest days of the year: September 25 and 26. The horoscope hinted at riches and a plum assignment — it even promised that I'd be entering a particularly enjoyable social season.

It was just a random, late-night Google. Yet the dates stuck in my mind, and soon I was counting down.

When the fateful morning finally arrived, it was a good hair day. The temperature felt just right as I stepped out the back door. The pink-tinged clouds drew my gaze, and the early-morning sunlight reflected on the still surface of the water as I crossed a bridge on my way to work. Even my morning coffee, a generic brand sipped from my scratched Contigo mug, tasted richer than usual.

All day, my mind and body felt particularly in tune with each other and with my surrounding environment. After work, preparing a simple dinner, cleaning it up, and spending time with my family left me feeling particularly fulfilled, although nothing out-of-the-ordinary happened. That night, I remembered to say a quick prayer of thanks before slipping into sleep.

The next day, I woke up in a chipper mood and began to surmise that perception, not luck, was at play. My "lucky day," as it were, had opened my eyes to seeing with gratitude.

We know from widely shared research that gratitude makes us not only happier, but also healthier. And yet, if you're like me, you might struggle to give thanks as often as you want to. It's just easier, sometimes, to focus on all that's lacking — especially if you're a born "improver."

Encouragement to find gratitude can help, and the following books are a few of my favorites for delivering a much-needed attitude adjustment. No luck necessary.

1. "My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey," by Jill Bolte Taylor (Penguin, 2008).

In 1996 at the age of 37, Harvard neurologist Jill Bolte Taylor suffered a massive stroke, and this book is her memoir. It chronicles the stroke, its aftermath, and the author's complete recovery — including details about how she "rewired" her brain for greater happiness, gratitude and optimism.

A fascinating story with scientific underpinnings, this book provides a framework for readers who are motivated to make positive changes to their inner lives.

2. "Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers," by Anne Lamott (Penguin, 2012).

Whether prayer is part of your life is, in some ways, beside the point here, as Lamott's unique intellect, disarming honesty, quirky humor and hippie spirituality combine in this book of short, delightful chapters that capture core truths about life and what it means to be human in a magically spare number of words. You don't have to take her advice on prayer to be grateful for this wise and entertaining book.

3. "Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead," by Brene Brown (Penguin, 2012).

As a No. 1 New York Times Bestseller, this book's big-time status repelled me for a long time before I dug in. I'm glad I did.

Brown is a shame researcher, and while shame and gratitude may appear to be unrelated emotions on the surface, this book connects the dots and provides practical tools for becoming more grateful and courageous, and for living what Brown calls a "whole-hearted" life.
Brandy Welvaert is a former editor of Radish.

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