I f you want to create a life you love, then let me be straight with you: you are going to have to do the work to tend your life. Sometimes, the focus needs to be on your body or career, but you can’t leave out that thirsty mind of yours or that beautiful soul. If you want to make a deeper impact on your sense of self-love, peace, and overall quality of your life I can share the number one thing to help: gratitude.

Look, darling: I know that life is busy. I know that we are well past that season of gratitude (aka Thanksgiving). I also know that your life is moving fast and you probably feel overwhelmed on a regular basis. I know that you might just feel like you are barely surviving and the thought of adding one more thing to your to do list makes you feel as if you could break.

Knowing that makes it more important that I invite you – challenge you – to begin or renew a gratitude practice. That’s because what I know for a fact is that gratitude can rewire your brain, fuel your tender soul for joy, and allow you to find a more loving path to a life that feels more like ease.

We are clearly past the holidays and the momentum of New Year’s Resolutions has probably waned. So if you need a little momentum to help, consider making gratitude your Lenten practice.

Let me share a little story with you: The year I stopped making resolutions was also the year I stopped giving things up for Lent. That year, I frequently visited a Buddhist Monastery in order to learn to meditate as my Lenten practice.

I promise this won’t be a post about the validity of any religious practice in a specific way. As I’ve shared often, the deep Southern upbringing meant that well-bred ladies don’t talk about politics, religion or money. As a life coach, though I know we can’t separate our bodies from our mind nor our souls. Creating a life you love requires that you listen to your soul’s needs, so I’m bending my rule a smidge to explore a bit of spirituality. Why? King Cake.

Or, more specifically, that the arrival of King Cake in my favorite local grocery store.  That event serves as my exterior reminder that we are moving into the Lenten season: Mardi Gras is next week as is Ash Wednesday. And then, forty days later, we arrive at Easter.

Gretchen Ruben found that beginning a new habit at a time of change in routine helped cement it which dovetails nicely into one of my own personal  tools for success. That tool? Choosing a holiday or calendar event (Advent, Winter Solstice, etc.) as a jumping off point to work on a new skill. It helps me make the new practice or pursuit of a new habit, well, stick, because there are external things in the world happening at the same time.

The first year I chose not to give up anything for Lent wasn’t because I lost my faith. What I did was take a step back and look at the culmination of the season. I chose to see surrender instead of sacrifice. I chose to see love and forgiveness instead of deprivation and self-flagellation. I chose to see the cycle of re-birth, not the cycle of life ending in death.

It’s become my new tradition for the Lenten Season. Instead of giving something up for Lent as a way of sacrifice, I instead choose to surrender to what my soul is calling for.

That first year, I chose to deepen my spiritual life not by sacrificing sweets but by (finally) learning the art of meditation.  Subsequent years have seen activities like letting go of toxic relationships, writing daily, and gratitude walks.

What would happen to you if you chose to see love, rebirth, and surrender as opposed to sacrifice and deprivation for forty days? What you focus on grows, so what if you were to focus on what is right in your life rather than what is wrong?

If you are at the end of your rope and don’t want to dive into the depths to figure out what might feel like love, I can promise you that gratitude will help you do that. No incense or Tibetan bells necessary.

Yes, I believe that meditation is good for you. Yes, I believe that everyone can go deeper into who they are really meant to be by keeping a journal. Yes, I believe that each of us has both ability and capacity to live life to the utmost of what we deserve on this earth. I know that sometimes, we need to dive a little deeper into ourselves to unlock the magic.

When you get that inkling of awareness that you desire and deserve more in your life. When you are recovering from a heart-shattering event. When you are feeling that you’ve fallen off the wagon of any sort self-care. You have to begin small.

Begin first with only five minutes a day on gratitude.

Keep it simple. In a small notebook or a on a stack of index cards, each day simply write down three to five things you are grateful for. Every day, so that it becomes a habit. Every day, as a part of your morning or evening routine. Every day, in writing, so that your hand and brain seals the message with your soul that, even on the crappiest of days, there is goodness in your world.

Do this as a practice. As a ritual. As a commitment to your best life. As a sacred act for your own soul.

I won’t go into the science of it today, just know that gratitude will rewire the way your brain processes your thoughts.

I promise you, your life with shift. Your thinking will shift. Your sense of self and confidence will grow. You will strip away the layers you’ve hidden behind and the walls you’ve built to keep others out.

The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” –David Steindl-Rast

Your life deserves your devotion. You are worth tending. You deserve to fuel your own flame and come home to who you truly are deep inside. You deserve to see that your life is a joyous creation.

A gratitude practice will help spark the fire within you. It will fuel the alchemical process of transformation into who you were born to be in this world. Channel the momentum and collective energy of all of those folks in the world honoring the Lenten season.

My darling, you deserve to live a life with ready access to joy and happiness. It begins with gratitude.

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By Debra Smouse: Writer, life coach, and Tarnished Southern Belle, Debra helps people fall in love with their life. An expert de-tangler, she believes in busting clutter as a path to greater clarity and that within every woman is vibrant, passionate, and sexy being just itching to make their inner sex kitten roar. A native Texan, she resides in Ohio with the Man of her Dreams.

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