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Introducing HuffPost Gratitude: Starting the Conversation on What We're Thankful For

03/24/2015 12:07 am ET | Updated May 23, 2015

Gratitude has always been one of the most powerful emotions for me. And it's no coincidence that "grace" and "gratitude" have the same Latin root, "gratus." Whenever we find ourselves in a stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off mindset, we can remember that there is another way and open ourselves to grace. And it often starts with taking a moment to be grateful for this day, for being alive -- for anything.

That's why I'm delighted to announce HuffPost Gratitude, a new section in partnership with American Greetings, featuring stories that illuminate gratitude's transformative power to bring a much-needed dose of perspective to our lives. We hope HuffPost Gratitude will be a place to share not only personal stories but tools and tips that can help each of us tap into our own gratitude in ways that can make our lives, and the lives of others, more meaningful and more fulfilling. That's why we're kicking off the new section with a series around the theme "What I'm Most Thankful For."

As for me, what I'm most thankful for is the people in my life -- including those who are no longer here. I'm thankful for my mother, whose favorite saying, "Don't miss the moment," was the very embodiment of gratitude. For my daughters, Christina and Isabella, and my sister Agapi, lifetime members of what I call my Thrive Tribe, who are always there for me, whether I succeed or fail. For every member of our growing international HuffPost family, now in 13 countries around the world, with more on the way. And for all the people I've met as I've gone around the world in the past year, of all ages and from all walks of life, who are coming to realize that there's more to life than climbing the ladder, that we are more than our résumés and that we have it in our power to live our lives with more meaning and more purpose.

By flexing our gratitude muscle and taking even just a moment each day to intentionally focus on what we're grateful for, we can begin to see instant results. My older daughter Christina found tremendous value during her recovery from addiction by doing a nightly list of all she was grateful for that day and sharing it with three friends, who, in turn, emailed her their gratitude lists. And she has continued this practice to this day. The Oxford clinical psychologist Mark Williams suggests the "ten-finger gratitude exercise," in which once a day you list 10 things you're grateful for and count them out on your fingers. Sometimes it won't be easy. But that's the point: "intentionally bringing into awareness the tiny, previously unnoticed elements of the day."

Gratitude exercises like these aren't just a nice way to spend a few minutes. They have been proven to have tangible benefits. According to a study by researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida, having participants write down a list of positive events at the close of a day -- and why the events made them happy -- lowered their self-reported stress levels and gave them a greater sense of calm at night.

HuffPost Gratitude will also be a place to expand our definition of gratitude. For example, I find that I'm not only grateful for all the blessings in my life; I'm also grateful for all that hasn't happened -- for all those close shaves with "disaster" of some kind or another, all the bad things that almost happened but didn't. The distance between them happening and not happening is grace.

Our launch-day bloggers include the Greater Good Science Center's science director, Emiliana Simon-Thomas, on how our relationships with other people can be among the best well-being boosters; scientist and author Dr. Hyder Zahed on how being a father has deepened his sense of gratitude; and social worker Kristi Jo Jedlicki on the daily blessings she encounters while working at a homeless shelter in Louisville, Kentucky. Throughout the week we'll also have posts from a range of contributors, including Northeastern University psychology professor David DeSteno on how gratitude can help us temper our urges for instant gratification, Harvard University psychologist Dr. Ellen Langer on how to be grateful without being mindless or condescending, and fourth-grade teacher Owen Griffith on the many benefits for students and teachers alike of bringing gratitude into the classroom.

So welcome to HuffPost Gratitude. And as always, use the comments section to let us know what you think and what you're most thankful for.