11/16/2012 05:47 pm ET Updated Jan 16, 2013

Transform Yourself at Thanksgiving! Become a Walking Joy Spot


Are you a walking joy spot? Are you someone who spreads joy everywhere you go? Are you someone who has found your inner joy and can share? I call the intersection of four sciences -- neuroscience, epigenetics, emotional intelligence and positive psychology -- the joy spot! It's the place from which amazing life and leadership emerge.

How do you find your own joy spot and then become a walking one?

This is a 12-part series where each blog we explore one of the 12 secrets of joy and work you through the steps that help you uncover the joy that is waiting to burst forth from inside you. This first one is what I call the joy switch: gratitude.

You can't find your joy without gratitude! And any time you feel out of joy, all you have to do is flip on your joy switch. Immediately find something for which to be joyful and keep your gratitude glasses on.

So don those gratitude glasses today and start to look at everything through these. Perhaps you can make your own gratitude glasses -- they don't have to be the ones we sell! Make them as creative and beautiful as you can. Make it a family exercise to do them!

Go over your life history and find the good things that came out of the hardship of the past. What lessons did you learn from "difficult" parents, siblings or past partners that has made you stronger, more resilient, more compassionate, loving, forgiving or built your character?

Look at your current situation and find things for which to be grateful. Sometimes you have to look for a long time!

Make yourself a gratitude journal, and each night before you go to bed, write down at least five things for which you are grateful, either that happened that day or just things in your life for which you are grateful, like your health, ability to walk and breathe, a roof over your head, the capacity to speak and think or laugh... there are gazillions of reasons for gratitude. Regularly writing in a journal is a way to stem depression and begin your inner journey to joy!

If you lie in bed at night and worry, you are triggering the release of adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline does not affect us as badly as cortisol. Cortisol levels are affected with chronic stress and high stress levels canlead to high cortisol levels or disrupted cortisol rhythms. Long-term high levels of cortisol have been shown to damage cognitive function. My way of saying it is that it eats brains cells.

Chronic, high cortisol levels can also put on abdominal fat. So if you lie in bed and worry, you may be making yourself sick (because we know stress contributes to most disease), fat, and stupid! Joy, on the other hand. makes you thin, healthy and smart! I don't have scientific evidence to categorically prove that -- it's just my opinion.

Gratitude is the "joy switch." Consciously finding things for which to be grateful helps us create a new habit and set up the brain to rewire itself! Repetition of new behaviors lays down new pathways in the brain.

Here are some ideas on how you can rewire your brain and those of your family:

• Ask everyone at the dinner table every night from now on "What are you grateful for today?" Sometimes have a competition to see who is MORE grateful, for a bit of fun!

• You cannot teach children gratitude by forcing them to say "Thank you" under sufferance. Teach them by modeling it yourself.

• Find things at work for which to be grateful -- even if it is just you have a job! Millions would take your job in a heartbeat.

• Say to your self constantly in the face of a challenge: "Every day is a good day. Everything is a good thing. Every place is a good place." My Qigong teacher taught me that, and it has calmed many a potential argument!

• Tell the people in your life who mean something to you -- or your colleagues -- how grateful you are for them and give them specific examples of why you feel gratitude.

Do these things and you will be on your path to being a walking joy spot!

Gratitude is the place to start. It's the "joy switch!"

Begin today. Joyfully!

If you would like to see a video clip on this, have a look here.


Amanda Gore

Director, The Joy Project

For more by Amanda Gore, click here.

For more on emotional intelligence, click here.