How awesome would it be to express the gratitude that you feel on Thanksgiving every single day of the year? Well, life coach and new author Karen Elizaga sat down with Fit Nation to tell us how to do just that. Her new book, Finding Your Sweet Spot: A Guide to Personal and Professional Excellence hits the shelves on January 1st, but she gave us a sneak peak into the gratitude strategies that have been helping both her corporate and independent clients remain grateful, positive, and productive.

FN: So I know that expressing gratitude for all that you have in your life plays a huge role in your approach to self-improvement, is that right?

It’s definitely something I work on with my clients. Each week they take away anywhere from three to seven “action items” to change habits and one of them is gratitude.

[Expressing gratitude] really helps to keep people in a positive and productive mindset, so they can perform as well as possible. They can feel good about themselves and the opportunities around them instead of just kind of sitting there thinking “Womp womp, my life stinks because I don’t have this or I haven’t accomplished that.” So the gratitude practices really helps to keep the eye on the prize in terms of feeling good and being happy.

FN:  One of your suggestions is to choose a mundane activity to associate with gratitude, reminding us to be thankful every day. Could you tell me more about that?

Many of my clients are super busy! One of my clients counts what she’s thankful for while she brushes her teeth. Another one has a ritual of going into his kids’ rooms after they’ve gone to bed to make sure everyone’s okay, and does his gratitude practice then. So you go and incorporate it into something you’re already doing. You don’t have to carve out time on your calendar, it just happens.

When I started doing [this ritual] myself, I associated it with washing my hands. So if you’re washing your hands when you go to the bathroom, when you do something in the kitchen, it becomes automatic [to be grateful].

FN:  Right, and that’s something that you do multiple times a day anyway, so that you’re already expanding the practice, which is cool.

Exactly. And I love the idea of [expressing gratitude while doing] something mundane, and as you said- frequent, because then you’re really dousing yourself with gratitude at multiple points during the day. I mean, how great is that? And you’re making super efficient use of your time, right?

FN:  Absolutely. Do you have any more specific tips give our readers different ways to remain grateful everyday of the year not just on Thanksgiving?

Step one is realizing that gratitude is an actual tool that helps you feel good and to be positive and to focus on what you do have instead of what you don’t have. So you must first realize that that you can actually USE [gratitude] as an action item, as opposed to just acknowledging it as a general feeling.

The other thing is expressing gratitude to others for things that you might just overlook. For example, “I’m so grateful that you’re my friend,” or “I’m so grateful we were able to work on this project together,” because it’s so natural to feel those things but we don’t necessarily say them out loud. So I think that’s another great tool. 

FN: When the New Year comes around, everyone is so focused on resolutions and changing their bodies. Do you have any advice for people in that mindset? Like ways to be grateful for our bodies, instead of focusing so much on the negative aspects of them?

For sure! I spent years and years focusing on the negative and every time I tell someone that and they know what I look like, they’re like “Well did you look any different than you do now?” And I’m like “No, I looked exactly the same.” It sounds crazy, but I was just focusing on all of the negatives. Even if it were a tiny little aspect of my body I would focus on it, loosing sight of the bigger picture.

So when it comes to resolutions, gratitude can be super helpful because, you can always be grateful for the function of your body, right? Because if look at [your body] like that and think  “I’m so grateful that I have this active working body,” the chances are that you’re going to want to treat that body well, eating well and exercising, as opposed to [thinking] “UGH I’m so gross, I need to loose weight.”

FN: Good point! Okay, so we all have that friend that makes us ask “How is he/she in such a good mood all the time?” How do we become that friend?

Happiness is not part of those people’s DNA. That person probably is doing a little bit of extra thinking to feel that gratitude and be in that happy place.

I’ve read a lot of research that says that our default state is a negative state, so there has to be a bigger effort to remain grateful and be in a positive state. It takes a little effort, but if you hook it up to the mundane, daily tasks, times when your brain could default to the negative, you do need to make an effort to shift the way you think so that you can be in that grateful space. Gratitude is definitely learnable.

And the thing to me is- if you’re in a positive, grateful, loving yourself kind of state, you become more attractive to the people around you, whether they’re your friends or people that you’re looking to date. So by doing a little bit of work internally, you’re creating new opportunities for yourself.