Maia Toll
Some people are grateful all the time.

I’m not one of them.

I tend to be a striver, an achiever, a “what’s next?” kinda gal.

For me, gratitude has to be a ritual, otherwise it only happens on the rare occasion when something completely out of the ordinary whacks me over the head with the wonderfulness of this world.

So, as a Thanksgiving treat, I thought I’d share my super-easy gratitude practices (the ones I actually do.)

But before we get into the doing of it, let’s talk about why gratitude matters anyway.

It’s pretty easy to put gratitude practices in the trendy column and move on with your cynical life. But gratitude is a trend for a reason: your thoughts are rewiring your brain all the time.

This is important, so, one more time:

Your thoughts are rewiring your brain all the time. Click To Tweet

Don’t believe me? Hear it from a Harvard-trained psychologist (this dude must take stand-up comedy courses because he is super-funny!):

Gratitude literally causes chemical changes in your brain, which causes a positivity chain reaction. Gratitude:

  • increases dopamine, the feel-good chemical;
  • dopamine increases your level of happiness (this begins a positive feedback loop);
  • dopamine turns on the learning centers in your brain, so happier = smarter.

My family started saying what we were thankful for as a way of beginning the Thanksgiving meal many decades ago. We’ve since added to family dinner “best of the day” and “best of the week.”

But I don’t have large family gatherings on a daily basis, so I’ve come up with some daily rituals (that I can actually stick with!) to keep my dopamine flowing:


1. Three Gratitudes Before Bed

I don’t speak these out loud or write them down. I just say them quietly within my own brain when I get into bed at night. Easy-peasy.

2. Giving with Both Hands

When I was traveling in Thailand, I was told that it’s considered rude to give or receive with one hand. This has stuck with me. When I pay my hairdresser or massage therapist, I use both hands and consciously remember to be grateful for the service and care they provided.

3. Remembering Happiness

This is cool: remembering a happy moment creates happiness. My moment was coming up over the mountains on I-84 in New York and seeing the sunset blazing over the Hudson River. My heart opened wide. I relive that moment a few times a week and can feel the radiating joy (and dopamine!) for hours after.

4. An Essential Pick-Me-Up

We all have scents that make us happy because smell is connected to our hind-brain, the most primitive part of us, where emotions are triggered.

What’s your happy scent?

For me, the scent is jasmine. An under-note of citrus (like bergamot or lime) makes it even better! When I need to go to my happy place, I put a drop on my hand, rub my hands together, and hold them over my nose or I put a few drops in my diffuser and scent the whole room.


Life’s gonna throw you curve balls. It’s what life does.

It’s important to have a toolkit for happiness.

Having a gratitude practice puts you in the driver’s seat. You can’t control the world around you, but you can control how ready and resilient you are to receiving it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Big hugs—