It was a cold spring day in March…just an ordinary day. My husband and I were going in for a scheduled pre-natal appointment. Our OB led us into the ultrasound room, and our life changed forever.

You don’t wake up knowing that your life will change. Real change comes in the form of a blind-side, sneaking into your life on a random Wednesday. In a moment, your world is different and all you’re left with is your reaction. You can’t undo the storm, reverse the lay-offs, or revive the tiny heart that stopped beating. All you can do is react.

We’re thankful in November. Each day, we post the thing we’re thankful for on social media, and pat ourselves on the back for our act of gratitude. But, what happens on December 1st? Are we thankful even when it’s not trendy? What about when life gets hard?  When our children are happy, our bills are paid, and everyone we love is in good health, it’s easy to be thankful. We make the broad strokes of thankfulness, mentioning our children, the roof over our head, and clean water. But, are we really thankful?

A few days after we lost our baby, I began a gratitude journal. Each night, I would force myself to write down a few specific things I was thankful for. I took a cue from Mr. Bing Crosby and fell asleep counting my blessings instead of sheep. My tears were replaced with smiles and sighs of gratitude. Instead of focusing on my pain, I chose to see the good. I could have retreated inward, allowing myself to become consumed with negativity and grief. Instead of shouting “This isn’t fair!” at the heavens, I chose to say, “I am blessed.”

Your reaction to life’s trials defines who you are. Whether you crumple and admit defeat, or rise in spite of adversity is up to you. Yes, it’s easy to be thankful in November. It’s easy to be thankful when everything is coming up roses. But, on that day when your life changes…when you’re laid off, when you’re sent to meet with an oncologist, when your relationship ends, when your child dies…choose to be thankful then too. There is tremendous healing in thankfulness. If we choose to adopt an attitude of gratitude, our perspective changes. Our focus shifts from what we’ve lost to what we have.

My simple gratitude journal saved my life. True, my heart would have continued to beat. But life is more than a beating heart. A life steeped in negativity can never be full and abundant. Accept the challenge and begin writing down the things you are thankful for each night before you go to sleep. Do this every night for a week and watch what happens as the healing power of thankfulness floods your life and picks you up from the trenches. Your circumstances may not change, but YOU will, as your thankful heart sets the rhythm of your life.