In my spiritual studies and in my Master's program, I kept coming across the idea of cultivating a gratitude practice. Gratitude has been scientifically proven to have many positive health benefits, including a stronger immune system, lowered blood pressure, feeling more joy, optimism and happiness, and feeling less lonely and isolated. 

Yet when I pulled out my pen and paper each night to write down three things I felt grateful for, the answers felt hollow. As many times as I tried, I didn't feel any benefit from my gratitude journal and over time began to view the idea as cheesy and ineffective. 

This changed when I began my counseling internship experience at a domestic violence emergency shelter during the second year of my program. Day after day I went to work in a place where women and children had experienced trauma and needed a safe place to hide from an abusive partner. When I got to leave and go to my cozy home with my loving family, I had the experience of truly feeling grateful. Again and again, day after day. A consistent reminder of all I have to be grateful for.

Years ago my heart was closed, and I felt entitled, resentful and cynical. Today, thanks to my counselors, my professors and my own inner strength, my heart is open and I feel the full force and power of gratitude. From reading about the heart's intelligence, I know that the scientific studies I had read about were right all along. I just needed a little healing and guidance to feel the benefits. Now when I pause to feel grateful, my heart overfills with emotion.

What are you grateful for?