By Brittney Hiller

How often do you take the time to look around you? Do you pause to experience the trees as they sway in the wind or the sunlight as it glistens upon the leaves with the morning dew?

We live in one of the most gorgeous places in the world. Most recently, Beaufort, South Carolina, was ranked #1 Most Beautiful Small Towns In America, according to Impulcity.com, an achievement and a well-deserved compliment, I believe. Beaufort is becoming wildly popular by its charm and natural beauty; its essence is jaw dropping.

Recently, at A Night On The Town, I heard the MC of the Marine Corps Band state genuinely how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place and with such nice and happy people. “You do not get this anywhere else, believe me,” he said.

It’s true, he’s right — we are just that — lucky.

So, I ask, do you feel lucky?  Do you feel grateful? I do now, but I didn’t always.

I went to high school at Battery Creek, a military brat, I moved here in my sophomore year. I had lived in Florida, Tennessee, and California, where I spent most of my time while growing up. Although my time in high school was enjoyable, I always had this nose up in the air attitude toward Beaufort. I grew up in San Diego and nothing could beat that in my teenage mind.

It wasn’t until I met my husband and began to appreciate his genuine excitement for “all things Beaufort,” that my nose came out of the air and back to neutrality. He moved here for a job shortly after college from Columbia, SC. His move enlivened a zest for life that was infectious. He found sanctity in the river and the moment we got a place together he bought a kayak to have immediate access to the salt-water roller coaster known as the Beaufort River.

I tell you this because it helps remind me of what it is I love about this place. For him, Beaufort equals the place he met me and so with every negative comment I would spat, he would feel that as a personal punch in the chest. I wonder if you notice yourself saying negative anecdotes about the place in which you live. Is it a true statement or have you actually taken the time to appreciate all that you have?  I had not, but I tell you what, I do now — I appreciate the birds that chirp in the background even at 6 a.m. next to my bedroom window.  I appreciate the wind even if it is filled with heavy moisture. I appreciate the people I see and continue to meet and I am happy to give them a smile.

As we enjoy this time of giving and receiving, I invite you to think about how you are carrying yourself throughout this holiday season — with angst, worry, and necessity or joy, wonder, and gratitude?

I choose joy, wonder, and gratitude as I sit on my back porch enjoying a cool day with air filled by the sounds of the singing birds. I think about my husband and his natural zest for life and exploration. I think about my awesome friend Jessica Steinmeyer Mattson and how she grew up in Beaufort, yet offers every new person she meets a gracious hug and a genuine smile.  I love this little community and all it offers. Do you feel it too?

Brittney Hiller is known as one of the happiest Yogini’s — she has practiced yoga for over a decade and can be found at every yoga studio in Beaufort. Find out more information on her at www.brittneyhilleryoga.com.