As the end of this year approaches, you may find yourself beginning to look forward to the upcoming New Year and all that it can offer you:
– A fresh start.
– New opportunities/challenges.
– A long-awaited significant event.
However, before you say good bye to this year, be sure to list the things you were grateful for, especially if it has been a difficult year. New research points to gratitude as a key to your health and happiness.
You may wonder why it is important to be grateful. Author, Melodie Beattie says, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity, problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events.”
Robert Emmons describes gratitude as a key concept for social interactions in his book, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, (2007). Yet, contemporary American society pays little attention to gratitude and its benefits. In many other cultures, gratitude forms the foundation of social life.
We are out of practice. According to Emmons, more men than women resist experiencing and expressing gratitude because it may feel like dependency or indebtedness. We like to think we create our own lives and often take things for granted. We like to think we are responsible for any good that has come our way; we believe we earned or deserved it.
While this is partly right, a grateful person sees a bigger picture. Goodness often happens independently of our actions.
We know that gratitude:
– Implies humility.
– Contributes to health and happiness.
– Strengthens social ties.
– Decreases depression and anxiety symptoms.
– Increases resilience.
This past year has been an especially difficult one for me. Three significant people in my life have had (and two still do) critical health problems. Thankfully, gratitude is one of my top five strengths. It has helped and continues to help me be resilient during the most difficult times.
Any of the following suggestions will help you begin to incorporate gratitude in your daily life:
1. At bedtime, write or think of three things you were grateful for, went well, or were a blessing that day and why (because). It is important to add “why”. Choose one of these to savor as you fall asleep.
2. Visualize a time in your life when you were at peace or felt happy. Step into that memory and feel the feelings you felt then. Savor that special time. Notice what you are grateful or thankful for.
3. Write a list of your blessings. Add to it over time.
4. Write a thank you (gratitude) letter to someone describing what you appreciate about that person. You may or may not choose to send or read the letter to the person. 5. Write a list of things in your life that you take for granted. How is it like or different from your blessings list?
Numbers one and two above are my favorites.
We are never too young or too old to be grateful. The act of practicing gratitude helps you tune into what is good. According to Melodie Beattie, gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. I find it to be life changing. Experience the power of gratitude as you move into the New Year. Bring a sense of peacefulness to your life and create a clear vision for your future by being grateful for specific past events.