As we look ahead to a new year, and back at what transpired over the course of the last year, I think it's a good time to take stock of the things for which we are grateful in life. Sure, there may be some outstanding concerns, tasks you wish you had completed, achievements you wish you had made, steps you wish you had taken, but looking back only at those things generally won't serve you well to setting up for a positive new year. Rather than having a negative, backwards view, let's try having a positive, forward-thinking view. Better yet, let's try to sit right where we are for just a moment and thank our lucky stars for the amazing things in our lives right now.
I remember seeing this article on the Charles Poliquin website recently about “The Nine Habits of Highly Healthy People” and the idea of a making gratitude list stuck with me. In fact, I wrote one several years ago and included it in a holiday card to my closest friends and family, thanking them semi-publicly for the positive impact each of them had on my life. It felt good to get that down on paper and to share it with them all. I know they felt my appreciation in a big way that year, and what a gift that was to each of them.
Johnny Bowden writes in his article on the habits of healthy people that:
“By making a list of things you’re grateful for, you focus the brain on positive energy. Gratitude is incompatable with anger and stress. Practice using your under-utilized “right brain” and spread some love. Focusing on what you’re grateful for- even for five minutes a day- has the added benefit of being one of the best stress-reduction techniques on the planet.”
Okay, you may be thinking “Diane, this is such hippy-dippy-Pollyanna nonsense.”
That's okay, you are allowed to feel that way. And to those of you who do I ask: are you truly healthy and happy in your life? If you are, then great, maybe a gratitude list isn't something with which you should bother. For the rest of us, there's usually something we're constantly working towards to create positive changes in our lives. And rather than fester in the moment when we haven't yet achieved this goal, we can stop, pause, and give thanks for what we have achieved in life, love and in our pursuit of health.
Bowden suggests that we create these lists daily if we can, but I think that stopping to create a list when you get an inkling that things seem to either be going very well, or possibly even not so well, is a great time. Pause, look around yourself, and make a list.
Here is my own gratitude list for 1/1/11:
- I wake up excited to face a new day of a life that I have chosen. I do not have bills, responsibilities, plans, commitments, or “things to do” that I have not chosen in some way or another, directly or indirectly.
- I am healthier and stronger than I've been ever before in my life.
- My mother and father continue to provide a picture of what a give and take relationship looks like to me, for better and for worse, after 35+ years of marriage.
- My sister and I have opened up lines of communication that had not been open in this way pretty much ever in our lives. And I plan on working on that more. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to make this happen in light of a recent tragic event – a friend of mine's younger brother passed at a very young age – and I didn't want to let more time go without reaching out to re-connect with my own sibling.
- My maternal grandparents, though aging fairly rapidly, are both still alive and able to share in the joys of my current chosen career path and successes therein, as well as in some fantastic home-cooked meals around a table together.
- My friends, both old and new, provide not only support and grounding in my past, but a compass by which to guide to my present and future. They help me to consistently challenge the choices I make, the person I am as well as the person I am constantly becoming.
- My colleagues inspire, motivate and challenge me to become better, do more and reach more people with the information, education and support that I can provide to others so that they can live better, happier and healthier lives. I'd like to especially thank Robb Wolf, Nori Hudson, Laura Knoff, John Tsafos, Antonio Valladares, Evelyne Lambrecht, Chloé Lauer, Caitlin Weeks, Chris Kresser, Mary Vance and Sean Croxton for this support.
- I have a roof over my head and good food in my belly.
- I look forward to what each new day will bring without fear or hesitation, knowing that it will change and shape me forever for the better no matter what.
You can share it with me/us in the comments below, share it with your friends and loved ones, or keep it entirely to yourself. It doesn't matter if no one ever sees it but you, it's as effective to your self-growth either way. That said, I find that telling people in your life that you are grateful for their presence will always yield a positive result. Wouldn't you love to hear from someone today that they appreciate you? Yeah, I thought so.