Three Approaches to Gratitude in the New Year

What goals, initiatives or themes do you want to embody and embrace this year? Like you, I have been spending my time reflecting on this last year and what I desire for the year ahead. Rather than creating unrealistic goals or harsh practices for myself, I have shifted to an “additive” approach.  What can I appreciate or add into my life, to get me to a better, happier place?  Themes like investing in my health and having more fun are all ideals I have given more attention to, following with action to match.

For 2023, my additions will focus on 3 different approaches to gratitude. The reason?  I often get so focused on reaching an end point or degree of perfection (that is often unobtainable) that doesn’t recognize the efforts or accomplishments I make along the way.  If the goal is to be more present or yell less at my kids, for example, recognizing the number of times I put my phone down or take a few deep breaths before speaking in a heated moment are major efforts that contribute to creation of success. Seeing the 20 times I did something well also helps me reframe and hold the 3 times I “failed” with more grace.  

This is what I will bring in to the new year. Recognizing, praising and acknowledging myself and others more.  I want to see praise-worthy moments more because they surround us and are infinite.  Praise is similar to gratitude in that awareness is brought to something blessed happening in life. Different than gratitude, praise includes an element of lifting up the doer on the other side.  It could be sharing that you enjoy someone’s personal style or that a conversation with someone turned your day around.  I want to be someone who lifts others up when they spur and stir something positive within me. It starts with doing this for myself. 

1. Acknowledging your bests

Inspired by the Netflix documentary, “Stutz,” I am spending time daily acknowledging 3 tiny things for which I am grateful.  It could be as mundane as a podcast I enjoyed or the smile that came to my face when a friend I haven’t heard from in months messaged me.  I am also taking time to acknowledge the things I did well or at my personal best with regard to my health.  This practices gives me credit for the many efforts I do well in a day that supported my health, reinforcing the positive habits I am trying to develop. Doing this takes my focus away from the things that didn’t go perfectly, which is where our brains are focused.  According to Stutz, “gratitude gives you the ability to break through any haze of negative thought, and the Grateful Flow is about creating concentrated gratitude in your own mind.” 

2. Sending “nengajo” cards in January to those who influenced me 

Every January, I have a practice where I reflect on my prior year to identify those people who made a significant mark on my life.  It could be a friend, a coach or a colleague interwoven in my life, influencing me in a significant way. In the past, I have written to my therapist, a writing partner and to a TV producer with whom I completed a large project.  I have found that I can always identify at least one person – and often more – who meaningfully walked with me on my journey that year and altered my path, as a result.  This ritual is inspired by the Japanese new year tradition of “nengajo,” a beautiful custom I have written about before here.  The feedback I have received from the recipients on how meaningful the recognition was to them has reinforced this practice. 

“The Japanese tradition involves sending cards or postcards to friends, relatives and co-workers to show appreciation to open on January 1.  There are specific customs followed in these card – like specific “gashi,” or greeting words, to respectfully reflect the status of the relationship, the number of “gashi” and other fine details that are respectfully followed.

3. Speaking more words of praise 

I recently shared an experience when a trusted advisor shifted me out of a place of self doubt about my desire to write a book.  It happened after I saw 2 different books written by successful working women sharing messages about “having it all” which stopped my writing.  I began to doubt my desire to write a book and whether there was space for me on the bookshelf.  I shared this over email with my writing coach.  To this, she wrote me a powerful reply, reminding me of my unique purpose and perspective.  Why is it that we wait until moments when someone is sullen or in hardship to share words of praise? What if we didn’t wait? That exchange showed me firsthand how a few words of praise could uplift me and changed my life. After it happened, I thought about how I could do this for others?  Now, I try to speak to my children, my family, my friends and even strangers, things I notice about them that uplift me, that I want to share, that they should know about themselves, from my perspective.  What if you can be an agent of positive change with just a few words? 


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