Why I’m Starting the Year with Gratitude

by | Jan 1, 2021 | Health, Lifestyle

It’s the beginning of the year, so we know what that means–reflections, resolutions and promises to do better and be better. But what if, instead of making resolutions, we decided to focus on being grateful? See, the problem with New Year’s Resolutions aren’t the resolutions themselves, no. The issue is the set-up and the follow through, or, to be more specific–we suck at setting ourselves up for success and therefore we inevitably fail to follow through. Admit it. You’ve made resolutions to lose weight, eat healthier, focus on personal and professional development. You’ve vowed to be more consistent, have discipline, not sweat the small stuff. And you’ve failed at least once. Maybe you’re like me and you’ve failed every year. It’s a cyclical trap that almost always results in the same thing, resolving to do even better the following year. I’ve decided to throw resolutions out the window and focus on being grateful instead.

Gratitude is scientifically proven to make you happier.

Don’t take my word for it. Just look at the research (link research here). I believe that people make New Year’s Resolutions ultimately to be happier. Yes, we make them to be stronger and healthier, too, but I believe even those improvements correlate to happiness. As it turns out, being grateful can also lead to happiness. Happiness isn’t just a deep sense of joy, it’s also a sense of overall well-being, less stress, satisfaction with the way things are in your life at the moment. Positive psychology researchers have been studying the impact that being grateful has on happiness and health. “Journaling for five minutes a day about what we are grateful for can enhance our long-term happiness by over 10%.”
So, if you’re feeling down, take out a piece of paper and write about what you’re grateful for! Along with happiness, gratitude has a host of other benefits as well, from psychological well-being and self-esteem, to improving your relationships at home and at work. Being grateful can lead to being more physically active, improve friendships, and increase overall positive emotions. If being grateful has such an impact on our lives, why don’t we do it more often?
being grateful journaling

New Year’s Resolutions are Bullshit, Be Grateful Instead.

Do you only think about bettering yourself at the start of a new year? Do you forget about New Year’s resolutions by April, giving up after a few months into the year? You’re not alone. 68% of people give up on their resolutions by the first of February. So, if you’re able to make it all the way to April, you’re beating everyone. This is why I call bullshit on resolutions. But I don’t understand why, year after year, we still continue to make them. It’s almost as though they’re designed for you to fail. A resolution is a promise to do something better in the new year (source). That’s it. A promise. There’s no roadmap. There are no action steps to get you there, milestones to meet, check-in’s on progress. It’s just a promise, an empty one at that. Resolutions are bullshit because resolutions alone are not enough.

Why Wait for the New Year when Time is just a Construct?

Any moment can be the start of something new. Literally, any moment. Time helps us organize and keep track of things, but waiting for the New Year can stop you from starting to work on yourself NOW. Why wait? And what happens if you start the year off great and then fall off the wagon, are you going to wait until next year to jump back on? I hope not. You’d probably wait for the following Sunday or Monday, the start of a new week. But if you can start something on a Sunday or Monday, you can most certainly start something on any day of the week, at any time of year. Resolutions hold us back because the tradition holds that we only make them at the New Year.
Gratitude can happen at any moment. When you think about being grateful, you don’t typically wait until a certain month of the year or day of the week. You just…do it. Just be grateful. You can think at any given moment about what you’re thankful for. Sometimes you’re prompted by someone or something. Some of us make gratitude a daily habit, writing down 3 things we’re grateful for everyday. There’s power in that (source). Waiting for the New Year to work on yourself only does you a disservice. It delays the work that you can start doing now. Don’t put yourself off til later.

Be Grateful for the Little Things.

Gratitude doesn’t have to be grand. Yes, be grateful you’re alive, and be grateful for the health or wealth you have, but also be grateful for the little things. I’m grateful for the new toothbrush I just bought. I’m grateful for the nail clippers I have, especially when I want to rip a hangnail from my finger. I’m grateful that someone posted a video of my grandmother teaching us how to do the hambone, an experience I had totally forgotten about. I got to relive that moment by watching the video. Just thinking of these things make me smile.

The impact of gratitude can be instantaneous. Gratitude isn’t yet a daily habit for me. I’m typically grateful for things after being prompted by something else. When my little cousin passed away, I became extremely grateful for all of the family I have still with me, and grateful for the times I got to spend with her. When I found my dad on the bathroom floor struggling to breathe, I became overwhelmed with gratitude that he was still alive. And when my mom called me to tell me my brother had had another overdose but was doing okay, I was grateful for the Narcan she had in her bathroom. Those are all big things. Those are life and death situations. But gratitude can be small. It can be small and mighty. Because just like those big things can be taken away at a moment’s notice, so too can the little things. And I think that all these little things add up to make life what it is. So, I’m choosing to focus on gratitude in 2022 and beyond.

What are you grateful for?

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