For the past nine years, I’ve shared something New Year-related here on curiouser & curiouser. In 2012, I listed things I do alongside things I DON’T do. In 2015, I categorized my resolutions based on the categories of MORE, LESS, and ENOUGH. In 2018, my New Year goals were framed around the theme “Maggie’s watching.” My 2020 word of the year, “stillness,” turned out to be quite apt in ways I hadn’t fathomed! And last year Kevin and I worked together to put together a collection of intentions for our family.
You can check out my complete New Year “library” here:
This year, I feel drawn to lean more into a practice I’ve tried to cultivate over the past several months: gratitude.
Specifically, I want my 2022 commitment to be this: Actively practice gratitude.
I know, I know — it doesn’t feel all that unique, does it? We all know being grateful is a good thing, and something we should focus on. But the “actively practice” component is an important one to my commitment this year, and here’s why:
Brené Brown (the amazing sociologist and researcher) found something interesting while she was studying what joyful people had in common: They all practice gratitude. Brené says she expected that people who were joyful would be grateful (in that order), but learned through her research that, in fact, the opposite was true. “I did not interview a person who would describe themselves as joyful who did not actively practice gratitude,” she said.
This insight is so profound to me, and it made it crystal clear that an intentional and consistent gratitude practice needed to be a priority for me. After all, who DOESN’T want to be someone who can truly lean into joy? I want to be able to access joy as much as possible in my own life, and I want to help arm my children with the tools to do the same in their own lives. An active — and TANGIBLE — gratitude practice certainly seems to be foundational to that joyful life.
I also really liked this quote I found on mind body green: “What separates gratitude from thankfulness is intention, therapist Joree Rose, LMFT, adds. Gratitude ‘is a quality of thankfulness,’ she says. ‘It’s something you intentionally choose to focus on and practice, which means you don’t just feel it; you do something about it.'”
In addition to leading us to a place of joy, a gratitude practice has other benefits, including helping to relieve stress, resulting in calmer emotions in tough moments, strengthening relationships, improving mental health (and potentially physical health as well), improving sleep, and making material things matter less.
Yes, please. Yes to all of those things!
So now it’s a matter of making that practice a habit — something that’s incorporated into my life in a way that makes it seamless and something I do daily.
Our family goes around the table sharing something we’re thankful for when we eat dinner together, but unfortunately we don’t eat together every night. (Often the kids eat at staggered times, and then Kevin and I will eat later.) I love when we have our time to share that gratitude together, but I can’t rely on that trigger daily.
Last year, I started using my walks with Vance as a reminder to practice gratitude, and that worked pretty well because we walked many days a week. (Plus, being in nature is the perfect time to think about what I’m thankful for.) But still — it isn’t a daily occurrence.
I’m not much of a journaler (this blog kind of serves that purpose for me), so I know I can’t count on that being my outlet for my daily gratitude practice. Instead, I’m going to try out a system to see if it will work well for me:
Since I brush my teeth twice a day, I’m going to try to make that my trigger for my gratitude practice. I’m also going to set up calendar reminders every day for the month of January to help make sure I get that practice in daily (kind of a back up trigger). I’ll continue those reminders into February if I need them! (I ordered a 2022 paper planner from Hello Day that I might use as part of my gratitude practice as well. I’m not usually a paper planner person, but I had a Hello Day planner in 2020 that I loved using…until the world was turned on its head. I’m excited to give it a try again this year!)
My life is good, and being grateful while with my family in Mexico (like we are in this photo), for example, comes easily. But just because so much of my life is good doesn’t mean there aren’t hard moments, hard days, and hard weeks (or, more accurately, hard elements of different moments, days, and weeks). Those difficult times can make finding things to be grateful for much more challenging, and they make practicing gratitude something I want to do a whole lot less. My commitment to myself in 2022 is to push into that place of gratitude EVERY day — especially on days when I’m feeling less than grateful. After all, there’s always something to be thankful for, and I want to cultivate that place of gratitude to pull myself toward joy — to remind myself of how much good there always is in my life and in the world.
My hope is that, as I start to make my gratitude practice more of a muscle memory habit, it will start to creep into other parts of my day without me even realizing it. I want to continue to think about things I’m grateful for while I’m in nature, when I’m eating dinner with my family, when I have a moment of quiet in the car, while I’m getting dressed, etc.
Here’s to a year of actively practicing gratitude. I can’t wait to see what it brings to my life as a result.
“It’s not joy that makes us grateful, it’s gratitude that makes us joyful.” -David Steindl-Rast