As 2015 came to a close, I started to work on my resolutions for 2016. Having read numerous articles about the power of writing down your goals, visualizing your life unfolding as you dream, etc., I decided to give it a try. I separated my objectives into the various categories of my life: Family, Work, Health, Social and Home. Taking the time to identify what you actually want in life is the first step to achieving it. (Or so I have read.)
Now, half way into 2016 (I shudder as I actually write that), I am able to assess how far I’ve come since the beginning of the year. Certain goals have already been met (yay) while others are waiting for any semblance of a start (not so yay) but I recognize that the most powerful resolution that I made for myself this year was to practice gratitude. In a social-media-heavy culture, just looking at your phone can make you feel less than gracious, so it’s important to remember and appreciate all of the blessings that we all have rather than focusing on what we don’t.
Recognizing full well how hokey it sounds, I’ve started a gratitude journal. At the end of the day or the week, I try to reflect on all of the things big and small for which I’m grateful. Entries can range anywhere from watching my daughter excel at something that was previously challenging for her, to the way my baby says “Mama” like an angry Frenchman, or the fact that the random bagel shop had sun-dried tomato cream cheese, or even the amazing boots I tracked down on eBay at half the price. Whatever it is, thinking of the things that make me happy and filled with joy has affected my overall outlook and has encouraged positivity across every facet of my life.
Studies have shown that the simple act of writing down the things for which we’re grateful results in benefits including better sleep (much nicer to go to bed after thinking about everything that put a smile on your face than how much you have to do the next day), fewer symptoms of illness and more happiness among adults and kids alike.
Having long believed that happiness is a choice one makes every day, I am trying to instill an understanding of gratitude in my children as well. While the baby could probably teach me a thing or two—I mean the guy seems so grateful for just about everything (second-child syndrome?)—my almost-4-year-old is also on board. She will even practice meditation with me—we both close our eyes and think of all the things that make us happy.
As the writer Anais Nin once said, “We see things not as they are, but as we are.” Harnessing your thoughts and using all of the crazy voices in your head for good and not evil is taking control in a world that can often feel like it's spinning out of control. In a sense, I think practicing gratitude might be one of the most powerful tools we have to combat all of the negativity and violence we are bombarded with on the daily and somehow still recognize the goodness.
Sara is co-founder of The Hive.
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