It’s January 2021 and if you are reading this, you are likely celebrating having survived 2020. Looking back on the last few Januarys, I consider how different each has been. January 2017 – I was riding high from a holiday engagement and the prospect of wedding planning. January 2018 – I was well into wedding planning mode and putting the final details in place. January 2019 – I found myself falling into an unexpected depression. January 2020 – I was planning a cross-country move from California to North Carolina and starting to hear about something called the coronavirus. During each of these Januarys, I wasn’t quite sure what the year would hold but I had plans and goals and resolutions. I planned a wedding, had a wedding, came out of my depression and despite a global pandemic, managed a move across the country. However, January 2021 looks and feels a lot different.
This year making any solid plans does not seem like a good idea, not knowing when I will qualify for a vaccine, not knowing when people will stop physical-distancing, not knowing when normal traveling and vacations will resume. So, when the yoga studio that I belong to offered a New Year’s Day Clean Slate Attunement workshop, I jumped at the idea of looking at 2021 with a different perspective. The description of the workshop indicated we would set intentions for the new year. We started with a reflection on 2020 by answering the following questions:
What did you learn is deeply important to you? What did you yearn for? What worked in 2020 and what didn’t work?
Answering that last question is probably fairly easy for most of us since we had to completely change our lives from the way we knew to live it to something mostly new. And, it is usually easier to recognize and talk about what doesn’t work than it is to talk about what works. I admit that when given the choice, I find it much easier to complain than to be grateful for what is going well. With that in mind, I have decided to start 2021 right there – with the intention to focus more on what is working and give thanks on an ongoing basis.
Keeping a gratitude journal or practicing gratitude in any form on a regular basis has proven to have many benefits. According to a Psychology Today article, there are 7 scientifically proven benefits:
- Gratitude opens the door to more relationships because showing appreciation helps you gain new friends.
- Gratitude improves physical health. People who are grateful experience fewer aches and pains.
- Gratitude improves psychological health by reducing toxic emotions.
- Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
- Gratitude helps you sleep better.
- Gratitude improves self-esteem.
- Gratitude increases mental strength and helps reduce stress and overcome trauma.
I didn’t actually need all of that evidence because I know from experience that when I keep a gratitude journal, I do life better and my focus does shift to more positivity. While there is so much out of our control as we start 2021, it is nice to be able to do something that I have control over. I’m thinking a gratitude journal and a jigsaw puzzle will serve me well in 2021. Happy New Year to you and I wish all of you a year filled with tons of things for which you will be grateful.