Wrap Up 2017 With Gratitude

This year is rapidly coming to an end and and, as we say our farewells to 2017, there’s still time to infuse these last few days with a big ol' dose of positivity. Before I begin to set my intentions and goals for 2018, I'll be taking time during this week between Christmas and New Year's to reflect on 2017: all that went well & all the people, places and experiences I am grateful for from the last 12 months.

One of the most surefire ways I know of to shift your mood and energy into a more positive state is to pause and acknowledge what’s going well in your life. And thanks to the field of neuroscience, we now know that our brains are hardwired to hone in on and focus more on the negative events occurring in our environment.

As Rick Hanson writes in his book, Buddha’s Brain, our brains are like “teflon to the positive and Velcro to the negative.”   We might go to a party and have a wonderful evening, but if someone spills a big glass of red wine on us right before we leave what do you think we’re going to be focused on during the drive home?

One of the most surefire ways I know of to shift your mood and energy into a more positive state is to pause and acknowledge what’s going well in your life.

The good news is: we can train our brains to focus on the positive. There are a number of practices we can work with to shift our focus to the positive events and relationships occurring in our lives, and one of the easiest ways to do this is through practicing gratitude

I’m sure you’ve heard about gratitude practice and maybe even tried it yourself.  But how does being thankful and expressing gratitude actually make a difference? Research by experts in the field shows us that people who practice gratitude are more optimistic, happier in general, have lower stress levels, greater resilience,  sleep better, and exercise more consistently. Yes, please!

And if you think, “Oh yeah, maybe in 2018 I’ll start a gratitude practice,” how about using these last few days of the year to begin one now. Why wait?

We so often tell ourselves that we’ll get started “next week,” “next month,” or we think we have to wait until the conditions are “just right.”  I am here to tell you that any day is a GREAT time to get started… and here are five simple ways you can begin:

1)   Do a gratitude brain dump.

Set a timer for ten minutes and then write down every single person, place, animal or experience from 2017 you can think of that you feel grateful for… and  keep your pen moving until the timer goes off. Feel free to keep going after the ten minutes are up if you have more you want to write down. Ready... set... write!

2)   Make a gratitude collage. 

Print out images of the people, places, animals and experiences  that represent what and who you’re most grateful for from 2017.  I made one last month & keep it by my morning meditation spot so each morning I begin the day with this great visual reminder!

3)   Write a thank-you letter to someone who has done something kind for you this year.

The co-worker who showed you you the ropes in your new job. The neighbor who brought you a meal when you were sick. The good friend who was there to support you during a challenging time. After you write  your note and address it,  consider it your  “end-of-the-year” love deposit when you drop it in the mail! Send it off with the intention that it brighten the day of your recipient and bring a little joy to their heart.

4)   Take a little time to reflect on all the good things that happened in your life in 2017.

If it helps, get out your day planner or your calendar to help jog your memory.  Pause to remember how you felt during each of these events as they happened and savor those good feelings again as you recreate the events in your mind.

5)   Begin a gratitude journal.

I first heard about keeping a gratitude journal over twenty years ago, and have been keeping one ever since. Writing down five things each day that you are grateful for will totally shift your awareness and attitude.  As you begin to do this, you become a “detective for goodness” and start to pay attention more to the positive things that happen throughout your day. Try it out yourself and see what happens.

These are a few ways you can get started and carry the gratitude habit into the New Year.

I'm wishing you many, many reasons to be thankful in 2018!