Practice Gratitude in the New Year

As we start a new decade, consider making a resolution that is focused not on self-improvement, but on self-awareness. Dr. John L. Evans Jr. offers suggestions for how to increase your capacity for gratitude, which can have a profound impact on your personal and professional relationships.

Just like that, it’s a new decade. In these first days and weeks of 2020, many of us are seeking ways to make the year ahead more productive or more meaningful. What should we change? What can we improve upon?

To me, the best question to ask yourself – the key to effecting positive change in virtually every aspect of life – is one you may not have considered: “How can I be more grateful?”

From an existential standpoint, gratitude is a profound concept. It comes from within but has much more to do with the world around you than with yourself. Gratitude is also a virtue you simply cannot have too much of. You can be too nice (think doormat). You can be too meticulous (think procrastination). But in my view, there is no flaw to be found in being too grateful.

The following quote from author Melody Beattie sums up my thoughts about gratitude with perfect clarity:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

The above description suggests that gratitude can heal any affliction or ailment you can imagine. And I honestly believe that to be true. However, I also believe that the most powerful aspect of gratitude is not necessarily the benefits you derive from it personally, but rather the impact it can have on those around you.

When you’re able to recognize and appreciate the positive aspects of life, the people in your life – from family, close friends and clients to casual acquaintances – become benefactors of your self-awareness. Gratitude is a mindset that makes you a more serene, level-headed and thoughtful person. When you have it, you become a source of hope and inspiration for others.

So, if gratitude is truly as powerful as I’m suggesting it is, how to make more? Can you drum it up, on demand?

Yes, emphatically.

Here are three suggestions to follow in 2020 to help you tap into one of the most powerful, meaningful and useful elixirs in life:

Write It Down
A good way to start practicing gratitude is by putting pen to paper. For the next 20 days, ideally at the same time each day, commit to sending a handwritten note to at least one person expressing your gratitude for the relationship. Your missives need not be lengthy, involved or even particularly poetic. The simple act of devoting a few minutes to conveying your appreciation of someone – without any expectation of reciprocation – can have a profound effect on whomever receives your message. Just imagine how you would feel if you received an unexpected, unprompted thank you note.

We’ve all made this resolution before, but in 2020, I urge you to make a sincere effort to turn off your smartphone for significant swaths of time. Whether you turn to your device to feel productive, stave off boredom or fulfill a compulsion to be constantly “connected,” it is almost certainly hindering your ability to savor any given moment of the day. After all, if you feel compelled to be busy just for the sake of being busy, what are you really accomplishing? For 2020, commit to stepping down from the altar of the urgent and focusing on what is important.

Care For Yourself
Getting into shape and losing weight is another common resolution, of course. But this year, in the spirit of gratitude, consider viewing this goal through a different lens. Exercise, which encompasses all forms of purposeful movement, can provide many personal rewards, such as improved physical fitness and appearance. But it is also critical to living a gratitude-centered life.We are designed for action of the “all in” variety, yet many of us neglect our physical needs. These include not just exercise but healthy eating, adequate sleep and stress reduction as well. Once again, the excuse is usually being “too busy.” If we aren’t taking the time to care for ourselves, odds are we aren’t taking the time to care for those around us.

So, let’s get started. Before we charge headlong into 2020, stop and consider what matters most to you. Find ways to express your gratitude. Then pass that mindset on to others.

As for me, I am grateful for my readers. I hope my words have inspired positive change for those who have read them.

And now, I’m off to Full Circle Yoga... with my phone turned off.