We must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy. ~ Brother David Steindl-Rast
Making space for new, clearing away what no longer serves us is always a valuable action, however, in the last few days of the year as we approach the New Year, we have the perfect opportunity to do some inner housekeeping.
One way that I have found and often teach to individuals in journaling classes and/or grief workshops is to hold a practice of gratitude. One can do this by writing in a journal every day for 30 days, perhaps at the end of the day, three simple things that one is grateful for that happened during the day. Taking it a little further, if you write about gratefulness for 10 weeks it has been proven by experiment (Emmons & McCullough 2003) with hundreds of subjects to show an increase in happiness and joy. Participants in this experiment also exhibited:
- Fewer symptoms of physical illness
- Spent more time exercising
- Were more optimistic and satisfied with their lives
- Reported an increased positive affect and decreased negative affect
- Were more likely to offer emotional support to others
- Felt an increased sense of connection with others
- Slept more hours and with a better quality of sleep each night
Not bad for a simple shift in focus!
In a 2011 study, Rash, Matsuba and Prkachin found that grateful contemplation resulted in increased physiological coherence, suggesting increased activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxation response) and decreased activation of the sympathetic nervous system (the stress response). Their research indicated that being grateful reduces stress and increases wellbeing.
Make a list of things for which you would like to be and feel more grateful in the coming year. These can be:
- Aspects of your life you would like to stop taking for granted
- Blessings you want to keep in your daily awareness
- Privileges you want to be sure to leverage for the greater good
- Opportunities that appear even in challenging times
- Daily gifts of the body and being alive, etc.
Invite some room into your life as you close out this year and see what shows up. Create that space to honor your soul. Richness can be found when one has the courage to peek inside and sit with whatever comes up. For me it has been a year filled with many personal accomplishments, and yet I still see my insecurities strongly being fueled by fear. Knowing I need to release that fear in order to bring more light into my own life, I need to create some space for it all to change. I invite that into my life.
Happy New Year! With deep gratitude I wish you all peace, unity, and serenity.
When the waves close over me, I dive down to fish for pearls. ~ Masha Kaleko