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The Joys of Gratitude: Starting the New Year With Thankfulness
As we wrapped 2023 up in a pretty bow to say goodbye forever, it’s easy to get caught in the optimism for the coming year. Whether it is hoping it is better or preparing to fulfil a set of resolutions, our eyes tend to focus on the future so much that we neglect the past.
While welcoming 2024 with open arms, it may be wise to take a moment to reminisce about 2023 through the lens of gratitude! For one moment, let’s forget about resolutions and focus on revelations.
The Pitfalls of Resolutions
As the year comes to an end, it’s easy to feel regret for the things we did not achieve and long for the aspirations we have. That’s why we set New Year’s resolutions—a way to inspire ourselves to go out there and achieve our dreams.
However, while noble, this could have an unintentional side effect: focusing on what we lack.
Sometimes, New Year resolutions come from a place of discomfort with ourselves. Rather than a desire for self-improvement, they can derive from a perceived flaw—a willingness to make up for what we lack or feel we have done wrong.
Falling into this trap can ruin New Year’s resolutions and transform them from optimistic and encouraging into painful self-flagellation sessions. It is no longer about doing what’s best for us—it’s about recriminating our mistakes.
That is why gratitude matters.
Gratitude is the flip side of this perspective—it highlights the year’s positive aspects. It’s a soft-spoken love letter to yourself and the many achievements you enjoyed within the last 365 days.
For example, while New Year’s resolutions focus on what you want to change in the future, gratitude instead dedicates time to the positive changes you have already made, the positive habits you have continued, and the events that have positively impacted your life.
If resolutions are about inducing positive change, gratitude is about appreciating positive continuity—the good things from your past that you’d love to experience again.
Why Is It Hard to Practice Gratitude?
Practicing gratitude is easier said than done. It goes beyond uttering polite thank yous—it involves an introspective view of the positive things that happen in your life.
If you often feel you have gone through more bad things than good ones, then you have your brain and evolution to blame. Countless research proves that humans often find it much easier to remember bad experiences over positive ones, as once upon a time, it was helpful for our ancestors to remember the things that put them in danger.
That is why perhaps the most efficient way to practice thankfulness is by keeping a gratitude journal. Writing down good things, experiences, and feelings as they happen makes them move from fleeting to long-lasting.
For New Year, write gratitude revelations alongside resolutions. It will balance love for the past with hope for the future.
How Do You Practice Gratitude for New Year?
For New Year, the best approach would be to recall the good things that happened. If your year was filled with negative experiences, do your best to try and focus on the good things you still keep. Things you may take for granted but are essential for happiness.
Aspects such as good health, strong bonds with the people in your life, a stable job, reliable housing, good sleep every night, or a small skill you learnt—those are things that may be easy to overlook if you have them, yet can mean the world for anyone without them.
It’s also okay to be grateful for experiences or things you may consider minor or irrelevant. A song that makes you happy each time you hear it is something to be thankful for, as can be the pretty sunset view you see on your way back home. Happiness lies in the small things, and it’s easy to forget them when you focus on the big picture.
At the end of the day, don’t forget that New Year is about balance. It’s the meeting point between the past and the future and thus is the perfect time to appreciate what happened and welcome what’s to come. Balancing thankfulness with aspirations reminds you that you can grow and improve, but the past is also worth loving.
And that perspective is, perhaps, the best way to start a new chapter!