I hope that those of you who made a new year’s resolution for 2012 stuck with it, and that those of you who made goals for 2012 were able to achieve them.
As you look back over the past year at all the things you can be proud of, all the things you accomplished, all the goals you met and resolutions you kept, I hope that you have acknowledged others who helped you in the process.
Having an attitude of gratitude is the best way to close out the past year, and the best way to start a new year.
The University of California Berkeley recently announced a $3.1 million research study on the power of gratitude. What they found confirms what the bible and many other teachings have said for years, “counting our blessings improves psychological, emotional, and physical well-being.”
The researchers in this study offer five ways to bring gratitude into your home and teach your children how to foster a life-long habit of being grateful:
Foster imagination. In our busy world of multi-tasking and media, pause to help young people go deeper into the moment—to follow new paths and discover fascinating places.
Look at a child with new eyes. Each day, children and teens change. They will never be the same as they are at this moment. Notice the unfolding and blossoming of young lives.
Cultivate gratefulness. Teach children to appreciate people and cultures different from theirs. Share stories of ancestors. Pause with young people to enjoy the beauty of a rainbow or the peacefulness of a sunset.
Listen. Pay attention to the stories that children share. Notice what makes them happy, sad, afraid, lonely, and excited. Show them by your presence that you care what they think and feel on the inside, not just what they do on the outside.
Allow yourself to be a receiver. Instead of a myopic focus on what children can achieve in the future, focus on how they bless you in this moment. Receive their blessings as gifts and express your gratitude for them often.
Gratitude for all the blessings God has given over the past year is essential to closing out the year on a good note. It also helps you to anticipate the many blessings God has in store for you for the coming year.
According to researchers on gratitude, being more grateful produces better health, a longer life span, and greater inspiration.
Cicero once said that, “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”
It’s easy to be grateful for what brings pleasure into our lives, but not so easy to be grateful for our trials and challenges. However, it is those times of challenge that are often our greatest teacher, our most life changing moments, and divine encounters.
In a recent conversation with a friend I was asked what I wanted to change about my past. “Nothing,” I replied, because it was God who guided my entire life to this very moment. If even the smallest thing had been changed then I would not be who I am right now, I would not be where I am right now, and I would not have the people in my life that I do right now. So I can honestly say I am grateful for the pain, heartache, challenges, and trials of my past because they have made me a better, more caring, more compassionate, and more loving person today.
It is the bad times, just as much as the good times that make up a life well lived.
So, as you close out 2012 and look back at your successes, look also at your failures, your mistakes, and your pain. Acknowledge your past in its entirety and be grateful. Though we all have skeletons in our closets that we would much rather forget about, they are there and they have made us who we are today. There is no point in putting them on the shelf to collect dust. Why not take them out and use them to better your life?
It can be difficult to be grateful for pain, heartbreak, disappointment, and things that annoy or anger us, but when we do it gives us a new perspective on things.
For example, Ariel Ford, in her book “Wabi Sabi Love,” shares a story of learning to be grateful for something we don’t like about our partner. A couple was madly in love for many years, but the husband had an obsession for poppy seed bagels. He ate one every morning and left a trail of poppy seeds all over her clean kitchen floor and into his home office. Every day she would grow more and more frustrated with the situation and wonder if he would ever change? Until one day she was angrily cleaning up the poppy seeds when she asked herself, “What would my life be like if I never had to clean up a poppy seed again?” She then realized that it would mean not having her husband in her life. In that moment her perspective changed from one of anger for the mess, to one of gratitude for having such an amazing person in her life, which was evidenced by a beautiful trail of poppy seeds that lead to her soul mate.
Tori Vigil is author, inspirational speaker and reporter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.