Need a New Year’s Resolution? Consider a Gratitude Practice

“Rest and be thankful.
—William Wordsworth

In preparation for writing this blog piece on emotional wellness, I spent some time sitting with PRA’s wellness workbook that was recently released in August of this year, Take Charge! A Workbook to Enhance Well-Being with the Eight Dimensions of Wellness. If you have not had time to check it out, I highly recommend ordering a copy!

As defined in the workbook, emotional wellness “relates to our abilities to express feelings, enjoy life, adjust to emotional challenges, and cope with stress and traumatic life experiences.” This past year has been challenging for all of us, both collectively, as we grapple with an ongoing pandemic and face increased racial tensions and political divisions, and individually, as we deal with the many stressors and losses that are a natural part of life. In my own life, this past year has been particularly challenging, both personally and professionally. But through all the ups and downs, there has been one practice that has pulled me through those lowest moments—GRATITUDE.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson really speaks to me. The second sentence truly has been the most critical piece for my emotional wellness. We all know that we should be grateful for what we have, but practicing gratitude for both the good AND the bad things in your life is much more difficult, yet it reaps the greatest rewards. All experiences, good or bad, shape who we are—they contribute to our advancement, building character and imparting wisdom. If we reflect on each of these experiences with a humble heart, we may see all that there is to be grateful for. Sometimes it takes time to see, and that is okay. But with practice, we can cultivate a habit of gratitude that will carry us through the darkness and magnify the light in our lives.

There are many ways to practice gratitude. Some people like to keep a journal or create a gratitude jar. Others take time in quiet mediation or prayer each day to reflect on what they are grateful for. For me, I have been interested in helping instill this practice with my little ones. So, each night as I tuck them into bed, we talk about at least one thing we are grateful for that day. What made you happy today? What made you sad? In these bedtime conversations, I have found that it is never a toy or a thing that makes my children happy; it is the time we spend together going to the park or playing a silly game. They are grateful for the simple gift of time together, and so am I.

As you think about how you can improve your emotional wellness in the new year, consider incorporating a gratitude practice in your life. You may find your life to be fuller and richer than you even knew possible.