I’ve always been big on making New Year’s resolutions. I’m into big dreams and self-improvement, so New Year’s is like my Superbowl in terms of setting goals. Like many people, though, I’ve spent many years falling back into old habits after a month or two and finding the same goals back on my list the following year. I’m happy to say that in 2017, I accomplished several of the goals I wrote down and as for the ones I didn’t, I’ve accepted responsibility for not working hard enough to make them happen. I succumbed to a lot of fear and self-doubt yet again, but I’ve learned from my bad habits and mistakes, and have already started making changes and preparing myself to thwart those traps I tend to fall into.
One of the biggest things I learned in 2017, a lesson I will be carrying into 2018 as one of my top resolutions, is to focus on gratitude. Gratitude has played the largest role in shifting my mindset. For years, I’ve heard advice from various people about listing out all the things you are grateful for when you start to feel stressed, angry, sad or lost. Many of those people practice it as soon as they get up, regardless of their mood, and right before they go to sleep every night as part of their routine. Everyone has a different method – journaling, jotting them down on pieces of paper and collecting them in a jar, listing them out in their head as they brush their teeth – but they all experience the same results.
Simply stopping to think about what you are grateful for brings you an immense amount of peace, instantly. And it’s so ridiculously easy.
Personally, I’ve found that when I start to spiral, listing out the things I’m grateful for eases me. It brings me back to my center by pulling my focus back to what matters. It’s so easy to get caught up in negative thoughts and emotions and forget the wonderful things we have going for us. Simple things, like the air in our lungs, the food in our refrigerator, our family and friends, the roof over our heads. When you shift your focus to gratitude, you shift your focus to what truly matters, and then you can handle whatever is going wrong. Usually, you find that whatever negative thing that was upsetting you wasn’t really that big of a deal, or even if it is, that you will get through it because the good usually still manages to outweigh the bad.
The more I practice gratitude, the quicker it occurs to me to do it the next time I’m upset or my anxiety flairs up. It has become a natural inclination now to catch myself and switch to gratitude. That light bulb goes on, like, “Wait – I can come down from this. What am I grateful for?” It drags me out of dark places, or at the very least, shows me the light at the end of the tunnel while I go through the emotions.
Another aspect to dedicating yourself to gratitude is to not wait to celebrate things. Usually, we wait for holidays or “big” wins to celebrate, but why not celebrate the small ones, too? Why not celebrate just because you’re alive or because you’re doing something that means something to you? Even if no one is celebrating with you, do it anyway! That was my motto this New Year’s Eve.
Recently, when I started thinking about making plans for New Year’s Eve, I was bummed because everyone I knew would be unavailable either due to work, other commitments, or being thousands of miles away. I felt sorry for myself for a little bit, but then I switched gears. Why did my definition of a great New Year’s Eve have to be limited to the involvement of other people? So, I started thinking about what would get me excited on NYE. And the answer was re-launching my blog.
It was the perfect thing to build up to. I began preparing for it immediately so I’d be ready for the big moment when the clock struck twelve and took me into 2018. I decided I was going to ride into the new year doing exactly what I hoped to be doing for the rest of the year: following my dreams. I spent the day with my family, which was wonderful, and the whole time I was also genuinely looking forward to my evening plans. I lit up just thinking about it!
And I thought, fuck, while I’m at it, why not make it a true celebration? So, I bought myself some pink champagne, put on a beautiful dress, and watched the fireworks as I clicked publish on my blog. It was just me, my dogs, and my cats, and it was awesome. It honestly, it felt just as amazing as if I’d been surrounded by a ton of people in a New York City penthouse clinking glasses and kissing my gorgeous date.
You don’t have to wait for life or other people to decide when something is special. You can decide. You can create magic anywhere, anytime, anyplace just by embracing what you love.
So, here’s the two-part resolution I urge you to make, whether you’re reading this on December 31st, January 1st, or August 11th at 5:03pm: list the things you are grateful for every day at least once a day and celebrate whatever makes you happy.
Any day can be special. It’s up to you to decide how.