2015 was not my best year ever. In April, my world felt like it was turned upside-down in a matter of 12 hours. Three months later, just as a new normal set in, we found out the child we were expecting no longer had a heartbeat. And if that weren’t enough, I needed to have surgery in October. Unfortunately, I’ve had several setbacks to my recovery, which means I’m not 100% yet. Despite these things, 2015 was not horrendous due to the unwavering support of family, friends, and colleagues.
In November 2015, I participated in 30 Days of Thanks, which is a challenge I’ve done for the past few years. It’s quite simple: post something you’re grateful for every day of November on social media. Despite the lingering pain I had from my surgery, I knew it was important for me to be grateful for what I had.
I noticed my heart felt lighter, even if my body didn’t feel “normal,” every time I expressed my gratitude publicly. Some days I expressed thanks for little things (e.g., the slower pace of Shabbat, FaceTime, my husband taking our daughter out so I can catch up on grading, my daughter’s love of one of my green smoothie recipes), while some days I was grateful for bigger things (e.g., like being able to walk a couple of miles at a reasonable pace, leading professional development with enthusiastic teachers, filling our grocery cart for Thanksgiving, my family).
My One Little Word for 2016 found me while reading the Sunday Review section of The New York Times on a November morning. In “Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier,” Arthur C. Brooks cited multiple research studies that showed choosing to express gratitude led to greater fulfillment and happiness. Brooks implored readers to practice gratitude daily all year long. He suggested:
(1) Start with “interior gratitude,” the practice of giving thanks privately.
(2) Move to “exterior gratitude,” which focuses on public expression.
(3) [B]e grateful for useless things. It is relatively easy to be thankful for the most important and obvious parts of life — a happy marriage, healthy kids or living in America. But truly happy people find ways to give thanks for the little, insignificant trifles.
Retrieved from http://nyti.ms/1MhyT85.
By the end of Brooks’ article, I realized GRATITUDE had to be my word for 2016. If this year is going to be better than the last, then I need to make a concerted effort to be grateful in the three ways he described.
While I think I’m good about expressing my thanks towards others when they help me or give me something (I’m pretty quick with handwritten thank you notes!), I’m lacking in the “interior gratitude” department. As a result, I started a gratitude journal in mid-December. I thought it would be a good way for me to get in the spirit of being thankful in a daily and private way.
Once I began my gratitude journal, I realized nothing was too small or insignificant. Anything that struck me as something to be thankful for was worthy of writing down.
Starting the journal in advance of 2016 helped me to get used to writing in it daily. For instance, I found I didn’t want to limit myself to one thing I was grateful for each day. Therefore, I started writing shorter about three things I was grateful for every day.
I know 2016 will have its ups and downs, but I’m hopeful that having gratitude top of mind will guide me towards a better year. I’m confident being grateful will make me more appreciative of the many things going right in my corner of the world. And let’s be honest, there are many things — big and small — for which I am thankful.
I’d love to know:
- How do you practice gratitude — internally or externally?
- What One Little Word are you planning to live by this year?