After staring at the same three sets of four walls day after day after day, the simplest occurrences bring me unexpected delight.
I’m not one who sets New Year resolutions, but I’ve started referring to my goals as New Year intentions. There will always be room to grow, but I don’t want to shame myself if I don’t measure up to an exact standard.
Thus, the change in wording. These intentions are not absolute, 180-degree pivots from my previous lifestyle, but rather ideas I want to focus on as I move forward.
One practice I’m bringing back this year is writing regularly in a gratitude journal.
It was originally mom’s idea. She read Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts” when I was in middle school, which prompted her to buy composition notebooks for our family to write down what we were each thankful for every evening after dinner.
My list reached 689 before the family habit faded, but I picked it up again around three years ago. I’ve filled two notebooks that outline 7,612 specific points of gratitude.
It’s mind-boggling how much my mindset shifts when I put aside daily time before I go to sleep to document at least 10 things, moments or experiences that I appreciated since rolling out of bed that morning.
One of my dear friends from college showed me a piece of art she created recently in colorful, block letters that read, “Don’t think about the future when the present is right here.”
My tendency is to dwell on the opposite end of the spectrum. If I’m not careful, I find myself choosing to live in the land of nostalgia and glamorizing events of my past, wishing I could travel back in time instead of accepting the current moment as is.
And that’s gratitude’s cue.
Creating this habit directs my brain away from negativity and toward new neural pathways. As human beings, we have the power to reframe pre-existing pathways by intentionally committing to different habits and behaviors.
The more the practice of thankfulness is repeated, the stronger that neural pathway becomes, making it the brain’s new normal. This leads to a persistent emphasis on the good, contrary to what the world often seems to scream.
These points of gratitude can be as small as someone calling me to thank me for a story I wrote. Watching the sun dip below the buildings on Broadway Street in a brilliant array of pastels. Dancing around my three-room apartment, creating my own stage out of the creaky wooden flooring. Forming haiku poems with magnetic words on my freezer door. And so many more.
These mundane moments can become beautiful bright spots. All it takes is a conscious decision.
When I flip over my phone to check the time, the screen lights up with the following phrase: “Today, I will choose gratitude.”