With Love and Gratitude

A blessing a day keeps the doc away

10 Thoughts for Embracing a New Year of Serenity

If your New Year story is filled with stress, embrace gratitude and forgiveness.

Midway into 2011, when I realized that I would never look like Nicole Kidman, I abandoned my decision to buy yet another diet book. Instead I went back to a practice that I normally reserve for January: welcoming the month as a time to look at old issues in a new way, oftentimes through the eyes of my grandmother. She taught us to welcome the New Year by embracing love, forgiveness, disappointment, and happiness as special gifts in their own unique way. Oftentimes she would have us sit on her porch to watch the waves and just dream.

In many ways, Gram taught us to meditate, to capture breath-taking moments. Today, simple reflections are wrapped in my never-ending search for serenity, which is so elusive in this stress-filled world. But I have come to see that serenity begins with gratitude. Grows with forgiveness.  And blossoms when we extend ourselves to others in need. 

A simple "thank you"

If your story for the New Year is filled with angst and stress regarding the love in your life, your job, your family or financial worries, why not try gratitude and forgiveness?  John Kralik in his book 365 Thank-yous, showed us the power of the simple lost art of writing notes of appreciation. He found that until he was grateful for what he had, he could not receive what he wished for. Revitalize Your Love Life with a Three Day Gratitude Plan

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Looking forward to a New Year of hope, I began to ponder the hopeless of New Year resolutions -- all those things on our "should do" list. Then in talking about this with colleagues, one question seemed to resonate: "What would you do if you had nothing to do?" 

Each of us will answer that question in our own way.  However, a perfect gift would be making time in our day to think about our own needs.  It isn’t as selfish as it seems. As I pointed out in a recent Providence Journal relationships column for the New Year, If we are depleted, we have nothing to give.

Here are some thoughts of how to give special meaning to the New Year 

  • Make a wish list that gives you purpose. Fill it with wishes for right now for yourself and people you love.
  • Read children’s books to enliven your imagination. “The Polar Express” will restore your belief in holiday magic.
  • Let go of an angry heart.  Forgive someone to refresh your soul. Spend some serious time thinking about the situation that created strife, including your own role. Then wish blessings. See what Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD, says in Live Longer by Practicing Forgiveness.
  • Take a nature walk to find little miracles in the song of a bird, beauty of a tree, clouds making shapes ranging from dragons to angels floating by.
  • Write a love letter, a serious handwritten love letter, even if it takes a full week to complete. It can be to a spouse, a partner, a child, a parent.
  • Listen to those in your life who may need you to step back, slow down, and be there for them.  Then create uninterrupted alone times to share with them.
  • Take a first step towards making a big dream come true.
  • Start a gratitude book even if you can only think of one happy moment per day. Dr. Robert Emmons, UC Davis, explained in an interview that "Attitude change often follows behavior change. By living the gratitude that we do not necessarily feel, we can begin to feel the gratitude that we live." Emmons Lab 
  • Open your heart to find love. The man who wrote a book titled Love, Dr. Leo Buscaglia, believed that we should all take a chance on love and express our feelings by saying the words to children, parents, friends, lovers, and spouses, “I love you.”  The World of Leo Buscaglia

For an enlightened New Year, instead of the usual resolutions, search for serenity and ways to refresh your spirit.

Here are some additional thoughts: Five Things You Can Do Instead of New Year’s Resolutions by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.

Wishing you a New Year filled with love and gratitude, good health and joy.

Copyright 2012 Rita Watson/ All Rights Reserved

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Rita Watson, MPH, is an Associate Fellow at Yale's Ezra Stiles College and a columnist for The Providence Journal.

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