In the last blog post from the MMSNorCal Coaching Collective, on 21st December 2021, the longest night of the year and the beginning of winter, we shared practices on how to Reset, Reflect and Rejuvenate for 2022. In this post, on New Years Eve, we will share our thoughts on a buidling a Gratitude Practice – one of the most powerful practices to reflect, acknowledge, mark endings and beginnings – and a wonderful way to start a New Year.
Importance of Gratitude
In fact, research now shows that practicing gratitude – intentionally taking time to count your blessings, making note of the good things that are happening in our lives and in the world, acknowledging micro accomplishments that happen every day and looking for opportunities for mini celebrations – increases feelings of happiness and well-being and reduces negative thoughts that can spiral into anxiety and depression.
In the words of Coach Michelle Ihrig, “Gratitude has proven to help us calm our minds and create focus. The practice releases balancing hormones from our pituitary gland which in turn gives us a sense of peace and creativity. It enhances problem solving and resolve.”
She continues: “It is a great practice to start by looking back at all the things that went right last year, including all the small things that we may overlook, items we accomplished, new learnings, being kind to ourselves, friendships we made, opportunities we took, goals we achieved. Then look at the things that did not turn out as we hoped or are challenging; ask yourself – what has this experience taught me? What lessons have I learned? How has this shaped a better version of me or made other opportunities available? How has this experience made me wiser, stronger? When we look at any mistakes or regrets as lessons learned to apply to the next phases in our lives, this contributes to growth. And with growth, we are constantly evolving.”
Tips on Building a Gratitude Practice
Michelle likes to end each day with at least 5 things she is grateful for.
On New Year’s Eve, Michelle writes down everything she has been grateful for that happened that year and this gives her perspective on far she has come.
She adds, “For those items which I may still regret, I allow myself to breathe into forgiveness, knowing that I did the best I could, and with my awareness of what happened, allow myself to move into full awareness into challenges moving forward.”
She believes that being grounded in the present with gratitude, builds positive momentum forward.
According to Coach Lindsey Taylor-Vivier, “even from hard knocks, illness and loss, we can find something to be grateful for. I broke my neck on my wedding night in Crete. I felt sorry for myself, stupid and I was in constant pain, but in the end I can honestly say: I was lucky it wasn’t worse. Our bodies have amazing healing capabilities and the biggest gift was that the injury made me vulnerable and I learned to ask for help.”
“I keep a dedicated Gratitude Journal,” shares Coach Muriel Murphy, “which can sometimes get slightly repetitive, but it’s always fruitful to look back on what I am truly grateful for. I realized that since Covid hit I was operating from a place of fear and not from the heart centered place that is usually so familiar to me. As I shared with my yoga students on Monday, I am seeing how this fight, flight and freeze response was running through my world, and I did not like it one bit. This is where my spiritual rubber hit the road, and I had to come to terms with my shortcomings over the past 20 months. I apologized to others, forgave myself, cried a lot and stepped forward to sense my strong and loving heart once again. It’s such a journey to witness myself in those uncomfortable zones and course correct. Of course, always with a little help from my friends and family. Thank you, from my heart to yours!”
Gratitude by the Quarter, by the Year
Coach Sarah E. Spencer lives in a part of the country with four distinct weather seasons, so she gives herself quarterly New Years to pause, reflect and recalibrate, something she found especially invaluable the last two years. One of Sarah’s foundational practices is to “understand my sphere of influence and what I can control and not control. Especially in these ambiguous times, I realize that that gratitude is usually centered within the local community, friendships and supporting my clients and my professional colleagues – things I have engagement and connection with.”
Sarah’s personal practice starts with reviewing writings of visions, aspirations and goals. ”I create space to be thankful, celebrate progress, note additions or those things that I can’t believe actually happened, and to sit with topics that I still yearn to have happened. And to welcome each ‘seasonal New Year’, I plan a meal for friends that celebrates the best of the upcoming months.”
“I welcome the New Year by taking time a day or so before, to find a quiet stretch of time with no distractions during which I meditate with the intention of gratitude for the blessings of the year that is coming to a close” says Coach Michelle H. Marsan. “I let all those blessings sink in and fill me with a sense of peace. It is usually quite a beautiful experience and I am left feeling open, centered and calm.”
“Next, I sit down with a cup of tea and my notebook. I start fresh, with an open mind; writing on what I would like to bring into my life. I make sure to hit all the targets: personal, family related, creative and career goals. If I am feeling particularly ambitious, I journal about my goals as if I already have them in my life. I write about how much joy I am experiencing and all the good things that are happening as a result. I know that on days when I am feeling depleted, or depressed, I can take the journal entry out, reread it and feel all that positive energy.
On New Year’s day, I go back and look at those goals that I set for myself and I come up with an action plan to jumpstart and get the energy moving in the right direction. I also like going back to my journal and finding my previous year’s goals. I review what I wrote and see what came about during the year as a result of writing those goals. It is usually quite moving to see how the simple act of writing is the first step in the manifestation, and how consistently this practice works!”
Michelle shares a New Year’s ritual you can do with yourself or with friends and family – “hold a ceremony, perhaps by gathering around a fire pit and sharing one thing that you are grateful for from the past year and one thing that you admire and appreciate about the person sitting next to you. Next, write down one thing you would like to let go of for this coming year and burn it in the fire, releasing the hold that it has on you. Then finish it off by singing Destiny’s Child – Survivor or Alicia Keys – Girl on Fire or The Roots – Now or Never.”
Registering Gratitude Every Single Day
Several years ago, I myself, made a decision to start every day by registering gratitude – thankfulness to be alive, thankfulness to having the opportunity to make better choices in satisfying my needs and wants and being happy, and thankfulness to be able to support my loved ones to do the same.
For my gratitude practice, I clear my mind every single morning, make a list of the important areas of my life like health, family, work etc, reflect on what is working and what can be improved in each area without any kind of judgement. I make a list of what I want to keep doing and how I might do it better. I make a list of what I want to stop doing and how I can get out of that habit or obligation.
This New Year, why don’t you take a little time to celebrate yourself and all the people in your life, the everyday blessings that give us hope and strength to live, love and share peace and light in the New Year!