“When we focus on our gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in.” —Kristin Armstrong
As we begin a new year, I recognize with fresh eyes that a minimalist lifestyle supports regular feelings of gratitude. When we own fewer things and intentionally carry less baggage, we are better able to recognize the gifts of each day.
Gratitude involves noticing the goodness in our lives and appreciating it. It is a spontaneous feeling and can be an intentional practice.
Gratitude can be experienced privately in mindful moments and through journaling. We can take it a step further by expressing our thanks and appreciation to others in the moment or in thoughtful notes.
Gratitude improves mental health and resilience. Focusing on the positives in our lives can strengthen our resolve to face our fears and challenges. We can increase our confidence and hope through gratitude.
Gratitude does not eliminate the stresses and terrible things that happen, but it can lessen the amount of precious time we spend revisiting situations we cannot change. Training our minds to focus on the positive more than the negative requires focused and repeated effort.
It is easy to complain, blame and make excuses. It takes little effort, is contagious, and allows us to wallow in misery.
Negativity leads to inaction, emotional instability and poor choices. Gratitude leads to feelings of connection, inner strength and productive action.
As this past year was closing, I identified my three best decisions. This exercise took time and careful thought.
I find it much easier to ruminate over past mistakes, notice ongoing incomplete tasks, and feel bad about unhealthy habits. Reframing and zooming in on my wisdom and success brought me pride and joy. It fueled my desire for further growth and development.
My best decisions during the past year were to rise earlier, to run regularly and to focus on strengthening close relationships. These consistent actions increased my feelings of calm, presence and gratitude.
I enjoyed many sunrises, increased my fitness and improved communication in several important relationships. I look forward to further enhancement in the coming year, and am pondering new areas of focus.
For the past five years my husband and I have kept a gratitude jar. This is a simple yet powerful practice, especially for couples and families, because it can be a group effort.
A gratitude jar requires very few materials: a jar, slips of paper and a pen. It is helpful to keep the jar in a private place that you pass regularly in your daily life. This way you can quickly jot a note without interruption.
We write short notes about things for which we are grateful. We write as the urge strikes. There are no set goals about how often or how many notes to write. The jar we use is attractive as are the multi-colored slips of paper as they begin to accumulate.
By the end of the year we have quite a collection. It is a blissful treat to open and read each one and reminisce about the events described. The activity is a springboard for discussing goals for the coming year.
We opened the 2023 notes on New Year’s Eve. Winter Solstice or Christmas Eve are other great times.
The activity serves as a way to review the year and begin to frame our thinking about the upcoming new one. How can we invite more of the experiences we value into the coming year? How do we wish to prioritize our time? What new activities do we want to explore together?
The themes were interesting to me, and it struck me that there was not a single purchase or particular object mentioned. Minimalism supports our focus on experiences. We’re not engaged in buying the newest, biggest, or brightest thing.
There were notes about time spent with family and friends, travel and experiencing new places, special moments spent together at home and observations about nature. There were also notes of gratitude for good health news, occasions where we were able to help others and personal accomplishments.
Our gratitude jar practice reminds us of our blessings: meaningful connections with others, simple pleasures, the beauty of nature, the joy and excitement of new experiences and sights, and the thrill of reaching a new goal.
I look forward to creating and reviewing this new year’s gratitude jar. I’m certain there will be new themes, lessons and inspirations ahead.
Each day offers a fresh start. I plan to enjoy the beauty of as many sunrises as possible and feel gratitude for each one.
About the Author: Jennifer Tritt enjoys writing about her minimalist lifestyle and insights about simplicity. You can find out more about her on her Facebook.