Getting grateful in 2020 

click to enlarge New Year's resolutions are out, New Year's traditions (and goals) are in. Photo submitted
  • New Year's resolutions are out, New Year's traditions (and goals) are in. Photo submitted

I just asked my Pique coworkers if I should write about my brand-new gratitude journal in this space this week.

Their response was an enthusiastic and unanimous, "No."

As in, "No. Literally no one wants to read about hippie-dippie, boring-ass ramblings in which you take stock of the beauty of nature and attempt to cultivate a more glass-half-full attitude."

Well, too bad Whistler—and Pique reporters. I'm here, I'm (attempting really hard to be) cheery, and I want to be more grateful in 2020, dammit.

Unlike most people, I really like New Year's Eve. I'm past the age where the holiday means puking in a back alley at 12:05 a.m. and skittering around on icy walkways in four-inch heels. Rather, I like the part where you get to look back on the past 12 months and reflect on the memorable things you did and wonderful things that happened to you—while, of course, also skimming over the not-so-great parts to see what you might learn or feel grateful to have made it through.

The last three years, I've also rung in the New Year with a cold-water dunk in a lake, which has proven to be more fun and invigorating than you'd imagine.

The one part I don't love, however, is New Year's resolutions. I'm not opposed to the idea of starting the year with a series of promises to better yourself. It's just that by February, most people have really and truly forgotten about whatever it was they wanted to fix.

Instead, for 2020 I'm attempting to cultivate a new habit and, before bed, jot down a handful of experiences or moments that that particular day delivered for which I am grateful.

As of writing this column, I'm two for two. The list includes things like an eagle that flew really close overhead while I was running and a new video of my niece in which she gets really upset talking about "dog toots."

OK, fine. I also listed the giant bottle of kombucha I drank on New Year's Day. (I'm not a hippie, I swear. I have Alberta blood in my veins so I can never legally hold that title.)

I like the idea of looking back on the journal on the cusp of 2021 and seeing all the pleasant pieces of 2020 in one place—little fragments that tell the bigger story of a year.

But, more importantly, there is actual, real science to back up the idea that practicing gratitude makes you happier. An article in Harvard Health Publishing—a publication from Harvard Medical School—called "In Praise of Gratitude" recounts a study in which one group wrote down things they were grateful for during the week, another group wrote down their daily irritations, and a third group wrote about the week's events with no emphasis on negative or positive events.

At the end of 10 weeks, the researchers found that those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and actually felt better about their lives.

They even exercised more and had fewer visits to the doctor compared to the group that wrote about their irritations. Sure, this wasn't the only conclusion or the only study done on the subject, but it makes a compelling argument for being grateful.

"Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can't feel satisfied until every physical or material need is met," the piece concludes. "Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice."

I mean, talk to me in November, but three days in, I honestly find myself already looking for things to be grateful for in order to file them away and jot them down.

This is no small accomplishment for someone who tends to naturally skew glass-half-empty.

In a world where the U.S. is on the brink of war with Iran, Australia is burning down, and anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise, that certainly means something to me.

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