In January 2014, I moved to Birmingham. It was a scary decision for me. I knew no-one there, I was starting a new job, and I was moving into a house full of people I didn’t know. But instead of making my usual New Year’s resolutions that year, I started a couple of things that helped me beyond measure. Firstly, I decided to have more fun. I’d spent the first half of my twenties being hard-working and successful, but incredibly unhappy. So that was it – my aim for 2014 was just to have more fun. I prioritised immediate happiness.
The second thing I started doing was taking time to feel gratitude. At the end of every day (or the beginning of the next – sometimes I forgot!) I wrote down at least 3 things I was grateful for. Although I found it cringey at first, I did it until it became a habit, and something I looked forward to.
I think those two things were what started the happiest year of my life until that point. It was the year in which I made two huge decisions – to begin my yoga teacher training and to travel, both things I’d wanted to do for years, but had found excuses not to. Neither decision featured in some master plan for my future. Instead, they came naturally, almost effortlessly, from the strength, positivity and self-confidence that prioritising happiness and being grateful had brought about.
So I’m asking you at the end of the year to take 15 minutes to write down your answers to the following questions , and notice how doing this makes you feel. I promise it’s far more effective than making endless lists of new year’s resolutions to bring about positive change.
- Which experiences are you grateful for in the last year?
These might be travel, relationship or work experiences. For me this is gratitude for the diverse experiences I’ve had travelling – doing yoga on a beach in Thailand, partying my birthday away in a tiny town in Andalucia and participating in a Mayan Fire Ceremony in Guatemala.
- What life lessons are you grateful for learning?
You might find, as I did when I thought about this, that some of the life lessons you’re most grateful for have come from the toughest parts of this year. I’m now grateful for the time I spent being hyper self-critical, because it helped me to recognise the difference it made when I began working on self-acceptance instead.
- What opportunities are you grateful for being given in the last year?
Your brain is programmed to focus on your negative memories, so it can be easy to overlook the opportunities you’ve had. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the chance to work at some amazing places – Suryalila Retreat Centre, Moinhos Velhos Detox Retreat and 21st Sanctuary Retreats, and to have started my Advanced Yoga Teacher Training with Frog Lotus Yoga International.
- Who are you grateful for having in your life in the last year?
Consider all the people who’ve contributed to your life this year. Even people who at the time had a negative impact may have taught you a valuable lesson that you can be grateful for now. I’m ridiculously grateful for my family, who have supported me both practically and emotionally through all the ups and downs of nomadic lifestyle. I’m also grateful for the inspiring people I’ve met on my travels and for the lovely people who read and share my blog posts (thank you!).
- What are you grateful to yourself for in the last year?
Think about what it is that you’ve done to help yourself this year, and thank yourself for it. I am grateful for my own energy, and the fact that I kept going when things were difficult. I am also grateful to myself for keeping up my yoga and meditation practice which helped me to find the strength to do that.
Looking forward to next year
Once you’ve done this, if you’re in the mood for looking ahead, think about what you want to bring more of into your life in the coming year. Bear in mind this research from Amy Cuddy about why most New Year’s resolutions fail. Keep it simple, memorable and positive. Possible examples:
- To have more fun (I highly recommend this one!)
- To enjoy being active
- To find the opportunity in every challenge
Having already expressed gratitude you’ll be in the perfect frame of mind to make a difference to your next year.
Wishing you an amazing new year lovely people – let me know how you get on with your 15 minutes of gratitude!