Cultivating gratitude in the new year

By Danna Downing

After seven-plus decades of living and learning, I know for certain that finding gratitude is not just a mental exercise. It involves the whole body and soul, the people you love and the community you live in. Not to mention never, never giving up. It is also a daily habit. What follows is not a recipe for happiness; rather it is a collection of tools I use to make a good day. Perhaps it will be useful to you also.

Calculate the reality.

No amount of wishful thinking can change reality. But reality can always be tempered. I find it helpful to face the facts of the day head-on in the morning and surrender to what cannot be denied or changed. Sometimes it is easy to do this. Sometimes it is extremely hard. More often than not, the reality changes once I start to take action. It is always an unexpected gift when it does.

Do the next right thing.

Especially when things look too hard or I do not know where to begin, I begin the morning by doing the next right thing. Usually this involves taking the dog out to do his business and a nice ice-cold Diet Coke for me. Add to that a raisin-cinnamon English muffin and I am well on my way to a comforting morning routine.

Sometimes doing the right thing involves keeping a promise I made to someone else, no matter what. It can also be a matter of re-negotiating a promise I made to myself to simplify the day. This technique is even more helpful when you are trying NOT to do something or change a long-time self-defeating habit. This technique comes from the fine folks at Alcoholics Anonymous and other support groups who work hard to live one day at a time. It has saved lives and can be used by anyone who is under stress.

Create what order you can, wherever you can, in the present moment. Let go of the rest.

I find sorting my piles and creating clear spaces in my physical domain allows me to think more clearly and gain momentum on the day. I often do a brain dump of things on my mind which eventually evolves into a list that gets prioritized. Now that I am retired, it also involves taking things off the list, either for another day or because it really does not even have to be done today. Tomorrow or never is simply fine, too.

Look for harmony and synergy.

Whether in relationships or for efficient use of time and energy, life always works better. Enjoy loving and being loved.

Be of service.

It is a win for whomever you serve and makes you feel good too. Little or big acts count the same. It is one of the reasons I belong to Rotary.

Be active.

This spring and summer, I set a goal of doing a 5K dog walk at Prairie View Park most days of the week. We walked 538 miles to date and burned 57,615 calories. I treasure all the adventures and beautiful surroundings we enjoyed. I worried much less. I have never felt better.

Be mindful. Find beauty and joy.

Increased awareness is a gift from heaven and works miracles on a challenging day.

Feel the gratitude.

It comes more readily when you work with the grace in the universe, support from others, and the reward from your kind habits to yourself and others. Wishing you a Happy New Year! You deserve it!

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