Can You Feel Gratitude for 2020?

Welcome to 2021 and Happy New Year!

If you’re looking for another note about “good riddance to 2020,” don’t look here. In fact, I’m hoping you can feel gratitude towards 2020, and find beauty in it. Practicing gratitude is a new experience for me, but considering the impact it’s already had on my thinking, I need to explore this further and share it with you.

“Can one feel gratitude, even in the worst of times?”

I absolutely believe the answer is yes. Furthermore, research shows those practicing gratitude have better sleep, more energy, better relationships, and better physical & mental health. This is true even for those experiencing trauma, loss and life disruptions/transitions.

There’s no doubt that 2020 brought new and unique challenges related to the pandemic; all of us had our lives turned upside down. There’s no doubt that climate change, injustice, inequity, and pure hatred were often on full display. There’s no doubt that for some of you, your world was shattered this past year through loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, or loss of your well-being.

I am not suggesting that we minimize or ignore our pain, our loss and our suffering. However, all the “good riddance” and “worst year ever” talk over the past month has definitely got me thinking about where we focus our thoughts. We usually concentrate on what we’ve lost, on what we don’t have, on what could have been. We do this all the time, even when not talking about what we endured in 2020. In fact, every New Years, I hear the same thing — good riddance to this past year, I’m looking forward to next year.

“We are what we think about,” is the very line in Susan Brassfield Cogan’s collection of the sayings of the Buddha. Other philosophers and speakers have echoed this theme — on whatever you focus your thoughts is what grows in your mind, and thus in your life. 

Can we use this concept to re-think about 2020? Can we spend time thinking about the beauty and gratitude we found this past year, even during the possible darkest of times? 

For some this may seem impossible? Finding gratitude when you lost someone you love is challenging, seemingly unthinkable. Finding gratitude when you don’t know how you’ll pay rent, put food on the table, and support a family, may seem like a fantasy. Yet even in these most dire times, finding gratitude is not only possible, it’s mandatory. Again, it not a request to forget or ignore our pain, but rather to balance it. Practicing gratitude can allow us to experience extreme pain and suffering while not being engulfed. Practicing gratitude can help us have a more positive outlook and better well-being as we go through our day-to-day challenges.

As I said earlier, this is new to me; there are many ways to practice gratitude. I’ve found journaling to be an easy place to start, and I’ve noticed the few minutes I spend each night doing so, also increases my awareness and gratitude throughout the day.

I challenge you to find beauty and gratitude for 2020, even where it seems hardest and I hope you will continue that throughout 2021 and beyond. I’ll start you off by noting something things I was grateful for in 2020, amidst all the chaos and challenges.

  • I’m grateful for the resilience and innovation my children showed in the face of unprecedented disruption to their schooling, their routines, and their social interactions.
  • I’m grateful for all the human beings throughout America and the world that worked tirelessly, while putting themselves at great risk, so I could seclude myself in safety.
  • I’m grateful I and others became more aware of the existence and ramifications of white privilege and white supremacy in this country, that has been continuing unabated for over 400 years. I’m further grateful that fighting to rectify these injustices became a higher priority for many white individuals. I’m grateful for the stories, and personal experiences shared by black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) so that I can better understand a system in which I am complicit.
  • In 2020, we saw climate change cause havoc and devastation in real time. Yet, I have gratitude to those that are researching these problems, educating us about them, and fighting to make us believe and invest in solutions.
  • I’m grateful for every moment where the sun shone on my face on cool Colorado day, bringing warmth and comfort.
  • I’m grateful I have a platform and an audience to share what I continually learn about health and wellness throughout my research and my personal experiences. Thank you for being part of that.

“Give your thoughts and energy to beauty and gratitude, and let that grow within you.” 

David Gordon

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