January is a magical month here in Colorado. Snow glistens on the top of the mountains and most trees sleep deeply, readying themselves to burst into color come spring, while the evergreens stand silent watch. For me, January brings a new personal journal and the happiness that comes with touching clean, crisp pages awaiting my ideas and experiences in the coming year.
I used to faithfully write at three resolutions on the first page of each new journal. I knew the likelihood of actually fulfilling them was slight, but it seemed the thing to do. Yet, over time, I realized that for me, making New Years resolutions starts my year off with unhelpful self-judgment and negative thinking. Setting personal goals is not inherently negative, but when I made my New Year’s resolutions, I would focus on what didn’t I achieve last year that I should do this year? So I now start my journals with three gratitudes: three things that connect me the goodness of creation and start my year in an attitude of appreciation.
Taking time to appreciate the good things in our lives has measurable positive effects on our moods. According a 2015 study in The Journal of Positive Psychology, writing down three good things we are grateful for every day for 21 days significantly increases a our level of optimism for the next six months.
The importance of gratitude for our well being is not news to the Abrahamic faith traditions. The Hebrew Scriptures exhort the importance of thankfulness over 150 times, while the first verse of the Qur’an begins with a call to express praise and gratitude to God. In the New Testament, Paul exhorts us throughout his letters to give both our anxieties and our thanks to God, and in doing so, share God’s peace.
As we launch into 2018, I invite us to not only consider our goals, but also take time to be grateful for the good things in our life each day.
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7).
Rev. Amy Petré Hill (she/her/hers)
Rev. Amy Petré-Hill is the founder of Mental Health & Inclusion Ministries in Aurora, Colorado, and the JFK Partner's Spiritual Care Fellow at the Univ. of Colorado Medical School. She previously worked as a disability rights attorney and is now the spiritual advisor to the Voices for Veterans Mental Health Council of Eastern Colorado and Mental Health First Aid instructor. She currently serves as the chair of the MHN.