How to Start the New Year with Gratitude

As a new year begins, you may see people saying “new year, new me” on social media. Research indicates that people are more likely to pursue their goals during times that feel like new beginnings, such as a new year. It’s a familiar experience for many – entering a new year with an outline of our ideal vision of ourselves and how we are going to get there. We automatically resolve to reduce or eliminate all of our unhealthy habits and initiate new healthy ones to reach our “full potential”. However, broad new year’s resolutions can be hard to keep, which can lead to unwarranted disappointment in oneself.
So, what could you do instead? Perhaps you could start the new year with gratitude for the things you accomplished or the challenges you have faced to get you to where you are today.

Reflect on Your Accomplishments from the Previous Year

Many people are focused on all the things they have yet to accomplish whether that be at work, at school, with health, with family, or life in general. It’s not very motivating to go into the new year telling yourself you’re a total failure and this can take a toll on your emotional well-being. Believe it or not, you’re awesome, you have value, and each person has a unique experience during their time on Earth. It’s important to recognize this in yourself. It is also important to remember this when the automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) in your brain try to tell you otherwise. Remember, acknowledging your accomplishments is a form a self-care.
It can be extremely challenging to write down your accomplishments if you’re someone who has a habit of being hard on yourself. It can also be challenging to try and figure out where to even begin but let me help you with that. You can begin by asking yourself what are you proud of in the past year? If your knee-jerk reaction is “I don’t know”, you can try looking through the photos on your phone or on social media. We like to document our successes, sometimes we do this knowingly and other times we do it subconsciously, so there is a good chance that looking through your photos can help you determine your answers, reminding you of the wonderful times that perhaps recent memory may have forgotten. Now that you’ve outlined your accomplishments, you should take the time to be present and celebrate them. This can be anything from booking a massage for yourself, taking yourself out to dinner, or perhaps all you would like is a night alone. The point is that it’s important to celebrate and you can do what you need here.

How Can You Appreciate the Hurdles you Went Through?

Each year, people experience challenges and triumphs. Sometimes people can overcome their hurdles in what seems like a relatively easy way, and for others, it can bog them down for days, weeks, or even months. So, why do some people struggle with overcoming hurdles? The real issue is the relationship you have with the challenges you’ve experienced. Complaining about, resisting, or even feeling sorry for yourself about the “bad” things that are happening is normal. While having this reaction is normal, it does not address the genuine emotions we’re experiencing, the real issues we’re facing, or make things better for us. I am not saying that you should pretend everything is “fine” when it isn’t, because that doesn’t help either – but instead, we can acknowledge how we respond to the hurdles.
It is important to remember that on your path of life, growth, and success, you are bound to encounter difficulties and challenges. The road to success, or even happiness, is full of lessons from making mistakes, facing challenges, and even from failure. Challenges can be amazing learning experiences – things that force you to grow and change. You can learn from these experiences by thinking about what has challenged you over the last year and asking yourself: what can you appreciate about the challenges? What are you learning form them? And what are you able to appreciate in yourself and your life because of these things? Appreciating these difficulties can allow you to learn from them, accept them, and ultimately take back your power from them, reducing some of the heaviness in your life that you are carrying because of them.

What Do You Hope for Most in This New Year?

Now that you have reflected on your accomplishments and understood the importance of appreciating the hurdles in your life, you may still hope to achieve new things in this year, and that’s great! However, when most people set goals for the new year, they are often too broad – such as “I want to eat healthier”. Broader goals can be overwhelming without a concrete plan to achieve them. That is because the path to achieving the goals may not always be clear, which can result in frustration, lack of direction, and lack of motivation.
It’s important to recognize that gratitude and goals can co-exist. Being grateful about your life right now doesn’t mean you don’t want to grow and create change. Accomplishing your goals is even more possible when you start with a foundation of gratitude. Instead of feeling frustrated that you haven’t already accomplished your goals, you’ll feel happy about where you are, while eagerly anticipating the journey ahead. In a nutshell, being grateful for all you have now sets the stage for realizing your goals in the future. SMART goals can help you achieve both.
SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. SMART goals offer much-needed structure and helps expand planning deeper which ultimately helps you put your goals into action while forecasting barriers and solutions. For more information on how to set SMART goals please see this SMART Goals link.
We all have different ways of implementing gratitude and goal-setting routines that work for us, but overall, the same principles apply. By combing the two practices, we can feel in control of our own wellness journeys, improving our relationships, careers, and ultimately our happiness every day.

Final Thoughts

Finding gratitude isn’t always easy if you’re used to focusing on the negatives in your life. Remember, gratitude doesn’t have to be saved for the “big” things in life. The habit of being grateful starts with appreciating every good thing in life and recognizing that there is nothing too small for you to be thankful of. The end goal is to find a new appreciation for you!


M.S.W., R.S.W., R.P. (Q)

Katie Arnold is a Master of Social Work student working with Bloom Well Therapy. Katie believes in sharing different mental health challenges that individuals go through, giving them the chance to recognize that they are not alone. She believes it is crucial to provide individuals with the opportunity to learn and grow, understand that support is available, and to help them reach their goals. 

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