If you’re anything like most of us, another year ending means a lot of things: anxiety, hectic planning and travel, trying to meet everyone’s expectations (including your own) for the ideal holidays, not getting in a fistfight with your relatives at the dinner table. We’d like to celebrate another year gone and a new one arriving, but it can feel overwhelming and exhausting. So we often just survive the holidays and move right on with our lives, and suddenly, it’s mid-February again and we can’t remember anything about 2018.
I have a technique that I think can help. It’s not complicated, it’s not hippy-dippy, and it only takes a half-hour (or two and a half hours if you really milk it). I am terrible at being present, being in the moment, consciously noticing when I’m happy, whatever you call it, and this is something I’ve done for the past few years to remedy that. The whole thing (but especially step three and/or four) is a very simple way to remember more of the meaningful things in your life, because between being busy and looking at glowing screens when we feel less busy, life can seem like a blur. As you might already know, gratitude can actually make you happier, and reflecting on things helps you retain them.
Here it is. Hope it works for you too:
Step 1: Get a piece of paper and a pen (or the notes app on your phone) and go sit somewhere for a half-hour or an hour where you can reasonably concentrate without interruption.
Step 2: Write down your five favorite moments of the past 12 months. For better results, write down ten moments. These can be meals, conversations, sunsets, hikes, trail runs, beers, cups of coffee, joy experienced vicariously through a friend or relative, whatever. And they don’t have to all be “good” moments—they can just be meaningful. I find it useful to scroll through all the photos on my phone to jog my memory about all the things I did in the past year (I’m sure you’ve noticed that you take photos when you’re having meaningful experiences).
Step 3: Take a few minutes and reflect on those moments. This doesn’t have to be a solemn thing, just give each item on the list a few seconds. Try to remember a few more details from each one, or just say to yourself, “Shit yeah, that night camping on the coast was great,” or “I was so tired at work the next day but that show was fantastic,” or “I can’t believe we didn’t get food poisoning from that.”
Step 4 (optional): If you can get this organized, try enlisting a partner for the whole thing. Spouse, good friend, sibling, whoever—meet up for an hour over coffee or beer or burritos and go through your lists one item at a time with each other. This is just a slightly more fun version of Step 3, if you have the right person to do it with.
That’s it. Hopefully over the next couple weeks, you can find some gratitude, and hang onto it a little better too.