The New Year presents a great opportunity to think about the people who have made a difference in your life in 2019. I cultivate feelings of gratitude and connection by recognizing all who have made a positive impact. I create a list, and then call them or email them to let them know.
This practice has multiple benefits. The initial reflection enables you to experience gratitude, which is good for your physical and emotional health. Creating a list helps you get specific, which is a way of focusing on the abundance that is in your life. And the act of calling people on your list helps others feel appreciated. It might even provide an opportunity for them to tell you what you mean to them.
If this practice is new for you, it might help to write out what you want to say. It’s OK to read from the paper. A benefit of writing it out is that feelings of gratitude arise again when you put pen to paper (or fingers to keypad).
Here is an example from my own life. I’ve recently moved from Brooklyn, New York to Vancouver, Washington. During this transition, I’ve experienced the gift of others going out of their way to welcome me to my new home. Here is a written version of this gratitude practice to a woman who also lives in Vancouver. She is a friend of my sister and before my move, I had not seen her since my college years.
I’m calling you because I am thinking about the people who have made a difference to me this past year.
Moving has been an adventure that I have been looking forward to, and yet it has also been a big change that has at times been stressful.
I want you to know I felt welcomed when you arrived with wine and a plant. Your help in unpacking my kitchen boxes made the experience lighter and less daunting.
You have a gift for welcoming. Thank you for sharing it.
You certainly don’t have to wait for the new year to try out this gratitude practice. But if you haven’t done so before, it’s a great time to start.
When I first created a comprehensive list of people that have made a positive impact, I immediately felt well-being. But, at the same time, the thought of systematically contacting everyone felt less spontaneous than I thought I’d like. The benefit, though, was that it helped me really articulate my gratitude, both to myself and to others. It deepened my sense of connection.
I’ve modified the practice to receive its benefits in a way that feels more organic. I still generate a comprehensive list, but then I contact a few people at a time. I return to the list every week or so. The very act of returning to the list has helped me express gratitude more consistently and thoughtfully. And it more directly keeps my awareness on the abundance that is in my life.
Telling people that they matter creates intimacy and a sense of belonging. It opens our hearts and reminds us of what matters most, which is the capacity to care and be cared for by others.
Create a list of names of those who have made a positive impact in your life and why. Their impact might be small or great, that is not important. If it helps, write out the details like I have done above. Then call them and tell them. If it is challenging to create a comprehensive list, then think of four to six people. Allow the practice to involve risk-taking on your part. For example, include people with whom you are already comfortable sharing as well as those with whom you haven’t yet had the experience.
After you’ve shared your messages, you can feel good that you’ve let others know that they have made a difference and that they matter!