Yesterday, I read this article in the New York Times . I thought the article was excellent. The title makes it seem as if it is only about New Year’s resolutions, but that isn’t the case. The article is about how willpower can cause damage to our health and compassion, pride and gratitude can create healing.
According to the article, research shows that we are willing to do many more tasks and accomplish much more if we feel proud, compassionate or grateful. I’m not going to explain the whole article here, but it is worth the read (I promise). It is one of the most interesting and possibly helpful, articles I have read on psychology in a long time.
So, as I look over the intentions I have written for 2018 and continue to add new ones over the next couple of days, I want to find far more ways to add pride, compassion, and gratefulness into my daily life. I can use all the healing and positive mental health benefits I can get, so this exercise seems like a worthy goal and a great way to start out 2018.
My husband and I sit down (without cell phones and television) to have dinner together most nights of the week. It isn’t that we have a fancy dinner, it is usually something easily prepared, leftovers, veggie burgers, fried egg sandwiches, or if we have been to Costco, we will have salmon filets. But it isn’t the food that we find important, it is the act of looking at each other and talking to one another. During dinner, we always ask the same question of each other, “What were the two best things that happened to you today?” There are times when we struggle to come up with two things, and other times when we list five or six. It is an exercise in gratitude that we have been practicing for a couple of years.
This year, I would like to add more rituals and exercises into our lives. I read on Facebook that a writer who I know keeps a jar and each week she writes down one good thing that happened and puts it into the jar. On New Year’s Day, she reads all 52 good things that happened in the last year. My husband and I are going to create such a jar, and make it our tradition to read all the highlights of the year the following New Year’s Eve or Day. Keeping and adding to the jar should help with feeling more grateful all year long as my husband and I reflect on the best thing that happened to us each week.
Adding more compassion to our lives is fairly easy. I follow some blogs where people are going through some pretty tough health journeys (like cancer), and their words can often bring me to tears. I can make sure that I keep reading heartfelt stories and the experiences of others because it keeps my empathy and compassion muscles working. Also, I will continue to help raise money for the low income and homeless in our city. In fact, my husband and I are going to volunteer for one of our favorite non-profit’s events today. There is a concert in the park, and all of the donations received go to feeding, clothing, medical treatment, etc. for the poor. We are going to stand in a booth and collect donations, talk to people, and give out flyers.
I will continue to buy coffee, or lunch for homeless people who tell me they are hungry and ask me to buy them a meal. There are endless ways to show compassion. For example, I can have compassion on a barista at a coffee shop who is swamped with demanding customers – I can be patient and let her know that she is doing a good job and that I am not in a hurry. Ways to be compassionate will present themselves to me continuously, and I just need to be aware of being kind, and considerate of those around me.
The last of the three healing ways to make us more productive is pride. The article wasn’t suggesting we feel the kind of pride that makes us seem obnoxious to others. It was referring to a sense of pride, of being proud of a job well done.
I am proud when I finish a blog post. It doesn’t have to be a perfect blog post, and it doesn’t have to get dozens of likes. I am proud of having completed something that I think of as valuable. In the New Year, I plan to do much more writing (my mentor expects five to ten pages on my memoir every week), so I will have many opportunities to feel a sense of pride. My husband and I also want to cook a recipe that is new to us at least once a week in the New Year, so this is something I can do with my husband that would bring me a sense of pride.
If the researchers are right that compassion, gratitude, and pride are healing, then 2018 should be one of my healthiest years yet. If not, at least I will have made some great choices, and I can add that to my something to be proud of column which I hope is full