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  • The New Years Practice That Will Lower Your Stress All Year

    2 years ago, my husband and I started a good things/gratitude jar after seeing a few posts about them on Facebook. We spent part of New Years Eve (2013) and New Years Day (2014) decorating a jar for our purposes. It turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself:

    good things jar

    Then, as good things happened to us, we wrote them out on slips of paper and put them in the jar.

    Note: We didn’t treat the jar like a gratitude journal and put in everything we were grateful for each day, we’d have needed something much bigger than this jar for that. Instead we continued with our own formal and informal gratitude practices (yes, you can have both) and saved the bigger stuff for the jar.

    A few examples:

    • After wanting to see the Blue Man Group live for years, we finally saw them in 2014 so we put a slip in the jar that said “Finally saw the Blue Man Group!! It was amazing!! So much energy!”
    • While we’re grateful every time we find change on the ground and we always pick it up, I once found change every day for several days in a row and put a slip in the said something to the effect of “Found change __ days in a row!!” When I found a 50 cent piece, that was unusual and large enough to warrant a slip of its own
    • When I find an unexpected sale on something I need to buy, it goes in the jar. For instance, I was recently looking for something to cover a bookshelf/cart in my office so that the imperfections of the wood on the surface wouldn’t show and the binders with handmade labels on the spines would be hidden. I found a beautiful prayer shawl that was not only the right size, but also a perfect fit for the decor in my office. It was 50% off AND the cashier had a 15% off coupon at the register that he scanned for me as well. Yeah, you can bet that went in the jar.

    At the end of last year, we had a pretty respectable volume of slips in the jar; and that was with forgetting to put some in at the beginning of the year. Not bad, eh?

    gratitude jar yr 1

    We found that as the year went on, we were adding more slips to it than we had been when we first started. Maybe that was just a factor of us getting used to remembering to do it, or maybe it was us simply recognizing more things that were worthy of going in the jar. I don’t know. Either way, it pleased us.

    Last  year on New Year’s Eve we opened the jar and read all of the slips aloud. It was a great way to end the year on a high note by reviewing everything that went right during the year. We felt more blessed than we usually do. It was a great reminder that any problems we’d had to face could be described by a simple hashtag: #FirstWorldProblem.

    It went so well, that we did it again this year. We even used the same jar, we just had to cut a small piece of construction paper to tweak the date a bit:

    Gratitude jar 2015

    They say that gratitude breeds more things to be grateful for. I have to say that as far as the good things/gratitude jar goes, this has proven itself to be true, at least so far. This year, we’ve actually had to push all the slips down to make room for more!!

    gratitude jar 2015 yr end

    Now, I’m not saying that this practice alone brought about the increase in good things added to the jar, but it sure did help. We also had to do our part, like actually save the money needed to purchase event tickets, even if that meant denying ourselves a Starbucks chai to do so. We learned through this practice that the music, art, and theater events we attend always seem to end up in the jar but, as much as we love them, a Starbucks chai never does. It makes it easier to deny ourselves the chai in order to save for something we’re going to love even more.

    It’s not just about recognizing and being grateful for the wonderful things, it’s also about finding the good amongst the not-so-good: A few weeks ago, my husband’s back went out and he was unable to go to work for 4 days. This is a problem because he doesn’t get paid sick days at his job. It would have been easy to panic. It wold have been easy to complain that the multinational company he works for doesn’t offer paid sick time, and I’ll admit, I may have mentioned that once or twice to friends or coworkers. Buuuttt…. after having an active gratitude practice for years and doing the good things/gratitide jar for the last 2, we were able to reframe the “problem” into something to be thankful for…. We had savings to cover the lost income. Instead of bemoaning the withdrawal from savings we put a slip in the jar being grateful that we had savings to draw on. It’s all perspective.

    That is the type of mental shift you can achieve from simply practicing gratitude and acknowledging the good things in your life. When you can reframe your troubles (not getting paid) into something positive (having savings to cover the income loss), life loses some of its stress. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still have stress, everyone does; but you’ll slowly and subtly adjust your mindset to an attitude of gratitude. Even in the worst circumstances, you’ll be able to focus less on the negative and more on whatever positives there may be.

    So what are you waiting for… grab yourself a jar and whatever you can find around the house to decorate the jar with and have a little fun this weekend. Then start focusing on the good in your life and watch the good things increase as you do.

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