Reject Resolutions for 2012! Bring on the Gratitude!
As we say goodbye to 2011, why not also say goodbye to making New Year’s Resolutions for 2012? Let’s face it, if you are one of the overwhelming majority of humans, and statistically speaking, you more than likely are, you won’t stick to the resolution anyway and this deviation from the plan can lead you down a path of self-destruction!
Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik’s research from as early as the 1920s, showed that our subconscious is better at remembering our unfinished tasks than our completed ones. So, it might be better not to start a project if you don’t plan to finish. American psychologist Will Joel Friedman claims that being haunted by unfinished business prevents us from living in the present. This nagging of the subconscious actually moves our accomplishments to the back burner while the remnants of our resolutions move to the forefront, increasing stress and gnawing away at our self-esteem.
This lack of harmony from unfinished events is thought to make us forget and be ungrateful for what we have and keeps us restless and yearning after what we don’t. Friedman’s research showed that this yearning drives us towards more consumerism, wanting another child or marriage, or to the freezer for the leftover Christmas cookies. The result is often, too much stuff cluttering up the home, dissonance with loved ones and perhaps expensive dental work. In these troubled times, when we are bombarded with bad news every day, do we really need to subject ourselves to clutter of any kind, tangible or intangible?
One way to stop our subconscious from sidetracking our lives is to reject making resolutions we know we won’t keep, reduce material clutter and start counting our blessings. Seems too simple, doesn’t it? But research conducted in 2009 showed that an excessive focus on the accumulation of material goods leads to a plethora of negative consequences, including decreased happiness and well-being, as well as higher anxiety and less zest for life. Material driven people were also found to have lower and more erratic levels of self-esteem brought on by the reliance on external rather than internal sources of personal fulfillment
Current research also shows that individuals with a sense of gratitude, are less materialistic and more satisfied with their life. People who are grateful for life experiences are more likely to be appreciative and this may lead to seeing the world as more meaningful. A grateful person is likely to shift focus from seeking what one does not have, to being thankful for what they already possess. This grateful focus generates a sense of contentment with one’s life.
I am grateful that when I turn on the faucet, clean water runs freely until I choose to turn it off. I am haunted by
the images of people walking for miles, carrying jerry cans in search of water from my trip to Kenya this past summer. I can’t turn on the water to drink, cook or shower without thinking of those without this most basic need. I am fortunate to have water, shelter and too much food. My focus shifted after visiting Africa, and this sense of gratitude is leading me to feel content rather than restless at the end of 2011.
Gratitude is a positive emotion that can broaden our perspective, inspire acts of kindness and build social bonds. This year, let’s embrace the positive by being grateful and reject making those nagging resolutions. I feel better already, don’t you?
Lambert, N. M. (2009). A changed perspective: How gratitude can affect sense of coherence through positive reframing. The Journal of Positive Psychology , 4 (6), 461-470.
Lambert, N. M. (2009). More gratitude, less materialism: The mediating role of life satisfaction. The Journal of Positive Psychology , 4 (1), 32-42.
Mohanty, R. I. (2010, December). Tired of failed New Year’s resolutions? Us the Z-effect to your advantage. Christian Science Monitor .
Nelson, C. (2009). Appreciating gratitude: Can gratitude be used as a psychological intervention to improve individual well-being? Councelling Psychology Review , 24 (3&4), 38-50.