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The holiday season can be overwhelming. In recent years I’ve found a practice that has become an annual event for me. It’s all about Gratitude and Intentions for the coming year.

Gratitude isn’t a new idea; most spiritual practices and philosophies emphasise gratitude and compassion for others. But in recent years gratitude has shifted from being an idea to a concrete tool that people can use to become happier and healthier.

Greg Krech from ‘Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection’ calls this state of appreciation “grace,” a term used in many religions. However, grace as a practice is not a belief as much as much as a shift in thinking. Or as Krech puts it: “It’s the difference between seeing life as an entitlement and seeing it as a gift.” And “To live a life of gratitude is to open our eyes to the countless ways in which we are supported by the world around us.”

However it is practiced, gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Yes, pain and injustice and cruelty exist in this world. Politics is increasingly divided. The difference in the well-off and the poorest appears to be growing. But when we focus on the gifts of life, we can gain a feeling of well-being.

Throughout the year I keep a Gratitude Jar. In there I write down those moments that I’m so grateful for – big or small. There are some days or weeks when I might not but then something always reminds me. The jar sits on my windowsill in my office with little squares of paper so I can easily jot down my gratitude and pop it in the jar.

Between Christmas and New Year I sit by the fire and open my jar for the year just coming to an end. It’s so wonderful to remember the people, events or memories that I was grateful for throughout the year. It’s something that I so look forward to as I’ve generally forgotten what I put in my jar. A very nourishing exercise.

In the last couple of years, I’ve also had a ‘wishes’ jar ( or as I am now going to call it for 2019 my Intentions Jar). After I’ve cleared my gratitude jar, I open this jar. This one was created a year ago and rarely is anything added to the jar – although sometimes in January I may think of a couple more to add in. It’s left on my windowsill. Again, it’s a wonderful surprise to see what my ‘wishes’ or Intentions were for the coming year. Also whether they happened! In the past, a few wishes have gone back into the jar, a wish or intention for the coming year.

I’ve realised that intentions are much more powerful than ‘wishes’. For me, wishes now seem too ‘light’ as if I don’t really believe they can come true. After seeing Lynne McTaggart (author of ‘The Field’ and ‘The Power of Eight’ or catch her on an online YouTube) speak in the last few months and reading much more about the power of intention, I feel intention is much more powerful. As Lynn, an investigative journalist writes in ‘The Power of Eight’ – ‘how do you prove something that defies every law that you’ve been taught? What if your entire premise is outside the bounds of what is known or observable? What if you were trying to locate the mathematical equation for a miracle?’ The Power of Intention.

Whether you ‘hold’ the jars metaphorically ‘lightly’ or for fun. It’s a wonderful exercise for this time of year and the forthcoming year. I encourage you to create gratitude and Wish/Intentions jars.

May you be clear on your intentions for 2019 and grateful for what transpires

Written by Claire Palmer – Claire is an Aziz Corporate Executive Coach. With an international corporate career behind her, Claire works with senior leaders, often with technical backgrounds, from large global organisations, who want to polish their leadership skills to move forward in their career.

Claire also helps to run a Body, Mind, and Soul Spring weekend retreat. Next dates are Friday, May 17th-May19th, 2019. For more information click here.