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New Year’s Resolutions and Gratitude Lists

Many of us make new years resolutions. Irresistible to those of us who like an occasional “fresh start”, the tradition of new years resolutions goes back 4,000 years, all the way to ancient Babylonia. At that time, the new year occurred at the vernal equinox, the start of spring, and many Babylonians resolved to make good on their word and return borrowed farm equipment, so their neighbors could begin the new year of farming.

Making resolutions can be a powerful act. Doing so encourages us to slow down, take stock of the year, and think about what we’d like to change or create in the coming year. Before Anna was born, Michael and I started a tradition of writing our resolutions on paper and then burning them in the fireplace, a ritual we have continued to do as a family. Young children can write something they wish to take with them in the new year and something they wish to leave behind. Resolutions and wishes can be burned in a fire, or kept in journal or a wish jar. (See Wish Jar instructions, below.)

Because the new year is a time of transition, some people, especially kids, may enjoy looking back at the past year, as well as forward into the new one. After all, the Roman god Janus, who was said to rule beginnings, transitions, doorways and time, was often depicted with two faces so he could look back and forward at once.

Gratitude Lists

One way to look back at the year is to make a gratitude list. What are you grateful for from the past year? Often our gratitude list includes things we’d like to carry with us or create more of in the coming year. The list can also be kept in a jar (below), or written in a journal or on a poster. Another fun idea? Start a journal or list of things you’re grateful for on New Years Day, or place gratitude notes in a jar, to be opened on New Years Eve next year.

My dear husband gave me this journal at the end of 2005. He wrote in it every week throughout the year.

My own gratitude list includes:
A family that laughs a lot
Good friends
A Costa Rican adventure
A growing blog readership
The smell of clean laundry
The air after it rains
Vintage anything
Old cities and brick signs
Hats and gloves
Hopeful new immigrants
Good health
A warm house
Meaningful work
A new book
Books and book stores
Amusement parks
County fairs
Swing music
Salsa Music
Road trips
Fresh food
A smile from a stranger
Snow-capped mountains
Starry nights

..to name a few things

What’s on your gratitude list?

Happy New Year!

Want to read more? Check out:

New Year’s Traditions Around the World and at Home

Honor Your Family with Fun Gratitude Crafts

Make a Wish Jar

You’ll need:

Strips of paper
Jar and lid
Paint, fabric, ribbon, rickrack, letters cut from magazine pages, or other items, as desired
Primer, optional
Screwdriver, hammer and cardboard, or box cutter, optional.

Decorate your jar. You may want to prime and paint the jar lid and tie a ribbon or fabric bow around the neck.

If you want to make a slit in the lid for papers, place the lid over a piece of cardboard and carefully cut with the box cutter or hammer a screwdriver into it, in a straight line. You can also just open the jar to insert wishes.

Put the papers into the jar and place it somewhere you see often or somewhere you can check in on or add to over time.

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, Gratitude jar by The Healthy Ginger

Other Slow Family posts you might like:

Make Noisemakers to Welcome the New Year

Celebrate the New Year with Traditions from Around the World and at Home

New Year’s Resolution: Spend More Time in Nature

Happy New Year, Dear Friends!

I recently had the opportunity to take two very special hikes on Mount Tamalpais, the mountain near my home that is laced with trails for seemingly every mood and workout. One I took when one of my closest and oldest friends came to visit, and the other I took on Christmas Day with my husband Michael. (Unfortunately, Anna had to stay home that day with a bad cold.) Both hikes prompted me to make a pact with my family – we’re going to take one new hike a month and discover a new trail (and perhaps an old favorite here or there.) We count among our blessings the fact that we live in an amazingly rich place with tremendous natural beauty and well-maintained access that allows us to enjoy it.

As with most New Years, I resolve to spend meaningful time with family and friends, improve my health and well-being, and partake in activities that feed the soul. Spending time in nature fulfills all three, while profoundly and, often mysteriously, filling the personal well of wonder and awe.

Andrea and I enjoyed the Matt Davis Trail on Mt. Tam, a winding trail that traverses the mountain before dipping down to sea level:

A friend on the trail, Yukiye:

Michael and I hiked Blithedale Ridge, a shoulder of Mt. Tam that afforded great views of the mountain and lots of camaraderie and cheer among fellow hikers, mountain bikers and family groups who were out a misty and pleasant Christmas Day.

For more ideas about getting into nature, especially with kids, or starting a family nature club, see the Children & Nature Network. I also have a lot of ideas on my Slow Family Resources page.

As always, thanks for joining me on this journey. I wish you time in nature, and all else that fills your soul, in 2012.

You might also like:

Happy New Year: Celebrate with Traditions from Around the World and at Home
Wildflowers in Bloom
Hooray for Stewards of Trails and Open Space

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

Resolution for 2010: Spend More Time in Nature

Happy New Year, Dear Friends!

As we leave the holiday season and swing into 2010, I have many resolutions that involve improved health, balance, time with loved ones, and calm. Foremost among them, and the act that can really enhance all of the above, is spending more time in nature.

Richard Louv, Founder and Chairman of the Children & Nature Network, has done a great deal of work linking time spent in nature with great improvements in health, cognition, creativity and well-being. Of course most of us know and experience this — All one needs to do is step outside, take a walk, breathe deeply and look around. Of course there’s a rich, unique experience to be had in the moment, as well, while we’re busy accumulating benefits and filling the well of our own capacity for wonder and awe.

Over the holidays, good friends held a hiking party, which was a superb, healthy, uplifting alternative to an indoor gathering. The weather, which had threatened rain, held out. The spot was the breathtaking Ring Mountain Preserve in Tiburon, CA, which I wrote about when I visited at wildflower time. And the host had prepared (and hiked in!) a veritable feast of holiday foods and hot Toddies and chocolate, which we enjoyed along with great company.

While not every gathering is going to have this confluence of fortune (I’d be hard-pressed to pull off one to this degree), I took with me a great deal of inspiration and creativity as I headed back down the mountain, the smaller kids still running around up top. Sure, why not have an outdoor party when everyone else is indoors? Why not get ourselves and our friends out in nature, to enjoy the bounty of beauty and fun that is so available and so often overlooked? Whether it’s a local park, a short trail, a community garden, or a backyard fortress, nature is somewhere near you and ready to fill the well of awe.

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

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