Growing up, my mother was the queen of religious rituals and traditions. For every holiday she created something special to help me and my family prepare for the holiday and appreciate it all the more. For example, every night before going to bed during the season of Advent (the 4 weeks leading up to the first day of Christmas) my mother would have me tell her something good I had done that day. For that good deed, I would get to put a piece of straw in the manger to “make the bed soft for baby Jesus.”
While other parents were threatening that Santa was making his list of naughty and nice, my mother was encouraging good deeds to make a softer bed for a baby. And if she deemed a deed especially worthy, I got to place 2 pieces of straw in the manger! When December 25th arrived, not only was I looking forward to what Santa had left under the tree, I was also looking forward to seeing that figurine of the baby lying in a bed of straw that my little sister and I had provided for his comfort through the good things we had done for others.
As a grown-up without children of my own, I rather miss all those great traditions and rituals my mother had created for me and my sisters so I am always looking for traditions and rituals I can use to further enrich my life and add meaning to my days. Regardless of whether you celebrate any religious or cultural holidays at this time of year, we all begin a new calendar year on January first. That is something that most people do mark in some way.
One thing many people do at this time of year makes New Year’s Resolutions. For this year, I had an idea for a different kind of resolution. At some point in the past few years, I read about someone who writes down good things that happen throughout the year on individual slips of paper. He collects those papers in a large jar. At the end of the year, he sits and reads all the papers to conduct a “year in review” that highlights all the joy and blessings of the previous year.
Perhaps this year rather than (or in addition to) the traditional New Year’s Resolutions of sleeping more or losing weight or (fill in your favorite New Year’s Resolutions here), you might vow to track the goodness in your life. If you are really ambitious you may want to record one a day for 365 Days of Goodness.
If that seems overwhelming perhaps you’d rather set aside one day out of the week to contemplate the week and select your favorite memory (or memories) to record for the collection of your 52 Weeks of Joy (or whatever you decide to call it). Perhaps you wish to be a bit more spontaneous and carry slips of paper with you so you can jot down things as soon as they happen!
And writing down a sentence is not the only way to capture the memory. You can write a poem or make a sketch. Perhaps you want to start a Goodness Mural where you add a new picture or quote or memory to a giant wall hanging. Maybe you make a playlist of songs that have been significant to you and trigger a happy memory. You may wish to do this just for yourself, with your family or with your students.
Whatever way you decide to implement your New Year’s Resolutions, if you make a habit of in some way recording and reflecting on the good things that happen in your life, you train your brain to notice the good things around you. As you do this, you may start feeling a little more positively about your life. That sounds to me like a life-enriching tradition worth keeping!
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.