As 2011 was coming to an end, I was meeting with a small group to review the year. Each of us had the opportunity to reflect on what we were proud of in the past year. Where were we most satisfied? What had lifted our hearts and brought us joy? What was the biggest accomplishment?

What startled me was how difficult it was to stay on task for this assignment. Over and over one of the participants would begin, and then veer off into what hadn’t happened. One person recounted the loss of a job they loved. Another mentioned a health crisis he hadn’t gotten through. Other stories were the small negative tales we tell ourselves daily – I haven’t lost weight/exercised/started that self-improvement program – well, you get the picture.

We are so aware of what we’re not doing, and how we are falling short in our own eyes that it trumps even an open invitation to celebrate what we ARE doing. We don’t even notice all the positive steps we’ve taken and the difference our new and better habits are making in our life.

This creates unneeded stress. This does not help us.

Now that we are over the hump of getting all the holiday celebrations concluded, set aside some time.

Get clear eyed and realistic about how you have enjoyed and helped yourself thrive in 2011. I know it’s been a tough year. Many things have gone wrong. But also, many many things have gone right. You have dealt with your illness in creative ways. You have worked, loved, triumphed, initiated, quit, discovered and invented in your life. You can count your blessings, savor your steps forward, rejoice where you have let go of old baggage, and been strong and focused.

This takes time to do, and requires surmounting your resistance. It is well worth it!

Research suggests that a regular practice of noting three things that have gone well – and the reasons that happened – can help us build a sense of competence and gratitude for our efforts and the work of others.

The key is regular practice. Building and sustaining a practice of noting and appreciating goes a long way to help us strengthen our mental immune systems. We are better able to resist the downward pull of depression and helplessness that paralyze our hearts and minds.

We do lots of things for our bodies – here is an opportunity to do something for your mental and spiritual health. I guarantee you’ll feel the difference!

Happy 2012!