When I look back on 2017, it’s easy to see a year of sadness, struggle, and grief, both on a personal level and on a wider, global scale.
At home, I started the year battling through my worst bout of depression in years, lost a dear friend of mine who had been a major part of my recovery from addiction, and lost both my paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother, both deaths which -obviously- had a big impact on our family and on me personally.
On a wider scale, the world lost talented, inspirational artists, including two of my favourites in Chris Cornell and Tom Petty, we watched in horror in the aftermath of the Manchester bombings, and felt our hearts sink in the wake of numerous atrocities and natural disasters around the world.
So yes, it’s easy to think of 2017 as a terrible year, but as I started to reflect, I became convinced that there must have been some good this year too.
Earlier this year, I committed to keeping a daily gratitude journal after reading The Magic by Rhonda Byrne.
Most days, I’d write ten things to be grateful for which always seemed to be the same -health, wealth, happiness, sobriety, or some variation of each.
Thinking about this journal gave me an idea – despite all the sadness and sorrow that was such a big part of 2017, there had to be good things that I could be grateful for too.
So I challenged myself to find them by writing my biggest gratitude list ever – 100 things I could be grateful for about the year that was.
These things could be -and ultimately became- absolutely anything that I experienced, enjoyed, witnessed or otherwise was present for during the year, from talks with friends to life-changing career decisions, TVshows I enjoyed and food I loved to improvements in health, wealth, happiness and more.
By the time I was done, I started to view 2017 a little differently.
Yes, it had been a year with a lot of sadness, but it had also been a year with a lot of joy, a lot of love, and a lot of lessons learned.
Without further ado then, here’s my complete list:
100 Things I’m Grateful For About 2017
- Waking up sober and fresh on the first day of the year in a stunning hotel room
- Getting the chance to photograph a beautiful sunrise over London’s Tower Bridge
- Enjoying a moment of peace and quiet inside St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Randomly discovering Dr Johnson’s House in London – a real hidden gem 🙂
- All the amazing people who shared their stories, strength, and love on my 100 Days Smoke Free Video
- Being treated to a delicious birthday meal by my family
- Discovering the benefits of becoming vegetarian
- Feeling -and looking- physically better than I have done in years
- Limitless improvements in all aspects of my health
- My Dad – for endless support with mountain bike repair and other things
- All the beautiful sights I’ve seen whilst working on clocking up 1,000 miles on my mountain bike
- Every one of those thousand miles for bringing me moments of serenity, clarity, joy, and self-worth
- Moments of serenity watching the sunset over Pennington Flash
- The gift of fresh air
- The gift of waking up in the morning sober
- Uncontrollable laughter with my beautiful friend Sam
- Amazing lunch and great company with my dear friend Becky
- Endless inspiration from my ridiculously talented friend Natasha
- Friday night parties with my gorgeous friends Jayde and Rommie
- Tammy, for coming into my life exactly when I needed her the most
- Being by my Nan’s bedside on her last night on Earth
- Being there with my family on my Grandad’s last night on Earth
- Being asked to carry my Grandad’s coffin and take him to his final resting place
- Everyone who gave love and condolences when my grandparents passed away – even if I didn’t realise how much I appreciated it at the time
- The gift of inspiration my wonderful friend Dave gave me at his funeral
- Celebrating five years sober
- Celebrating one year smoke-free
- All the amazing feedback I’ve received since starting my Youtube channel
- The money my Nan left me which I’ll use to go back to college
- The gift of clarity about my career and what I want for my life
- The gift of courage to do something completely different in my life
- A random date in late-November with a very pretty and very smart girl
- The absence of unnecessary fear
- Random photography walks in Manchester
- My Tai Chi instructor, for endless patience and passing on her experience so that I can keep getting a little better at something I truly enjoy
- That I didn’t do anything stupid when my depression was at its worst
- That the depression passed
- Everybody who tried to comfort me and help me during my depression, even if it didn’t always work
- The lessons I learned when I looked back on my depression
- Periods of hyper-focus and the magic of getting lost in work projects
- Long, hot showers after long, tiring days at work
- Always having more than enough
- Learning that its OK to feel whatever I’m feeling, even if my feelings are ‘negative’
- Dave Gorman’s Modern Life is Goodish – one of the few things to make me genuinely laugh after my Nan died
- A new series of Red Dwarf – my favourite show
- My sweet friend, Patrick who inspired me to change careers without even realising it
- All of my freelance writing clients
- The realisation that I can actually be disciplined
- Long chats and good laughs with Justine
- Spending quiet time over Christmas watching TV with my mum
- Being able to express my love for those in my life without fear or embarrassment
- Knowing that I am loved
- The awesome people at Leigh physiotherapy department for helping me with some unresolved pain issues
- Friday afternoon core stability classes
- Learning the real reason behind my weight gain
- Having a gym so close to my house so that I could get back in shape
- Stacy – who let me go
- My brother – who gave me his old laptop
- My sister – with whom I’ve built a better relationship as adults than we ever had as kids
- A delicious meal with my family for my parents’ birthdays
- A wonderful walk at Rivington Pike with my dear friend Jenny
- Also Jenny for advice and guidance about the career change
- My crazy friend Kel, for giggles, hugs, and affection
- My sister-in-law who found my favourite chamomile tea when I couldn’t find it anywhere
- Discovering how delicious spicy nacho bean burgers really are
- Discovering this recipe for vegetarian chilli which is now one of my favourite meals
- Always having an abundance of ideas
- The consistent motivation to turn those ideas into something real
- Ralph Smart – whose videos inspired me and made me laugh all year long
- Teal Swan – whose videos challenged the way I think about a lot of things
- Victor Oddo – whose videos all came at just the right time and brought clarity and hope
- Nicky Sutton – for being a source of guidance even though we’ve never spoken
- All the lessons I learned from reading The Chimp Paradox
- Reconnecting with my best friend from childhood, John, via Facebook
- Catching up with another old school friend, Andy, also via Facebook
- A cheeky laugh with Angela on one of the darkest days of the year
- The continued success of my geeky little hobby
- Discovering this amazing Nine Inch Nails mix on Youtube
- Hearing this song from Highly Suspect which was my favourite song of the year
- An amazing day of mindfulness delivered by the wonderful Dave Spencer
- Moments of peace and quiet
- The occasional illusion that everything is under control
- Seeing my friends fight back from terrible illnesses
- Discovering the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal
- Quiet Saturday mornings making vision boards
- Late nights relaxing, wrapped up in the warm blanket my aunt knitted
- The occasional, guilt-free lie-in
- Time spent being playful with Lennon
- That amazing cheesecake I ate on a coffee date with Jenny
- Christmas gifts
- Making peace with my relationship with my family and how that led to a better relationship with them than I’ve ever had
- All the new people I’ve met this year, especially those that became friends
- The gift of abundance
- Experiencing the freedom of letting go
- Experiencing the freedom of being completely lost in the moment
- Friday night recovery meetings – a second home, a second family
- The Minimalists – for changing the way I think about my space, my home, and my ‘stuff’
- Times spent hanging out with my awesome friend Jez after my grandparents passed away
- Learning the basic truth – that what you focus on you get more of
- The sense of optimism and excitement for 2018 and all that it brings.
This list doesn’t ignore nor diminish the seriousness of the sad and painful things that happened this year, but it does help put them in perspective. It helps me to see the good that came from the bad, and to rediscover and fully appreciate moments of happiness that I didn’t always appreciate fully at the time.
Here’s wishing you a very peaceful and prosperous New Year. May your gratitude lists for 2018 be full of love and joy.