I’ve entertained myself on New Year’s Eve in a lot of fun ways—most often I did the the traditional glass of champagne and ball–drop-watch with that special someone, but sometimes it was movies with friends, or a quiet family gathering, and there were many sparkly dress parties complete with obnoxious noise makers, midnight kissing, and plenty of toasting.

I had fun whatever my choice of midnight revelry, but it all seemed to quickly become the stuff of faint memory. I couldn’t recall what happened in any one year. Everything ran together in my mental picture book.  Over time I realized I was less and less interested in taking part in any festivities. But, because it was New Year’s Eve, I’d push myself to do something. Nothing seemed particularly satisfying.

I didn’t realize it at first, but psychically, I was looking for something more. A meaningful way to mark the end of one year and the start of another. A new tradition that I would think about in the countdown to the New Year, but also be able to tap into throughout the New Year.

So I was open to a suggestion by Laura, my artist friend.  She is a fan of the book, “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.” Written by Julia Cameron and originally published in 1992, the book has enjoyed decades long popularity among artists wanting to reboot their creativity. Laura adapted one of the book’s journaling exercises for what’s become my new New Year’s tradition.

In the last moments of the old year I take pen to paper-- filling up at least three pages with a list of what I’m grateful for. The trick is to write longhand-- on paper, not electronically—and to scribble with intensity. I’m present with my thoughts and consciously reviewing what made a difference in my life—the real friends who stepped up during some tough days, the exciting experiences I never thought I’d have, and the eclectic stuff I acquired that brought me joy.

I know gratitude lists are part of a movement enthusiastically embraced by self- help groups, counselors, and faith leaders. I wasn’t a part of that movement, but, for me, this simple exercise at this time of year has a special resonance. Now, I can’t imagine a better way to bring in the New Year.

In a few days when I sit down to write, I’ll think of John F. Kennedy’s powerful statement about gratitude. “As we express our gratitude,” the late president said, “We must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” 

Happy New Year!

>> Callie Crossley is the host of Under the Radar. Her commentaries can be heard Monday mornings on WGBH. Previous commentaries can be heard by clicking here.