Reflections at the End of the Year
As the holiday season draws to a close, I find myself, a retired physician and geriatrician, naturally shifting gears from celebration to reflection. At 68 years old, with a lifetime of experience and a wealth of knowledge about aging and human behavior, I believe celebrating our accomplishments, both big and small, is an essential part of aging gracefully and finding peace within ourselves.
Contentment vs. Happiness
It’s important to remember that contentment doesn’t equate to constant happiness. Life is a tapestry woven with both joy and hardship. Yet, within the everyday moments, we can find countless opportunities to celebrate. The love of our family and friends, the simple act of breathing, the beauty of nature outside our window – these are all gifts worth cherishing and acknowledging. Sharing these celebrations and expressing gratitude with others creates a ripple effect of positivity, fostering deeper connections and enriching our lives in ways we may not even realize.
For the past two years, my wife and I have adopted a simple, yet powerful, practice: we jot down our accomplishments, big and small, on small pieces of paper and place them in a jar labeled “Gratitude Makes This House a Home.” Inspired by my friend Cristina Smith, this ritual allows us to capture the essence of our year and revisit those moments of joy and pride later. On New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, we create a quiet space for reflection. We pull out the notes, read them aloud, and share our heartfelt gratitude for the past year’s experiences. As we celebrate our triumphs, we raise a toast to each other and turn our gaze toward the horizon, brimming with anticipation for the possibilities that lie ahead.
An Intentional Approach
However, as my years as a physician have taught me, success rarely happens by chance. Planning, like any vital life skill, requires practice and dedication. Since I began publishing my books, I’ve intensified my focus on planning for health, longevity, and personal fulfillment. This intentional approach extends beyond medicine, encompassing my family, travel aspirations, and other projects I hold dear.
Whether it’s planning:
- a simple grocery trip for a healthy meal, or a meal for a friend who is ill
- to connect with a personal trainer to build strength, stay active, and independent
- a family gathering
- a trip with family or an overseas trip or cruise with your partner
- to relocate to be closer to loved ones
Planning plays a crucial role in achieving our goals and turning our dreams into reality. Of course, while meticulous planning has its merits, I also believe in the magic of adventure and spontaneity. The unexpected twists and turns in life, the stories shared by my patients about their own spontaneous adventures, remind me that these moments can leave some of the most cherished and enduring memories.
Make Life Worth Living
As we enter the new year, I encourage you to embrace both the wisdom of planning and the thrill of the unknown. Reflect on the past year, celebrate your accomplishments, and use that momentum to plan for a future filled with joy, purpose, and exciting adventures. Remember, it’s the little things, the moments of gratitude, and the connections we forge, that truly make life worth living.
May the year ahead be filled with laughter, love, and fulfillment.
To a long and healthy life,
David Bernstein, MD