Resolutions and Positivity: Thoughts on Ringing in the New Year

It’s very easy to be clichéd around New Year’s.  It’s so easy to fall into the self-indulgent pitfalls of “This year was great, but next year will be better!” and “Time to change my life because 2015 is over!”  It’s easy to get caught up in resolutions planned and failed and in the idea of a monumental shift in character that’s supposed to occur right when the clock strikes midnight.

At first when I was thinking about what has happened in 2015, I thought, “This was one of the worst years ever.  Thank God for 2016.”  I got wrapped up in remembering the bad things that happened toward the end of the year: the deaths in my family, the emotional struggles, and dropping my phone in the toilet (I wish I could say I was kidding).

I couldn’t really remember a lot about what happened before the summer, so I went back through my pictures on my computer and wrote a list of all the good things that happened this year.

I was surprised to find how much longer the list of positive things was than the list of negative things.  I had some amazing new experiences: concerts, Broadway shows, museums, trips to lakes and the mountains.  I accomplished some major stuff: I got published in my college’s newspaper, spoke on my college’s radio station, got my driver’s license, registered to vote, and got a job.  I had some wonderful times with my friends and had a fantastic birthday with them.  There were some milestones in my family: my cousin got married, two of my cousins had babies (who I got to meet this Christmas!), and my cousin graduated from the 8th grade.

I watched a TED talk recently by Alison Ledgerwood about how our minds often get “stuck in the negative” so that it is much more difficult to let go of negative information than it is to let go of positive information; we often weigh the negatives as being more important than the positives.

So yes, it has been a year wrought with difficulty and unplanned change.  But I cannot forget the good and new experiences I had this year and the people who stood by my side through the difficulty.  Remembering how grateful I am for my family and my close friends helps me to breathe easier.

That being said, I have been making resolutions probably since I was ten or eleven years old.  I’d write them on a little slip of note paper and then forget about it for most of the year while it gathered dust in a desk drawer.  Still, every year I felt like I had to make resolutions, otherwise I would feel lazy and like I was lacking direction.

This year, though, I felt kind of lost trying to come up with New Year’s resolutions.  So I watched a video by mental health professional Kati Morton about why she chooses not to make resolutions.  She didn’t approach the subject as many other anti-resolution-ers do (“Why wait until the beginning of the year to start over?  Start over whenever you want!!”); rather she said that resolutions often set you up for failure because the goals are too lofty and unachievable.  Instead, she makes smaller goals weekly or biweekly to help her get to where she wants to be.

I’m going to give this approach a try, but I couldn’t help but come up with some overarching goals for 2016, which turned out to be more like goals for the rest of my life:

  1. Be kind and honest whenever possible (Hint: it’s almost always possible).
  2. Find peace somewhere, somehow.
  3. Face your fears (i.e., listen to that little voice in your head that tells you to push something to the back of your mind and then push it forward instead).
  4. Love, love, love.

I think these goals are still pretty lofty, but not necessarily fail-able.  Let’s all be chill and nice to each other in 2016, shall we?

Finally, I’d like to share a video from one of my favorite YouTube channels, SoulPancake.  This spoken word poem by Natalie Patterson really captures the idea of using resolutions to love ourselves and to make the most of the moment-to-moment, not just the year-to-year.

I truly do believe that 2016 will be better than 2015, which is a step in the right direction toward positivity.  I hope you do, too.

So here’s a New Year’s challenge: Make a list of all of the good things that happened to you in 2015.  Read that list.  Read it again.  And again.  Let the good things sink in.  And don’t forget them.

Let me know your thoughts and good things in the comments!

Wishing you all blessings, joy, and peace of mind in the new year.  Here’s to 2016!

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