As one-year closes and another year begins there can be a plethora of emotions. The anticipation of a fresh new year can allow regrets surrounding goals not met in the year just ended to seep in; sadness surrounding failed expectations whether self-imposed or set by others.
I have never forgotten a client who saw me on New Year’s Eve so many years ago because for them it was the saddest day of the year with no hope for the new year. As reflections of the past year that started with hope and anticipation of wonderful and prosperous encounters that ended without hope because “wonderful things” never transpired created the sadness. The discussion surrounded how to look at the positive things that happened rather than regret the things that never were.
How do we start a new year with a positive outlook that good things can happen and will happen when we see only the negative? We need to shift our focus to the small positives rather than the global negatives. Rejoicing in the fact that we survived whatever life had thrown our way is a good start for a new year.
A good way to record both good and bad memories is to write them on a slip of paper and place them in a jar. At the end of the year, each slip is pulled out and read. It is amazing how difficult things look differently in the rearview mirror than they did in real time. Focusing on the positive things and looking for the positive even in the negative things that happen in our life can aid in keeping us on track.
Being mindful in every interaction you encounter can be very rewarding. Everyone appears to be so busy and rushed during the holidays that we lose focus on what is most important. Intense feelings build up in our body and we express them most often in inappropriate ways. Taking our frustrations out on people we love or random people that we encounter is not a healthy way to release these emotions. Distortions in thinking affect any form of depression and typically depression follows a stressor.
Powerless thinking is when you believe you do not have control over yourself or your emotions. Powerless thinking allows us to:
- avoid painful emotions or thoughts
- ruminate on bad choices
- mask/deny our emotions
- hostility/aggression toward self and or others
- negative self-appraisal
- lose focus on long-term goals or accomplishments
- repetitive behavior to similar situations resulting in the same outcome
An effective way to break the negative cycle of powerless thinking is to use releasing strategies. Releasing strategies are effective techniques to boost our emotional wellbeing.
Releasing strategies include but are not limited to:
- Deep breathing exercises – sitting up straight with your feet planted firmly on the ground, slowly inhale through your nose to the count of 5, hold your breath to the count of 5, and slowly release through your mouth to the count of 5.
- Sensory Exercises – utilizing all 5 senses to look around your environment and find something to touch, taste, smell, see, and hear.
- Physical exercises – running, biking, swimming, walking, or dancing help to decrease enhanced emotions by releasing endorphins leading to a more positive attitude.
- Relaxation exercises – include attending a yoga class, receiving a massage, or reading a physical book to relax at the end of the day.
Happy New Year!