The season has turned, and as we begin the New Year, so too will come the calls to set goals or resolutions or to start again. There are many different articles and posts on social media platforms calling us to action at this time of year. Often they come with the promise of a new improved you, or a simple sounding solution to have a great year this year which will see all your problems solved.
I am not sure how helpful or realistic all of this can be. It can also have a negative impact, and January is often a challenging time for a lot of people’s mental health and well-being. I remember one time sitting with a friend reading another self help book and realizing that the new me being promised was still me, not someone different or an improved version. Over time I have come to understand it has been about learning to love, appreciate and nurture myself, to love and accept myself as I am. From that place it is much easier to find more useful and compassionate habits to cultivate.
This is also a time of major transition, both in the season and in the pace of life, when for a lot of us we move from the frantic activity of Christmas which is full of lights, action, and energy to a slower quieter time. The shortest day has passed; however, the mornings and evenings are still darker, we can often be socialising less. We enter a new season and way of being, so I thought I would offer some of my own reflections on how I have learnt to transition to a new year.
How is your mindset and attitude?
I do find taking time to reflect on the past year and contemplate what I am looking forward to in the coming year helpful. January is named after the God Janus, known as the protector of gates and doorways, which symbolizes beginnings and endings. January is both, and we habitually fall back into old behaviours and patterns of managing this. However, this can also be an opportunity to reflect and start to invite a new way of thinking. What is your attitude and mindset around this new year, are you dreading it after a difficult year or are you excited and hopeful? How are you speaking to yourself and thinking about yourself? Noticing this can help ensure that it doesn’t colour any decisions you may make. It can be useful to notice if we are rejecting how we have been and the ways we managed the past year. A more balanced approach helps, we do this by acknowledging what went well as well as what you would like to change or alter in some way. We are continually growing and evolving, and I find a mindset and attitude of curiosity to be a gentler and more supportive way of being. Curiosity leaves us open to options and invites a kindness and gentleness instead of judgement and criticism. It is human to fail, to get it wrong and to make mistakes, would you be as harsh on a friend or someone you love, as you are on yourself?
Some reflections to consider
There are different options when it comes to this time of year, and it can be helpful to consider which appeals most to you. Be curious about what kind of thinking you have around it, so for example if you want to set goals do you find that they become burdens to give yourself a hard time about. For some setting goals is a way of motivating themselves and gives them accountability which helps them. Setting intentions can be another possibility, it is more about a direction of travel, a way of being than a definite concrete action to take. An example of this could be having an intention to be more compassionate towards yourself, the idea is not to judge when you are not compassionate but to notice and build upon the moments when you are able to offer it to yourself.
You may also contemplate what habits you would like to build this year, an example of this could be deciding to drink more water, or to go to bed early. I have also used a wider option which was to choose a one-word theme for the year, and it has been interesting how often that emerged as the theme of the year. This year my word is Hope – I find there is so much negativity on the news that it can feel there is no hope. However, this word offers me a mindset of being open to moments of hope, to have that as a mindset and attitude. I am sure there are other alternatives out there.
A few questions that may help as you reflect:
- Where do I want my energy to go this year?
- How can I invite more joy into my life?
- Do I want to make any changes this year?
- What has gone well for me that I would like to continue?
- How do I want to exercise this year?
- What matters to me as I move forward into this year?
- What would I like to learn this year?
This is not an exhaustive list; you may have your own questions. I invite you to do this in a way that works for you, write, walk, dance, sing, allow yourself to dream. Be curious about what emerges.
A different possibility
What is interesting to note is that in all the cycles in nature, both in seasons and in the tides there is also a moment to pause. At this time of year, as the Winter solstice arrives, for a few days after the sun seems to pause, the times of the sunset and sunrise don’t move. If you watch the tides as I like to do, you will notice a moment where the tide seems to hover, neither going out nor coming in. For some of us, this new year could be a time when we choose to pause, to choose not to do anything new or make a resolution or invite any change at all. These times in our life are as valuable, they are times when we become open to something we had never considered. It can feel odd and strange to not have a plan or a direction, but I have learnt, admittedly very reluctantly at times, to listen to my need to embrace the pause, the unknown. I invite you to listen to what your need is this year and follow it.
A Poem for the New Year
As a final thought I offer you this poem. I find poetry helpful; it is as though the words go past all my analysis and thinking and enter a deeper part of my consciousness. Poems can evoke feelings that are beyond words, they can also provide comfort and inspiration at a time we need it most. In my experience we often have a very personal reaction to a poem. May it invite you to stay open, curious, and compassionate as you enter this new season however you choose to travel.
On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.
And when your eyes
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green,
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.
John O’ Donohue