The New Year: A Time for Reflection and a Time to Move Forward
By Susanne Carlson
The New Year is an opportunity to reflect on the year gone by and to approach the year ahead with purpose and intention. A lot of emphasis is placed on this being a time to make big changes in our lives and while this can prove to be a useful motivator for many, it is also important to recognize that meaningful transitions and milestones are happening all year round.
Our efforts in forging forward with life, or as the case may be, with recovery, are meaningful and valuable regardless of when they occur. Taking the pressure off of becoming new and improved versions of ourselves as soon as January 1st rolls around allows us space to grow, learn and move forward at our own pace, in our own way, and on our own time line. For some, the distinct marking of a New Year may be an inspiration for positive change. If the energy of a New Year gives them the inner fire needed to make those changes, then I say all the power to them! However, even if we cannot maintain the full steam ahead attitude we began the year with, or if we find ourselves falling back on old habits, we can still be compassionate and kind to ourselves and give ourselves grace by doing the next right thing. This concept has helped me tremendously in my own recovery journey. By doing the next right thing, we are declaring that we hold the power inside ourselves to make changes when it makes sense for us and in the ways that make sense for us.
With the New Year comes a sense of new beginnings and of looking to the future. It’s a time and space for reflecting back on the previous year. This can be one of the most helpful parts of this time of year, as we can look back to where we were this time last year and note the differences in ourselves. For me, I remember noticing how much laughter came back into my life each year, how much more able I was to take care of my needs, how present I had become in my day to day life. This time of reflection gives us perspective as we embark on the New Year, but it can happen whenever we choose. It can be incredibly rewarding to take time each week, month, or any ordinary day to appreciate where we have been able to take ourselves and to acknowledge the struggles we are still working through. It shows us the grey amidst the black and white. It shows us that while progress may seem slow, we are indeed moving forward, and that each step forward is teaching us along the way.
With reflection and attention to positive change, taking note of what we have learned on our journey up until now, can give us the opportunity to apply it to the future, to take with us what is helpful and to leave behind what is not.
It can be helpful to have specific questions or prompts to use each day that guide us in our journey of reflecting and also in moving forward. Here are some suggestions of questions and prompts that I use myself on a regular basis to ensure that I am staying motivated and attentive to both recovery and the general living of life.
- What do I need each day to feel my best? (eg. plenty of good quality sleep, good nutrition, joyful physical activity, connection to those I love, etc.)
- What are barriers I anticipate each day? (eg. thoughts, difficult relationships, difficult situations) What can I do to deal with these things? (eg. journal, talk things out, make a game plan, etc.)
- What is one kind thing I can do for myself today? (eg. get out for some fresh air, give myself a break from work/school work, listen to my favourite album, light some candles, etc.)
- What are some positive mantras I can repeat to myself today? Some of my favourites:
- - I am always enough
- - Breathe
- - I trust myself
- - I have hope and refuse to give up
- - I choose to fully participate in my day
I hope these ideas have been helpful and I hope that everyone who reads this has a healthy and happy New Year.
Susanne is a Therapeutic Recreation student - soon to be graduate, wife to a patient and loving husband, proud and involved Aunty of two incredible little girls and owner to a beautiful and energetic fluff ball of a cat. She loves all the roles she has in her life and feels fortunate to be very close with her friends and family. She is a passionate advocate of eating disorder awareness, prevention and effective treatment and dedicates herself to learning and developing as a person in her own recovery journey.