When one year is ending and a new one is about to begin, most people feel full of optimism and hope. They may reflect back on all the good things that happened to them in the previous 365 days or they may feel motivated to set new year's resolutions and actually stick to them for the 365 days that are about to follow. It's a time of change and transition as we shift years and in this case, shift decades.
But what if your year...sucked? What if it was such a bad year that thinking ahead to the new year to come doesn't make you feel anything except hopeless and down? What if you're really struggling to find something to look forward to, let alone something to make a resolution about? What then?
I'll be honest: 2019 was one of the best years of my life. I got married. I made big strides forward in my business. I had a wonderful year. So why am I writing a blog about 2019 being awful? Well, because I know it was for a lot of people I know personally. It was a hard year for a lot of my clients and a lot of my friends. I know many people who saw their relationships end this year. I saw people experience some pretty hard things. 2019 may have been a great year for me, but it wasn't for some.
So what can you do if you had a really hard year and don't feel in the mood to celebrate a new year's arrival?
1. Forget what pop culture says.
I don't know about you, but Facebook suggested I watch my "Year in Review" video a couple weeks back. I'm pretty sure I've seen more weight loss ads on TV the past few weeks than I usually do. If Christmas is all about gifts and stuff in our culture, then the New Year is all about improvement and self-growth. But I encourage you to let all that go if you've had a hard year up until this point. Don't watch your "Year in Review" video on Facebook if it may contain photos that could be triggering for you. Don't set resolutions this year if you aren't in a position to have yet another change happen (even if it could be potentially positive). There is no rush to have the next year of your life planned out by January 1st. Our culture crams a lot into this time of year and it can leave people feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. The reality is that December is not the only month to think about giving and January is not the only time of year to make a life change. You don't need a timeline. What you likely need is some rest or maybe some time to grieve if you experienced a major loss this past year. What you don't need is a set of expectations for yourself that are likely too far out of reach. Make a change in your life when you feel ready, not because the calendar or our culture dictates that it's time to do so.
2. Embrace the darkness.
December 21st marks the winter solstice - the "shortest" day of the year or in other words, the darkest day of the year, for most of North America. Winter months can take their toll on us: it's cold and it's dark out (and in some places there's already a substantial amount of snow on the ground). All of this impacts our mood and for some people, it can significantly alter the activities they're able to do in their daily life. Just 10 days after the winter solstice, we are expected to be ready for change as we greet the new year - like a light switch, now that more daylight is slowly coming back to our lives. This year for the winter solstice, I participated in a ceremony of sorts to recognize the value that comes from the darkness. Darkness allows us to retreat, to turn inwards, to hibernate in a way. Our society tells us to "do all of the things no matter what" but when we actually look at this time of year, it's a time to perhaps feel more contemplative instead of happy or excited. It's a time of year to slow down instead of speed up. It's a time of quiet instead of loudness. All of this directly contradicts the traditional way we think of the holidays. I encourage you to cocoon yourself for as long as you need to during this season. Animals do it in nature all the time; why don't we as human beings try to do it more? Stay home if you want. Go to bed early if your body tells you to. Journal and reflect, as you feel able. Sometimes going into the darkness of our own internal world offers us growth more than any new year's resolution could.
All of this is to say that I hope for you to experience more kindness towards yourself than pressure during this time. Remove all expectations of how you are supposed to feel or what you are supposed to do. Just be exactly where you are, even if that place is pretty uncomfortable and difficult. You can either tell yourself to "hurry up and feel better" or to "just take your time." See how it feels to take the latter approach as this new year is upon us without goals or expectations. That is more than enough.