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5 Small (Big) Things to Make the New Year a Better One

Looking Back to Look Forward

Well, it’s the end of another year. But, in many ways, this year has been a very different one from most others. So much is going on in the world. We have seen radical changes on almost every front—some very negative, but many wonderful and important ones for all of us as humans. As the year winds down to the last few days, rather than focus on the global view, it might be much more fruitful for all of us to focus on ourselves and on our own very personal inward motion.

The last few days of the year allow us time to celebrate, to take time off from work to be with family and friends, and to reflect on the past year. Starting with Thanksgiving, people move into the holiday mode and by the time Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa arrive people are slowing down, leaving their daily habitual routine behind.

So here are some questions for you. With as many New Years as you’ve experienced so far, have the things you’ve hoped and planned for at the beginning of each year actually come to fruition? How successful were you in making changes, and accomplishing the things you wished to happen? Or, is one year simply like the next, where you feel that you’re just doing what you’re supposed to do, that nothing beyond the habitual way of living occured, that whatever you hoped and planned to accomplish seemed to fizzle away—either by your own neglect or by circumstances beyond your control.

So, here are 5 small (big) things to make the New Year a better one:

Go into your darkness. Use the cold, dark season to go inward. Humans are seasonal creatures; we change with the seasons, the weather, and with our body rhythms dictated by darkness and light. In winter the days grow shorter, often colder (depending on where you live), and darker. We are often driven to be indoors, in our own surroundings, more limited to the outside elements and often, to outside human contact as well. The outside darkness signals and encourages going into our own internal darkness—the deep, hard-to-get-to places that often hide those parts of ourselves that need examination and help. Darkness is often a time of waiting, for things to reveal themselves and to be brought to the light when the time is right. Sometimes there is a symbolic death, a time of endings and closure. The return of light symbolically brings rebirth, new growth, and vitality.

Let go of what no longer serves you. This certainly applies to grudges, emotional baggage, and even beliefs that no longer have meaning for us. Wipe the slate as clean as you can for the new year. Don’t carry old stories from past experiences into the new life that is unfolding. Forgive people and let them forgive you for any negativity that has existed between you. Most of all, forgive yourself.

Just as you do with your emotional life, let go of all the things that no longer serve you. Recently, there has been a renewed interest in learning how to declutter your life; how to get rid of things you no longer need in your life (or want to carry over into the New Year). In other words, how to simplify your life. A New Year’s tradition suggests that you pay off your debt, except not on New Year’s Day since that symbolizes money leaving you.

Don’t think resolution. Re-solve or re-solution means to solve or find a solution once again. But making a resolution or resolving to accomplish something requires far more than just saying the words, or promising yourself to behave differently. It means making a commitment to understand what doesn’t work, what doesn’t feel right to you, and changing it for a better result. Easier said than done. That’s why people often begin the New Year promising themselves they will keep at the desired task and goal only to find themselves a few weeks into the year, not as committed, disappointed in results thus far, bored, lacking interest in the task, or just tempted to return to what is known and habitual and a lot less trouble.

How about reflection as a replacement word for resolution? Reflection is defined as a “serious thought or consideration” but its other meanings (The Merriam-Webster Dictionary) describe far better the feeling of what this thought or consideration is all about: “the return of light or sound waves from a surface”; in other words, something bounces back, or “the production of an image by or as if by a mirror.” We have a chance to see what has happened to us but from the point of view of an observer rather than the doer/participant. Before we can make real change we need to be able to examine ourselves or a situation in order to understand it fully. We need to know if we are happy with what we observe, or recognize that something needs to change.

The New Year is an optimal time to assess where we are in our lives, to reflect on what we’ve consciously done during the last year, and what has happened to us beyond our own efforts and control. Even through difficult times and obstacles we have a choice to make change.

Choose one goal you want to accomplish for the coming year. Change is incredibly complex. You will need to commit all of your time, effort, and emotion to accomplishing this one endeavor. Whether it is health-related, changing your appearance or partner, changing what you do for a living, learning a new skill, moving to a new place or foreign land, it will need your constant patience, vigilance, and absolute commitment because that change will affect every other aspect of your life, and inevitably, your relationship with the significant people in your life. Commit to completing whatever you promise yourself and see it through to the end. Take the time to let it seep into your life and make adjustments when necessary. By doing this no two years will ever be the same.

Create a personal ritual that symbolizes your movement forward into the New Year. Actually, there are many rituals widely practiced that bring in the New Year. Fireworks and noise makers are meant to drive evil spirits away. Certain foods are eaten to ensure good health and prosperity such as greens, black-eyed peas, grapes, and noodles. Burning a scarecrow, throwing furniture out the window, and banging bread against the wall are a few of the traditions/rituals practiced around the world.

Beyond the rituals of our culture a wonderful way to personally and intimately mark the end of a year, and all that it has brought, and the beginning of a new year, and all that it will bring, is by creating a ritual that unique symbolizes where you’ve been and where you’re going. It could be as simple as saying a few words, a prayer, a declaration, or as elaborate as combining numerous elements meant to engage all of your senses, mind, body, and spirit.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, peaceful, and fruitful New Year.