As this year draws to a close, now is the time to pause, take stock, and look to the new year ahead. For many of us, it may be hard to feel the usual New Year’s Eve excitement this year. While 2020 posed a multitude of challenges, it is still possible to approach 2021 with a sense of optimism and to take small, manageable steps to bring the best versions of ourselves into the New Year!
FIND THE LESSONS – AND PUT THEM TO USE
It’s a common New Year’s practice to look back on the previous 12 months and reflect on what you learned. This can help you see the ways in which you grew, either personally or professionally. However, when you are coming off a particularly trying year, thinking about life lessons may feel stressful or sad because it involves remembering potentially difficult situations. You can help this practice feel more optimistic by putting those lessons into action! Think about how you can take what you learned in 2020 and use those lessons to make your life better in some way in the coming year.
ESTABLISH A GRATITUDE PRACTICE
Yes, you’ve heard this one before! Research continues to show that expressing gratitude is good for our physical, mental, and emotional health. When we consistently acknowledge the things we are grateful for, no matter how small, we feel more content with our lives and more optimistic about the future.
Every night before bed, write down three things you were grateful for that day. This is also a great practice to do with family around the dinner table! You can also include gratitude pauses throughout your day.
Have you ever fallen asleep reliving an embarrassing situation and woken up with it still on your mind? Our subconscious minds focus on the last thoughts we have before go to sleep. These thoughts inform our dreams and often our thoughts and actions the next morning. Luckily, you can help your mornings feel lighter and more optimistic by feeding your subconscious with uplifting thoughts.
Before you go to sleep, play back a couple highlights from your day. What did you enjoy? Did you receive a compliment or acknowledgment that felt really good? Falling asleep with positive thoughts can help you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start the new day.
You can also use visualizations to help you feel better about specific situations. If you are nervous about a presentation at work or a change in your child’s school environment, take a few minutes before you go to sleep to envision everything playing out in the best possible way. Really use your imagination here. How would it feel if things went perfectly? What would you and others say? This will not only help you sleep better and wake up feeling more optimistic, but it could help you perform better when the situation occurs in real life.
SET SMALL, ACHIEVABLE GOALS
New Year’s Eve is often a time when people make grand, sweeping goals for the upcoming year. While those can be fun to make in the moment, they are also hard to keep! And, when we don’t achieve a goal, we can walk away feeling disappointed and pessimistic about our abilities.
To progress toward your big dreams while cultivating a strong sense of optimism, choose small goals that are achievable. For instance, instead of saying, “I am going to lose 25 pounds in the next three months,” you could say, “I am going to make sure I move my body every single day.” Instead of feeling daunted by a big goal – and let down if you do not achieve it – you will feel proud of hitting your smaller goals consistently. This pride will make you feel more confident and inspire you to keep going!
SAY NO TO THE NAYSAYING
It feels good to vent to friends or partners–that is human nature. However, if all of your conversations revolve around the negative aspects of your life, it is hard to look to the future with any sense of optimism. So, start strong in 2021 by cutting off the negativity!
Some simple adjustments in how you interact with others and yourself can make a big difference. You can set limits with friends and loved ones–and yourself–about how long you are allowed to complain about something before moving onto another topic. When you find yourself dwelling on the negative, create balance by naming two or three things that are going well in your life. Of course, this does not mean you should not acknowledge life’s challenges or allow people in your life to express things such as anger or grief. But, by approaching negativity mindfully, you can help prevent shifting from healthy emotional expression to overwhelming pessimism.
You may be more than ready to see 2020 in the rearview window. Just remember to use these tips to start 2021 off filled with optimism and resilience!