New Year’s Eve: parties (whether they be grand galas, small social gatherings, cozy dinners with partners/friends, or living room camp-outs with the kids), champagne, evening appetizers, brunch buffets, noisemakers, balloons and glittery hats, kisses at midnight or perhaps turning in early. Each of us will be doing something different this evening, but somehow the occasion sparks a similar sentiment in everyone. Reflection, contemplation – a mental review of good times during the year and perhaps regret of a few unfortunate moments. We think about not just what happened, per se, but how we view the pattern or progression along the way. What has the year meant for us? How far have we come? What were the highlights, and where were the low points? In our professional lives? In our personal lives? In our families and social circles? And, of course, in our health?
As you look back, what has the year meant for your health and sense of wellness? Are you where you want to be physically? Is your diet what you would like it to be? How do you feel when you wake up in the morning these days? Where are your stress levels? Your sleep? Your energy levels? Especially relevant is this question: how would you compare how you feel today to last year at this time? Did you make any New Year’s resolutions last year? Did you achieve them? If not, why? What progress can you count even if you fell short of the concrete goal? If you did achieve your resolution, how did you make it happen?
As we wrap up 2008, we can all benefit from learning a few lessons, celebrating our accomplishments and maybe considering a few new ambitions. Just as we here at MDA do our “Best Of 2008” (check back on Saturday), what do you count as your best moments this year? What was different about these experiences? Sure, circumstances might have been encouraging (or then again maybe not – some people thrive in adversity). But what was different in your mood, your approach, your perspective? What had you learned (from MDA, a mentor/gym buddy/care provider) that gave you more knowledge and know-how to work from, more incentive to take on the challenge, and more reserve to draw from when things got tough?
What did you lean on? What knowledge, what community, what mantras and means of encouragement? Positive thinking, when genuine, can be a poignant lens that truly shifts our attitude and expectations for our lives. And you don’t have to resort to revisionist thinking. Be honest with yourself. If it’s been a successful and happy year for you or if it’s been a particularly difficult year, think about the connection. How has your overall wellness matched (or not matched) your personal well-being? Has one derailed – or enhanced – the other? Again, how have attitude, knowledge, community impacted the correlation?
It’s that connection (and support) that makes our daily commitments work, we think. When we make grandiose resolutions for ourselves (a common trap at New Year’s) we can end up feeling like foreigners navigating our own lives – specifically the forced structure we create to live up to the resolutions. (Usually a temporary scenario…) If we can’t truly “own” or feel at home within the resolutions we conjure, we might be taking a misguided approach. Our suggestion: this year think less about a vision than a path, a few simple practices (and a mindset) that cultivates genuine self-care. We often want to see ourselves as masters of our destiny, architects of our futures, but what about first viewing ourselves as simple caretakers through the day’s simple obstacles and choices? This kind of resolution is less an abstract decree than a personal commitment to be our solely responsible, unconditional steward, keeper, nurturer, guardian of our health and well-being each and every day.
There’s an old New Year’s tradition (attributed to a number of countries) of opening the door at midnight to sweep the old year out and let the new year enter into your home. It’s a meaningful practice, we think. We also know some people who write down their thoughts about the year and burn them at the end of the evening to make manifest the letting go of the old – the disappointments, the regrets, the grief, and even the positives (accomplishments, joyous moments). The idea here is to be fully present in the new year, in each new moment – to not be burdened by past defeats or to “rest on one’s laurels,” so to speak. New year: blank page. The best vow? Resolve each day to open up that door – to accept the past for all its good and bad and then let it go, to meet the new day with determination, optimism and no excuses. Here’s to a great 2009!
Share your “Best Of 2008” list and thoughts for the new year ahead. And most of all, we wish all our good readers a very Happy and Healthy New Year!