Article: Looking Back Responsibly (Positive Ways To See In The New Year)


Tomorrow is 2018.

We are so close guys.

Well, not me. If you read my ‘What I Plan To Do This Christmas’ article you know that this is a schedules post and that I’m writing this from your past for a day that is still yet to come it my future. It’s all very Doctor Who.

What scheduled posting feels like to me.

Regardless, I do often find myself getting introspective as the year closes despite it being mostly arbitrary because people who keep on saying that are missing the point.

Yes, a new year means nothing outside of our western understanding.

Yes, it’s, in many ways, ‘just a number’.

But here’s the thing: We’re human and humans like to track time and events. Sometimes we do this as a collective and sometimes this means that we all collectively form a relatively similar attitude about a pre-agreed upon approaching milestone.

We literally can’t help it, even if we logically know otherwise, so why be a dick about it?

Buut Also…

That being said, the ‘New Year’ mentality can so very often be toxic as all heck, and is generally very problematic.

A few years back the UK collectively agreed that New Year’s Eve was ‘the most depressing night in the entire year‘, and the average bedtime was 10.38pm as we all collectively decided to just hop in to bed and hope the whole ‘New Year’s’ thing would just potter out by the time we woke up.

Brits on New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day can be especially traumatic for those who are homeless, alone, in low economic situations, fighting mental health issues, battling addiction, or a multitude of other emotional and psychological factors.

It is, after all, one big party and call to ‘Just smile more’ when some of us can’t really do that.

The Most Depressing Night Of The Year?

I could look further in to this – going in to how terrible the New Year itself is, the body shaming that comes with it, and the fact that most resolutions fail (and, thus, reinforce depression, defeatism, and other unhealthy behaviors) – but I’d rather not, because we’ve got enough on our hands right here in the now.

The ‘now’  being New Year’s Eve.

Not the 22nd, when I’m writing this.

Wibbly wobbly. Timey whimey.

New Year’s Eve, and the reflection on our life that it can bring, might cause feelings of sorrow for many, but can this be turned around? And, if so, then how?

As someone who easy falls in to New Year’s Eve-trospection (the introspection that comes on New Year’s Eve), I would love to offer up some suggestions for how such behavior can be done in a healthy, productive, and perhaps even positive manner.

Here is my advice.

Ask Yourself Why You’re Reflecting On The Past Year

When I was in cognitive behavioral therapy my therapist encouraged me to think of my life as being a train driver on the tracks. In this position I can (and should) see in front of me and behind me. This allows me to look forward so that I can avoid any unexpected hazards, or to look back at just how far I’ve come (and all the stuff I’ve encountered along the way). This is a good position to be it.

But, if I were to suddenly decide that, no, I absolutely must dash to the last cart on the train immediately so that I can get a better look (or, worst, jump train entirely so I can examine a single piece of the track that I wasn’t 100% okay with) then my train (ie. my life) could easily become derailed or, worst, turn in to a total train wreck.

Equally deciding to hop out the front of the train is just as counterproductive, but let’s look at the idea of looking back here.

Don’t crash your journey to Hogwarts.

The point of this analogy was that, yes -we can look back at our life – but we shouldn’t do so to the point where we neglect the here and now, or create a detrimental situation for ourselves rather than just staying on track and seeing where the route takes us.

I feel like this was quite a powerful analogy and it leads on to New Year’s introspection very easily.

When it comes to the New Year you will look back, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s normal, natural, and can even create a sense of greater awareness, confidence, and/or security.

However, if you catch yourself doing so then just consider, for a moment, what you’re hoping to get from looking back and whereabouts you are in the here and now.

If you still feel pretty grounded, then good. If you feel like you’ve perhaps jumped off your train (or the rails) then it might be worth reevaluating your approach so that you can consider the year with more clarity and self-care.

Write Down Your Key Achievements This Year

If you’re looking back on the year I find that it’s so easy to look back on the mistakes, or the bad times. To dwell on them, to blame yourself for what happened, to think that it came in a progression (and thus will continue, because that’s just your life), or to relive it in your mind and think of all the things you could have done better but didn’t.

This is pointless.

What is this bringing you? Really? How does it make you feel?

It’s a cheesy line but, in life, we nourish the things that we feed. In that way we’re kind of like a house plant (or a bad ass carnivorous piece of greenery that takes no shit): We can’t grow and flourish without what we need and what we need is a sense of happiness, achievement, and progression. Not failure.

Because of this I encourage you to take the time to sit down and think of every achievement you’ve had over the last year. If you’re struggling to remember then that’s okay. Take a break. Talk to family/friends about what they think they’ve achieved and ask them what they think your achievements are. They might jog your mind in ways you didn’t imagine.

Work towards this revelation.

I did this myself, not expecting to be able to list much, and I was surprised by just how much I had accomplished this year.

I was even more surprised when I then thought back to five years ago and tried to imagine telling myself that I would achieve these things. Many of them would have been unfathomable, and yet here I am.

This not only allows you the time and space to recognize your moments of absolute amazeballness and then to use that to motivate you forward. By doing this you also give yourself a frame of reference moving forward, so that when your brain says to you ‘I can’t do this’ you can respond ‘bullshit, you thought that before, and yet you did it. You can do anything you put your mind to, now, keep on trying’.

To me this one thing – acknowledging my accomplishments – has been invaluable.

I hope it will serve you too.

Consider The Worst Thing That’s Happened To You This Year, Then Take a Deep Breath

Alternatively, if you’re convinced that this year has been the worst thing ever and that nothing could compare and you’d rather not get all ‘happy-happy’ about things, then try this:

Sit down and think of the worst thing that’s happened to you this year.

Don’t think on it too much: If it’s the worst thing then it will like come to you easily.

Not write it down.

Look at it.

You survived that shit.

In front of you, you have the worst thing you have ever experienced. And yet you’re still here. You can pick up at pad, run your hands over the words, breathe, live. You can go on.

You right now.

Life may not be ideal. It may suck royally, but you just identified something that you felt was the absolute worst, and you made it through that. Compared, the daily challenges, grievances, and struggles that you will face are nothing. Because you got this.

If this doesn’t work for you then I can respect that, I’d struggle with it to, but that’s because I downplay myself with all the ferocity of a retraction in a politically charged news publication.

The fact of the matter is that I’ve made it through my worst moment too, just like all of us, and (although I may not always like it) I think there is power in knowing that.

Aaaaand, finally….

Write Down What You’re Grateful For Right Now

Yes, yes, I know that this article is all about being able to safety look back at 2017. But sometimes in order to look back we need to make sure that we’re doing it from a secure and well-grounded position.

…Actually, that’s kind of the ideal.


So if you know that 2017 introspection is going to be hard for you then first sit yourself down in a safe and comfortable space. Get yourself a warm beverage of your choice and contemplate five things in your immediate vicinity/situation that you are grateful for right now.

This can be as complex as the equanimity that you feel as you breathe or that you’re breathing at all. It could be the roof/ceiling over your head, or the hot beverage that you have access to. Or it could be more personalized.

If you’ve wrote your five and that’s enough then cool, but if you want to continue writing then feel free. Let your gratitude flow. Pour your heart out.

The important part of this exercise is to finish it feeling secure enough in yourself to consider 2017 with the sense of self and confidence that you might need.

And That’s All For Now!

I hope that at least one of these points is useful for you. If they all are then all the better and I couldn’t be happier to know!

Whatever you’re experience please do feel free to comment (either here or on Twitter/Instagram) and let me know how things went for you.

Considering the time delay it’ll most likely be a very pleasant surprise for me come New Year’s.

Until the New Year!