I have a confession. My list of New Year’s resolutions is usually found in the bottom of a trash can by March.
My pattern is always the same, and it's all about hurtling into January with a list of self improvement goals and shiny new punch card for the gym.
But by February I am frazzled and spent, my commitment has been replaced with self loathing and guilt, and by spring I have thrown in the towel.
Eventually it became clear I needed to take a good look at what I was doing wrong and how I was contributing to my habit of failing on my goals.
What I noticed, was at this time of year I tend to feel quiet, in need of rest and crave time with warm covers pulled over my head.
But in our western world the January hype is all about “Get going, do it now, push hard, don’t wait”.
I eventually realized that just like those dormant trees and hibernating bears, I am also very much in need of downtime in the winter and it could be why I don't have the energy for bone crunching fitness routines and starting new work projects.
Along with that, the ultra fast pace of life leaves me feeling like I never get the time I need to process events that transpired in the past year.
So I became curious about what might happen if I gave myself permission for a more gradual entry into January. If I gave into the stillness of winter instead of fighting it, and took some time to go over my past experiences before jumping into to what's next.
To take time to mourn that loss. To sit with what was hard and celebrate my accomplishments.
This led me to create a completion process for integrating all of those experiences at a deeper level, so I did not feel like I was starting the year with 'unfinished business'.
Here’s my twist on how to wrap up the last year before diving into the new one.
Find a journal or notebook and get out last year’s calendar. Start from last winter and begin creating two lists.
The first one is for jotting down the highlights: those new friendships, weekend getaways, interviews we aced, gardens we grew and times we made ourselves proud.
The next list is for the tough stuff. The manuscript that was rejected, the car accident, the debt, losses or grief. Write them all down.
Making that list is a powerful experience in itself, but what takes it all to the next level will be touching back into the emotions and sensations that are associated with those past events.
Why would you want to do that? Because it's the only way you can give your system a chance to finish processing all that energy that otherwise gets locked up and frozen inside. Because for real 'letting go' to happen, it needs to release on a deep level.
Gently sensing the body’s response to memories can allow tight shoulders to drop, breath to deepen, and allow that completion in the nervous system.
Here's how to do it.
Take your list and find a positive event. As you recall it, notice what you feel in your body. Does it feel expansive in your heart? Warm in your belly? Can you sense joy? Pride? Happiness? Allow yourself some time feel gratitude for all you experienced.
( There is a good reason for doing this, because putting awareness on these positive sensations allows your brain to expand the pathways for allowing in more of the 'good', and we are all in need of that! ).
After you are feeling complete, take a look around and bring yourself present.
Then try this with a challenging event. Don't dive in to the tough stuff, go gently. To do that I recommend doing this exercise with your eyes open. Then get curious about your sensations and emotions. You may feel a yawn or a 'letting go' in the muscles of the body. Name any emotions that come up. "This anger in my belly, this grief in my shoulders". Then when you are feeling finished, take another look around the room to bring yourself back.
By slowing things down and becoming mindful we can create that 'resolution'. This provides us with needed relief as we let go of the tension our nervous system has been carrying. It will also help us find compassion for ourselves when we take time to witness just how much has really transpired, so we can give ourselves credit for all we have gone through. The good and the bad.
However, I want to note that when we have experienced deeply traumatic events, this is going to only scratch the surface. But hopefully it will highlight the need for more involved support ( with a practitioner ) to finish the healing process.
We might feel we want to spend an afternoon with this, or a month letting it unfold. Or it could be that doing this exercise feels like way too much when life has given you a beating. But my hope is that it could spark a desire to continue a slower, more mindful way of moving through our experiences.
What I know for sure, is that by taking time for closure, our dreams can then blossom from a deeper and more complete sense of who we are. And perhaps those goals won’t be found at the bottom of the trash can in the spring.