Reflection is a key factor in improvement. You can reflect on your day, your week, and your month, but the entire year coming to a close has a certain sense of finality to it that marks a very clear ending and beginning. It is an exciting opportunity to look back and identify areas of wonderful growth and to recall what made you feel light, healthy, and whole and what made you feel stuck, sad, or stagnant. Reflection is not the same thing as setting resolutions. Rather, it’s a necessary step to take before you set your carefully crafted goals.
Following a heartbreak, these reflections might be nostalgic, or they might be anger-inducing, or probably a difficult blend of the two along with many other emotions. Allow these sentiments to exist. Let yourself reflect on what you are feeling, but do not spend too long dwelling on the “whys” and “what ifs.” In fact, when those thoughts come, send them away like clouds and return back to this reflection. Remember to be kind to yourself while conducting your year in review. Don’t think too hard about the good times with your ex unless you are recalling lessons you learned and how your character has developed.
Thank yourself for getting you through this past year, and also thank everything that served you along the way. Then, acknowledge that it is finished, and let it go in order to let the New Year in. Right now, let’s take out a pen and paper and remember this past year before we set goals for the new one.
Think about who you spent your time with.
Friends, family, coworkers. Let’s avoid exes, for now, don’t worry we’ll get to that later. Let it be a stream of consciousness, writing every name as it comes to you. When you’re done, think about each person. Do they serve a positive purpose in your life right now? Cross out the ones that don’t anymore or never did, thank them in your heart for what they taught you and how they grew you, and let them go. You don’t need to need to be investing your free time in them anymore.
Circle the ones that continue to serve a positive purpose, and invest in them more in the coming year. Thank them in your heart as well, and remember how their hugs and smiles lifted your spirit and lightened your load. You may not be able to write their names but in your mind identify people you briefly met that inspired you and showed you kindness and write down how they showed you their light.
Think about what activities you did.
Make a list of what you did, read, watched, and listened to. Did you discover a new hobby that you love or a new book that helped you grow? How did you spend your free time? Remember the lessons of that one book, and reflect on how to continue implementing what you learned. Recall how you felt watching and listening to certain things. Did anything particularly make you feel on top of the world? Circle that. Did anything make you fall into memories of the good times, nostalgia, and questions of what went wrong? Yeah, let’s go ahead and cross that out. Multiple times.
What hobbies did you love doing? Hobbies can be time-consuming but it is important to spend that time with yourself to do something you enjoy. You will be more comfortable in your own company and more careful about how you spend your time in the future. Always think, “is this activity going to be a good thing for me, or am I just doing this because I’m bored and it’s readily available?” Watching TV or scrolling Facebook can definitely be cathartic and just what you need to unwind, but other times it might be better to read, write, bake, paint, or whatever it is that you can get lost in, in a good way.
Think about your work or school life.
Do you feel fulfilled by what you do or what you study? I hope the answer is yes, and if so, you are lucky. Write down what you do/study and circle it. Thank yourself for putting in the hard work and dedication to get to where you are and write down what strengths and passions got you here. Reflect on how you could have built your skills even more, and what goals you may have fell short on.
However, if the answer was no, that’s okay. I know working on something you don’t want to do is difficult, so thank yourself for your fortitude and dedication. Go ahead and write down what you do and cross it out. More likely than not, the reason you haven’t left your unfulfilling job or college major is that you can’t, or you’ve convinced yourself that you can’t. So let’s work with where you are right now. I challenge you to think about the work you do as an act of service towards others. If you can’t find happiness in the work itself, strive to find happiness by helping people. So now, write down “serving others” and circle it.
Whether you enjoy your job or not, when you put good energy into the world, you get good energy out of it. If you come to work determined to work hard and work well, you will build up your character. Look at it as an investment in yourself, because by cultivating patience, responsibility, and endurance in the workplace, you craft yourself into a better person, and that may help you land your dream job someday. Now, whether your first answer was “yes” or “no,” write down three character traits your current job has helped you build, like work-ethic, patience, and responsibility.
Think about your health and well-being.
What was your diet like this year? Did you exercise? Did you cultivate dynamic relationships? Did you practice self care? Write down what you did and ate this year that was conducive to your health.
Health and well-being are multi-faceted, but thankfully, these different aspects build upon each other. When you exercise and eat well, you are doing your mental health a favor, and when you feel mentally well, you are better equipped to build healthy relationships. What you eat and how you exercise are small but mighty ways to make your life more creative and exciting. So, remember those meals you ate this year that you actually had fun cooking, and that time you didn’t even realize how much you were exercising.
Thank your body for the work it has done for you this year, and make sure to take good care of it moving forward because it’s the only one you’ve got.
Menders, it’s time to think about your breakup or burnout.
What progress have you made this year? Now, this isn’t a free pass to indulge yourself in the “what went wrong” questions. Remember to not let yourself go there.
Rather, write down how long it has been since the breakup or burnout started. Write down what was going on in your life that helped you to reach milestones. If you haven’t reached them yet, that’s okay. Instead, you can celebrate the small victories, which are often the hardest. For example, with a breakup, write down when the last time was that you contacted your ex, viewed their Instagram tags, or stalked their Facebook. If you don’t remember, that’s awesome! Write that. If you have dipped into any of these habits, write down what you were doing that made you want to check up on them, then cross it out.
Menders might already be familiar with the idea of the breakup ritual. This won’t be a breakup ritual per se, but a similar way of letting something go: a release ritual. In the episode of “Love Is Like A Plant” titled “How To Get Your Ex Back,” Elle and her co-host Sarah May B discuss ways to do this ritual: have a beer and a cigarette, take a hike and throw something, shout loudly into a canyon, sing a song at the top of your lungs on the freeway. Make it yours. Do something cathartic as a way to celebrate all the work, pain, emotional exhaustion, physical exhaustion, people, good memories, bad memories, anthems, and events that made this year what it was. Maybe write down the year on a piece of paper and tear it into hundreds of little pieces. Allow your reflections to manifest into a transformation, and as your release ritual crescendos, allow it to fizzle out with the old you, and with a great, big, cathartic smile, let the new you shine.
Congrats on coming so far. You’ve done great this year!