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Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, “It will be happier.”  -Alfred Lord Tennyson

As the year draws to a close, we all begin to feel the excitement and anticipation about the new one. These feelings can also be accompanied by a mixture of self-doubt and anxiety about what is to come. The German language has a word for this fear of embarking on something new. They call it schwellenangst and define it as “threshold anxiety.”

When we feel seen, heard and respected, emotional intimacy blossoms

In our calmer moments we feel drawn to the potential and promise that the days ahead can be more positive and uplifting than the sorrows and disappointments we’ve experienced in the past. This hope is neither blind nor naïve. I like to refer to this as realistic optimism. It looks backwards with compassionate eyes at what was and forward with an open heart to what still can be. It encourages us to muster the courage to release the past as we turn to proactively inviting sweeter, healthier, more fulfilling days ahead.

Enriching Practices for the New Year

Build Connection into Each Day

It’s through our relationships, both personal and professional, that we uncover and discover the foundation for our health and happiness. In spite of a world that pushes us relentlessly into endless, superficial distractions, feeling connected to others is what grounds us, heartens us and fulfills us most thoroughly and deeply.

When prioritizing your schedule, resolve to put your relationships first. Being “crazy busy” has become a status symbol to insinuate a life that is packed with productivity, power and self-importance. However, it can sometimes signal a life of time poverty that is fueled by unrealistic expectations, perfectionism and emotional isolation. Allow the trusted voice of your heart to remind you that busyness is never a valid excuse for turning away from personal engagement.

Let this be the year that includes more conscious, heartfelt choices and fewer regrets. Make dedicated time each week to spend with family and friends. Don’t wait to speak your love and show your care for them. Regularly share with them what matters most to you. When they share their feelings and ideas with you, listen to them with more empathy and less judgment. Don’t offer advice unless it is requested. Often adult children begin to call home less frequently because when they do call, parents insist on telling them how to run their lives. What they are seeking is what we all need and deserve-more connection, less correction. When we feel seen, heard and respected, emotional intimacy blossoms.

Texting a love note is quick, efficient and convenient but nothing can compare to hearing these words, “I just wanted to take a minute to tell you that I love you.”Resolve to never be stingy with your “I love yous.” Speak them again and again and again.

Expand Your Experiences

At the beginning of each month decide to try something new that you will practice for 30 days in a row. Actionable choices might include: listening to uplifting music in your car instead of news, doing an additional 30 minutes of yoga for relaxation, reading a passage from your holy book before getting out of bed in the morning, making a quick call to a friend or family member for a brief check-in on your lunch hour, drinking 8 glasses of water, doing a small act of kindness for another anonymously, sending an email to a colleague expressing gratitude or encouragement, enjoying an extra portion of fruit or veggies, taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Reroute Disappointment

We must accept finite disappointment. But never lose infinite hope”   -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is not being negative or pessimistic to accept the fact that we will encounter obstacles of one kind or another as we launch into our goals for the New Year. It’s reasonable and realistic. Decide now that obstacles are inevitable and expected in a life that is full of growth, vitality and transformation. Obstacles that occur may temporarily detour you from your path, but not necessarily away from your intended purpose. Practice viewing them as an opportunity to slow down, pause and reassess your options. Although we fear that obstacles will derail our efforts, they often afford us another chance to make a different and even better choice than what we had originally planned.

Resist labeling the circumstance that does not seem to be turning out as originally intended as a failure. A bump in the road does not mean it is the end of the road. In his book, Are You Ready to Succeed?  Dr. Srikumar S. Rao, a professor at Columbia Business School and London School of Business, wrote, “You will have reversals in life and more than you expected. But you will develop resilience as you learn to focus on the process and not just on the outcome. You can have a life filled with joy even as it unfolds with all of its complexity.”

Stay Open to Receive

The reciprocal side of giving is not taking, but receiving. When we are giving, we feel a sense of generosity and control. It feels powerful. Receiving, on the other hand, can be mistakenly labeled as passive or even selfish. It feels vulnerable. But when we give and give and do not receive we are setting ourselves up for resentment, burnout and ill health.

This year we can strive to become willing receivers. Opening our hearts and minds to allow others to give to us will soften, heal and connect us to one another. The resulting gratitude we feel will fuel us to return and match the generosity of others with our own. Boomerang love that is sent out and received comes back again and again to join and bless all involved.

“Accept what people offer.

Drink their milkshakes.

Take their love.”

-Willy Lamb

Infuse Your Environment with Joy

We are deeply influenced by the things and people that surround us each day. We underestimate the “downer “effect of being constantly subjected to an environment of negativity. This can include both external and internal influences: violence reported in our news feeds, gossip and trolling proliferated on social media, and the self-criticism and pessimism bombarding us in our own thoughts. We need to make conscious efforts to reduce our exposure to these mental, emotional and social toxins.

If being around a certain person leaves you feeling discouraged or drained, limit your time with them. Feed your emotional well-being by choosing to spend more time with those who bring a smile to your face whenever you think of them.

Our home environment is a direct reflection of our personal values and choices. In her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying UpMarie Kondo wrote, “There is one thing I can say with confidence: A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective. It is life-transforming. When we make an effort to put our house in order, we are simultaneously declaring what we need and want in our life and pivotally, what we do not want any longer.”

Kondo believes that there are just two reasons why we can’t let something go: an attachment to the past or fear of the future. When this occurs we can’t see what is really needed right now, in present time. This can govern the way we select our material possessions but can also influence the decisions we are making in our lives at large, including personal relationships, career and lifestyle choices.

Turning toward our decisions and not away from them will empower us. To aid us in this discerning process, Kondo counsels: “Does this spark joy? If it does, keep it. If not, let it go.” Over time we can learn how to retain only those things that speak to our hearts as they uplift us and motivate us. We can continue to feel unburdened and refreshed by the things we send off that have fulfilled their purpose and are no longer needed. We deserve an environment that effectively comforts, encourages, energizes and enlivens us daily as balance is restored in our chosen relationships, our possessions and our global sense of well-being.

This New Year Is All Yours

This coming year will undoubtedly bring both storms and sunshine. Our goal is to embrace it all-our gains and losses, our joys and sorrows. Since change is inevitable, it will prove to be a more peaceful year provided we can befriend the mystery, enjoy the ride and make a concerted effort to laugh more and worry less.

There is no better time than now to embrace the sacred pursuit of our passions. Theologian Howard Thurman calls us to this task as he counsels, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”

Contributed by

Mimi O' Connor
Group Support Specialist

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