Every year it seems that as soon as Christmas Day has come and gone we are immediately inundated with reminders of the "year that was", with retrospectives in the media of the headline makers from the past 12 months. We are urged to make new year's resolutions. Lose weight! Exercise more! Don't eat chocolate! It's a natural time for reflection on the past and to dream about the future - one door is closing and another is opening.
For me, 2011 brought my descent into the darkest depths of depression. Already suffering in late 2010, by April I was in a very dark free-fall. For many months it was a matter of daily survival for me and time felt like my enemy. I was simply trying to make it to the next day and I would often think, just hang on for the next hour. Sometimes I thought, I just don't know if I can do this. I would often climb into bed and pray that sleep would take over to dull the pain, if only for a little while. Time moved at a snail's pace and it seemed to boldly underline the pain that I was experiencing every moment of every day.
But like most things in life, if you look hard enough, there is a silver lining. Eventually I realized that time was actually on my side. With each new morning that came (like clockwork!) it very slowly started to feel like the universe was waiting for me to heal. As I made the arduous climb back up I gradually started to view time as a gift. I began to remember things that made me smile, people who I loved who loved me back. I thought about the people in my life who weren't healthy for me, and one or two were set free.
Every day, with this gift of time, I grew stronger, healthier, happier. I set small goals for myself: today I will go for a walk; tomorrow I will write in my journal. As each daily, then weekly goals were achieved I felt a sense of accomplishment, kinda like, OK, I can do this. As with the darkest days of my depression I was again conscious of time, but in a different way. Instead of wishing it away, I was learning how to be present in the moment and appreciate the little things in life. I learnt to be grateful for time.
So what if we looked at things through a different lens this year? How about instead of setting ourselves up for certain failure (NO chocolate? None at all? Simply not possible and who wants to live in that world anyway?!), we set ourselves up for success? Instead of focusing on what we mustn't do, let's imagine what we can do. Dwell in the possibility. Think in the positive: I WILL go for walks with my friend. I WILL volunteer my time doing XYZ. I WILL hug my kids more often. I WILL ask for help in life when I need it. And I WILL mean it when I say, "How are you?"
Yes, I had a jump start on reassessing my life in 2011 - where I've been, who I want to be and where I hope to never go again. But I encourage you to take the time to do so as well. Be the best YOU that you can be. Take care of yourself, grow, and learn. 'Cause you are the only YOU that we've got!
P.S. I have included an interesting exercise below, sent to me by a dear, kindred spirit (thanks, T!).
1. Brainstorm all the things you’ve accomplished this year, the memorable experiences you’ve had, and everything you’re grateful for. Spend a few minutes making a list of everything you’ve managed to achieve. Use a pen & paper for maximum effect!
2. Next, brainstorm the things you no longer want in your life; make a list of the things you’d like to leave behind. We all have things in our lives that are past their ‘use by’ date. Physical objects, unhelpful habits, limiting beliefs, thought patterns that hurt, people we wish to no longer spend time with, etc.
3. Think about your dreams for the future. What do you want to bring into your life? What experiences would you like to enjoy? What new skills would you like to learn? What would you like to do? How would you like to be? Make notes, draw a picture or speak into a recording device to help you remember your dreams. Spend as long as you like dreaming about the future you desire. If you don’t know what you want, you can ask yourself the ‘miracle question’: If there were a miracle in the night, and when you woke up tomorrow, everything in your life was exactly the way you’d like it to be, how would you know there’d been a miracle? What would you see, feel, and hear that would let you know a miracle had taken place?
4. Brainstorm the things you’d like to bring into your life. What are the things, experiences, qualities, and ways of being you’d like to experience more of in the future? Make a list of these. They can be quite general: Spend more time with family? Get fitter? Enjoy earning more money? Spend more time in the present moment? List the things you’d like to attract into your life.
5. Make a list of your goals for the year ahead. What would you like to accomplish? What would you like to learn? What would you like to get? Who would you like to meet?
6. Read through your list of accomplishments and congratulate yourself for them. Put this list (#1) on your left. Read through the things you’d like to leave behind, and forgive yourself for any mistakes you feel you’ve made. Put this list (#2) on your left also. Take the materials relating to your dreams (#3) and put them right in front of you. Review the list of things you’d like to attract into your life (#4) and put this list on your right. Read through your goals for the year ahead (#5) and put this list on your right also. (If you are left-handed, reverse the order of the lists!)
7. Sit quietly for a few minutes. Imagine all the good feelings, thoughts and energies from your accomplishments coming into your body (you can visualize this as a stream of light, sparkling dust, or anything else you imagine). Then become aware of any of the energy that’s tied up in the things you want to let go of, and see it returning to your body. Look to your dreams, attractions and goals: any of the energy that is tied up in those (eg. in wishing or wanting) can also return to you in the present moment. Notice how it’s possible for you to feel even better about those dreams and goals when your energy is in the present.
A great deal of people’s awareness is often wrapped up in wishes for the future, or memories of the past. It’s great to have access to these dreams and memories, but it’s also good to have out energy available to us in the present moment.
8. Allow yourself to be fully present in this moment. Become aware of the fact that all your accomplishments and activities of the past year were accomplished in an earlier present. Become aware of the fact that all your future accomplishments and experiences will take place in a future present. Really experience how it feels to be fully present.