New Year, Same You?: In Praise of Positive Choices

 

Positively Present - Celebrate Positive Choices

 

When something really great happens — you get accepted to the school of your choice, you publish a book, you land the great job, you find love, you make the team, you get the A, you choose a new career path, you give birth to a human person — celebrating is easy. People around you get excited for you and, even if you're filled with uncertainty ('cause change, however positive, can be scary!), you likely feel some sort of positive feelings about having worked hard to accomplish something.

But, unless you're some kind of amazing superstar, these big "wins" are probably not an everyday occurrence. In fact, they might happen only a few times in your lifetime! While I'm all for celebrating life's big, exciting moments, I think we could all benefit from turning a little celebratory attention to the little, everyday wins. This is especially true at the start of a new year when you're probably trying to: (a) keep up with positive progress made last year, (b) start making positive progress this year 'cause last year was a bust, (c) maintain some combination of the A and B, or (d) come to terms with the fact that it's a new year and you better find a way to get your act together before a new decade comes along! 

No matter how you feel about new years, there's always a bit of pressure associated with the start, with those twelve months of possibility stretching out before you. Resolutions or not, we all hope that this year will be better than last year (or, if last year was a great one, hope that this year will live up to it). We're all eyes ahead, focused on what we want to do or achieve in the weeks to come. Many of us are trying to better ourselves, to make choices that will be more aligned with who we want to be in the future. The beginning of each year offers such hope to be a better version of ourselves, and, while that hope can propel some of us into positive action, it can also make an awful lot of us feel like we're already failing at the year, even just a few days in. 

Personally, I had grand ideas for my post-holiday self. The end of the year is always my busiest, both personally and professionally, so I often find myself saying that "X will be different in the New Year" or "In January, I'm going to tackle Y." Not surprisingly, we're a week in and few things have changed dramatically from the time when the calendar read 2018. Change, at least for me, tends to happen slowly, and frequently it's only when I reflect back on things that I realize how much progress I've made. 

I frequently face a "new year, same me" frustration, growing angry at myself for not making all of the picture perfect choices I swore I would make once that calendar page had turned. But yesterday, after chastising myself for a not-so-great choice I made, I found myself mumbling, "I wonder how many good choices you make every single day and don't even think about."

And that little sentence stopped me in my tracks. How many positive choices do I make all the time without even thinking about them? How many changes have I made, over time, that I don't even think about praising myself for because they've become habits? While mulling over these questions, I recognized quite a few good choices I've made recently that a previous version of myself might not have made, like...

  • I didn't pick up my book and read for hours in the middle of a workday 
  • I didn't say the not-very-nice, judgmental thing that came to mind 
  • I didn't sleep in, neglecting the dog until much too late in the morning
  • I didn't order pizza when I had a perfectly good meal in the fridge
  • I didn't forget to take medicine and a rest when I got a headache
  • I didn't skip writing in my gratitude journal, which brings me joy
  • I didn't go down to the corner store and pick up a bottle of wine
  • I didn't put off vacuuming even though I really wanted to
  • I didn't send a call to voicemail and avoid the conversation
  • I didn't leave the bed unmade (which always makes me unsettled)
  • I didn't delete the email and avoid my editing tasks
  • I didn't conclude that I could skip this week's blog post
  • I didn't turn down an opportunity to help a friend in need
  • I didn't consume an entire bag of candy mindlessly
  • I didn't neglect my daily yoga practice, even while very tired
  • I didn't allow myself to smoke cigarettes like I used to 
  • I didn't leave dirty dishes stacked up in the kitchen sink
  • I didn't throw plastic in the trashcan instead of the recycling bin
  • I didn't lose my patience with the incessantly yapping dog
  • I didn't ignore the spreadsheets, despite the boredom they bring
  • I didn't buy that thing I really don't need but really wanted

These are just a few of the good choices I've made recently, most of them made without thinking twice about them. This list isn't meant to be, Woohoo! Look at me and all I've done right! It's meant to show you that, despite the plethora of not-great choices I've made so far this year, I've also made a lot of good choices too!

If you're like me and you're feeling a bit let down by the new year, unsure if you'll be able to live up to your 2018 self's version of who you'd be this year, I highly recommend writing a list of your own. Especially if you're working on New Year's resolutions (or if you've already broken them), writing down a list of positive choices you've made — even if they seem silly or obvious, like brushing your teeth or going to work — can really help you reframe the start of the year for you. 

A new year is a great time to make changes, make resolutions, set intentions, etc., but don't let it be a time when you beat yourself up for all you're not yet doing, forgetting about all the positive choices you've made (or are currently making). We're all on different paths. What's positive for me might not be for you; what feels like a big accomplish for me might be effortless for you. So take some time this week to think about what you've been doing — particularly the things you've done so many times that you don't even think about them anymore — and celebrate them. Because, when you think about it, all of those big wins in life — the moments we celebrate with fervor and festivity, confetti and congratulations — are really only possible because of all of the little wins we take for granted. 

 

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F.A.C.E. Your Feelings: How to Cope with Mixed Emotions


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On the last day of the year, I've found myself reflecting on the past twelve months and, in particular, the ebb and flow my relationships. While reflecting, I realized I was trying to fit my relationships (and people!) into neat little boxes, labeled "GOOD" or "BAD," and it just wasn't working out. Because, as I'm sure you know, relationships are complex. They don't always fit clearly into boxes. They can't always be labeled clearly.

My feelings about most people, even those I love dearly, are mixed. For someone like me, who really likes to identify and label things in order to better analyze and understand them, this can be tricky. So, I decided to do what I always do when confronted with trickiness: write about it! I sat down this morning to write about the idea of mixed feelings and realized, ultimately, that it doesn't have to be a negative thing. Sure, it would be great if we could identify every person in our lives as "good" or "bad" so that we'd know who to surround ourselves with, but life -- and people! -- don't work like that. 

Like it or not, mixed feelings are a part of relationships, so we might as well learn to deal with them the best we can! I came up with a little method I like to call F.A.C.E. that can help you (and me!) cope with the complicated mess of mixed feelings. This is especially useful for people you love and interact with often (as those are the people we often have the most complex relationships with!), but I bet it can work pretty well for new relationships as well as a way to figure out how you really feel about a person you're just getting to know! 

 

FIGURE OUT THE FEELINGS

First and foremost, you have to figure out what you're feeling! This may sound obvious, but when you spend a lot of time with someone or have known them for a long time, sometimes we don't even pay attention to how we feel about them. Figuring out precisely what you feel is essential for coping with the mixed emotions. There are many different ways to feel about others, but here's a list of some emotions you might consider while figuring out your feelings (note: lots of these words aren't technically considered emotions in the psychological sense, but I find these words helpful when trying to figure out feelings):

  • Admiration
  • Affection
  • Amusement
  • Anger
  • Awe
  • Bitterness
  • Bliss
  • Boredom
  • Calm
  • Comfort
  • Contentment
  • Desire
  • Disgust
  • Distain
  • Distrust
  • Envy
  • Excitement
  • Fear
  • Frustration
  • Gratitude
  • Happiness
  • Hate
  • Hope
  • Hurt
  • Interest
  • Irritation
  • Jealousy
  • Joy
  • Kindness
  • Love
  • Lust
  • Peace
  • Pity
  • Pride
  • Rage
  • Relaxed
  • Resentment
  • Sadness
  • Safe
  • Secure
  • Serenity
  • Shame
  • Surprise
  • Tenderness
  • Trust
  • Unsafe
  • Wonder

 

ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR EMOTIONS

Next, it's important to pay attention to what's happening when you're actually interacting with that person. It's one thing to sit down alone and consider how a person makes you feel, but it's quite another to tune into it in the moment. Here are three questions to consider when contemplating mixed emotions: 

  1. How do I feel when I think about spending time with them? 
  2. How do I feel while I'm spending time with them? 
  3. How do I feel after I've just spend time with them?

There is likely more than one answer to these questions depending on the day and circumstances, but paying attention to these three questions frequently will give you a better sense of how this person makes you feel overall and can clue you into nuances about the relationship that you might not have otherwise realized. 

 

CONSIDER YOUR OPTIONS

After you've given consideration to how you feel about the person generally and how you feel in specific situations, before, after, and during interactions with this person, now it's time to go a little further and consider the big question: So what? You've now got a pretty good idea of what you feel about this person, but now you have to consider what this means. Understanding the mixed feelings you have usually will lead to one of three conclusions: 

  1. This person is no good for me and I should spend less time with them. 
  2. This person is good for me and I should spend more time with them. 
  3. This person is both good and bad for me and I should be mindful of the time spent with them. 

Those are pretty much the options you have when dealing with a relationship, which leads us to the last step...

 

EMBRACE CHANGE OR ACCEPTANCE

Recognizing your options (see 1-3 above) doesn't mean that you're actually going to take action, which is where this next step comes in. You have two choices: embrace change (if necessary) or accept things as they are, for better or worse. Sometimes, after going through these steps, you might come to the conclusion that someone is no good for you but you still might want to spend lots of time with them. That's up to you, but if you choose that path, you must accept the consequences of it. On the flip side, if you find that change (spending more or less time with someone) is necessary, it's up to you to embrace -- and perhaps initiate -- that change. Whatever the situation, it generally comes down to one of two options: change or accept. 

 

Most of us probably run through the F.A.C.E. method in our subconscious without even realizing it, but taking the time to really deal with mixed emotions and actively choose an outcome is empowering, even if we don't always choose the thing that's best for us. There's something powerful about making a choice -- even the wrong one -- rather than just floating along and waiting for something to happen. Yes, there are two people in every relationship, but the only one you can control is yourself, so you might as well take charge of your feelings and actively make some choices, especially as we're heading into a new year! 

 

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8 Things to Get Rid of Before the New Year

 

Positively Present Letting Go

 

In last week's post, I wrote about 5 ways to prepare for 2019, and this week I wanted to dive a bit deeper into the "clear out your clutter" point because, while you certainly don't need the start of a new year to declutter and simplify your life, sometimes the change of a date on the calendar can be all the inspiration you need to make positive changes. Plus, there's something immensely satisfying about kicking off a new year with a (somewhat) clean slate! 

There are obviously tons of decluttering posts online, but here are some of the things I think you should seriously consider ditching before 2019. Decluttering might sound like a luxury task -- something you do whenever you have the time -- but getting rid of what you don't need can free up not only physical space, but also mental and emotional space as well, allowing you to fill it with things, people, and experiences that bring you joy. So, tempting as it might be to say, "Who has time to declutter during the busiest time of the year!," keep in mind that taking the time to do it now will help you in more ways than you might realize in the year to come. 

 

ONE-SIDED RELATIONSHIPS

Are there any relationships in your life where you're doing all the work? Are you always the one reaching out, suggesting plans, texting first? People and relationships are complex so sometimes there's a reason for you initiating (perhaps a friend is super anxious or shy, for example), but, more often than not, if there's a noticeable imbalance, you might be better off with out the weight of that relationship on your shoulders as you head into the new year. You might not be able (or want) to end it completely, but you can at least pull back and expend your energy on more balanced interactions.  

 

CLOTHING YOU NEVER WEAR

This is an obvious decluttering go-to, but it's popular for a reason. With the rise of fast fashion, many of us have tons of clothes we never wear just hanging in our closets. Not only does this take up lots of space, but there are so many people who would love to wear the items that no longer interest you! Host a clothing swap with friends if you have the same styles and similar sizes, or, better yet, donate what you don't need or like to those in need. Just thinking of the joy you'll bring to someone else can be the motivation you need to finally clear out that lingering clutter! 

 

ANY "JUST IN CASE" ITEMS

And, speaking of lingering clutter... get rid of all of the items (clothing, kitchen gadgets, accessories, etc.) that you've been hanging onto "just in case." I used to hang on to so many things because I thought that I might need them one day, but, after overcoming this mindset and becoming super good at getting rid of things, I've only encountered maybe one or two times where I've thought, "I wish I had kept that!" I know it's hard to imagine, but once you get rid of the "just in case" items you've been keeping, you won't miss them -- and, by giving them away or donating them, you'll be sharing them with someone else who actually will put them to use.

 

LINGERING TO-DO TASKS

You know that thing on your to-do list that you keep writing down but never doing? Now's the time to either do it or get it off the list. Either accept that you're not going to do it -- after all, if you haven't done it yet, it's not looking great -- or do it right now. If it's appointment you've been putting off, schedule it. If it's a call you've been meaning to make, pick up the phone. If it's something that can't be done it one sitting, at least take the first step to get the ball rolling and break it down into smaller, actionable tasks that you will actually do. 

 

SUBSCRIPTIONS YOU DON'T USE

Subscription services -- and boxes -- are all the rage now, but are you actually getting a bang for your buck? Look through anything you're subscribed to -- magazines, TV or music accounts, monthly boxes, etc. -- and make sure you're actually using and enjoying them. These monthly things are easy to forget about (or think, "I should cancel that," and not actually take the time to do it), but if you're not using them, get rid of them before the new year begins. (And, with that extra money, consider supporting creatives you enjoy via sites like Patreon!)

 

BOOKS YOU WON'T READ

If you're a book lover, you probably have a few tomes on your shelf that you want to read, but know you actually won't read. Often these are books we've picked up because we thought we should read them -- the classics, those highly recommended by others, etc. -- but if you've had it on your shelf for awhile and haven't read it, consider donating it to your local library. That way, if you do decide you want to read it some day, you can check it out! This year I've personally gotten into the library big time and it's such an amazing way to get tons of books -- for free! Consider taking advantage of the library in the year to come and you won't have extra books on the shelf come next December!

 

EXPIRED FOOD + MEDICATIONS

We often notice expired food and medications when we go to eat/use them, which is precisely the most inconvenient time to be finding out that they're not good! Go through your fridge and cabinets at the end of the year and get rid of anything that's expired, taking note of anything you might need to pick up to have on hand for the year to come. If you come across food that's still good but that you know you won't eat, see if you can donate it to a local charity so that someone else can enjoy it rather than just throwing it in the trash. When it comes to medications, check online to see the best and safest way to dispose of them.

 

NEGATIVE SOCIAL ACCOUNTS

Do you follow any social media accounts that make you feel unhappy, angry, worthless, or negative? Now is the time to unfollow them! I wrote about this in Inspired Unfollowing: A Week of Conscious Content Choice, and it's still as relevant as ever. You are not required to follow any accounts that bring you down and, now, with Mute options on most platforms, you can silence them even if you don't feel right unfollowing (like, for example, a family member). Most of us spend a ton of time on social media, which is why it's so important to go into the new year with a positive and productive collection of accounts in your feed. Obviously not every account needs to make you feel pure joy, but if you have some in your feed that are causing you serious mental anguish, get rid of them! 

 

 

These are just a few of the many areas of your life that might need some decluttering before the new year begins. Everyone's decluttering needs are different so if some of these don't apply to you, try to think about the areas of your life where you feel frustrated most often. Frustration and stress can be a result of having too much of what you don't need -- and that includes not only things but people, activities, expectations, etc. If you're not quite sure what you need to get rid of for the new year, pay attention to where and when you feel the most stressed and ask yourself, "What could I remove from this situation to make it easier?" (And, remember, sometimes that thing you need to remove is your own mindset or expectations!)

 

 

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