The end of the year is fast approaching. It can usually be a rather stressful time of the year because of holiday planning and organisation. However, it is worth reminding ourselves what do we wish to get out of a holiday. (Please refer to our Holiday Survival Guide here for some ideas to manage potential difficult holiday situations). If self-care and rest is something that you would like to have, it may be worth spending some time to celebrate the year past and all your gains and achievements.
Why celebrate the year past
Those who play video games would know that the reason gaming is so addictive is that it is designed with plenty of reinforcements. It gives us a lot of feedback on our performance. Specifically, it points out how well we do or how close we are to winning the game and establishes a clear pathway to achieve further success. And every time we succeed, the game usually gives us an over-the-top celebration with cheering music and stimulating visuals. This motivates us to keep playing the game.
The designers of video games understand human nature. We all like to know when we have done something right, and thus be encouraged. Even if there are still areas for improvement, knowing that we are on the right track is far more motivating than thinking that we are worlds away from reaching our goals. When we identify any tiny changes or small steps that we have made towards becoming better…
- we gain clarity on where we are at in the process,
- we tend to experience a sense of mastery,
- the goals seem more tangible,
- and we are empowered to keep going.
Conversely, when we trivialise or dismiss our gains, we can feel stagnant, insignificant, and powerless in making the changes that we want to make.
Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that the two different mentalities are likely to lead to two completely different outcomes – one of achieving the goal, and the other of not making any change.
What to celebrate
OK then, you say, let’s celebrate. But what sort of things can we celebrate? Here are a few suggestions:
- Development of helpful habits. Did you go to bed or wake up at a certain time? Or eat a balanced diet? Or write in your journal more regularly? Anything that you have started doing that has been helpful for you can be achievements.
- Special moments/memories you had. Perhaps it’s nice things that your children said to you? Moments of bonding with your colleagues at work? Moments of appreciation with your family members? A successful partnership moment with your spouse? Or a deep compassionate moment that you had about yourself? These could be tiny moments, but they did happen and they shape our perspective and thus our world.
- Relational achievements. This could include working through issues in relationships, reaching a better balance and boundary with people, ending of an unhelpful relationship, learning to be more assertive, or feeling more comfortable about yourself in social situations, particularly when meeting new people.
- Progress on specific projects that you have set out to do. Reading certain books, training for a marathon, gaining better physical health, learning new skills, gaining new knowledge or reaching milestones at work, or new recipes that you learned to cook/bake.
What if I cannot find anything positive that I did
If we have not made any positive change in our life in the past one year, consider the context that we were in. What were the obstacles that were blocking our way? The COVID situation, mental health issues, physical limitations, issues at work, relationship difficulties, high level of workload, and/or lack of opportunities to change? Could the reason for the lack of positive changes this year be the fact that it was actually a really tough year? It is important to recognise that in those situations, surviving the year itself is already a great accomplishment. In a situation where our resources and capacity greatly reduce, focusing solely on surviving was not only reasonable, but probably the only thing we could do in that situation. Acknowledging the hardship and recognising our achievements in this challenging context will in turn give us power to move on further.
How to celebrate the year past
The celebration of your personal victory can be totally up to you. It is not like Christmas parties where there could be a lot of expectations on how things should be done. Whichever way you like to celebrate your year, do it that way. The following are some ideas if you like more options.
Write them down in your journal
Write about what you have overcome to achieve your personal change. What was hard, what was surprising, what was easy. You can also think about how you felt before and after the change. What were people’s reactions towards your change? How did that make you feel? How do you reframe your ideas about yourself, now that you have made the changes?
Share your stories
Share your stories with a good friend, at a family gathering, with your partner, kids, or even a total stranger. I remember this time when I was going through the check out at a supermarket, and the cashier lady actually shared with me that she had stopped smoking for one week at that point after being a huge smoker for years. I commented on her amazing progress and that was a lovely moment of celebration.
Do something nice for yourself
Do some things that you usually don’t do. This time is different because it’s a special celebration. You could buy something nice, book a special treatment/experience, or just make extra effort to do something lovely for yourself.
Have a special time with loved ones
You could share your achievements with them at this time, or not. Even if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your achievements, this is still an act of treating yourself nicely.
Spend quality time with yourself
Spending the afternoon in a café with your favourite book, go to a beach and just sit there in nature, or take a mindful walk through the bush.
Do something nice for others
If you feel that you have the capacity to do so, this act of giving might bring you a lot of joy and a further sense of achievement.
Write a celebratory letter to yourself
It is a bit like journaling, except that this is intended for you to read at a certain point in the future as a way of remembering of your past gains. In the letter you could write about the context of the year, obstacles and difficulties, and the achievements you have made. This is a project that could empower not only the present you, but also the future you.
Jennifer MPsych (Clinical), PGDip ClinPsych, BA(Hons – First Class) is a psychologist who understands that a good therapeutic relationship is the starting point of any meaningful work with her clients. She is genuine and easy to talk to, and is dedicated to creating a safe space for her clients to share their stories.
Jennifer has worked in the fields of health psychology as well as general mental health in adults and children. These experiences have equipped her with skills in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of a range of mental health presentations. In addition, she has developed expertise in the management of tinnitus and hypersensitivity of hearing. Recognising that everyone is unique and different, she sees the importance of establishing a collaborative therapeutic relationship, and is committed to tailoring evidence-based interventions to her clients with different situations and backgrounds to effectively promote their mental wellbeing.
Through her years of clinical work, Jennifer has pursued her interest in working with adults experiencing a range of mental health issues including anxiety, depression, social adjustment issues, stress management, and cross-cultural issues. She is passionate about therapy, and is always committed to further increasing her professional knowledge to ensure she can provide the best possible care for her clients.