It’s that time of year again - mangoes, mince pies and New Year resolutions. You start to dream of new beginnings and make plans to seek out the change you wish to see in your life. This call to action is often so alluring it whisks you into the New Year leaving little time to slow down and celebrate how much you have achieved and what has been really significant for you and those you love this year. Taking the time to feel a deep sense of gratitude for the year that has passed and all it has provided is a powerful way to:
- Strengthen how you see yourself and your sense of identity
- Recognise where you have had victories (even amongst many challenges)
- Notice trends in your thinking and behaviour that can lead to potentially untapped resources, strengths and exciting avenues going forward
- Give and receive positive feedback helping to strengthen your relationships with those you love
Moving to your New Year resolutions before celebrating the year that has been is similar to trying to navigate a way forward without taking the time to have a look at the map in your hands. Don’t forget to slow down and take time to celebrate this festive season. So what are some simple practices that you can use to celebrate solo or with a group?
Write a letter to yourself
Go to your favourite location and spend 30 minutes writing a note to yourself. In this note reflect as deeply as you can on the past year and make a special effort to seek out the things you wish to give thanks for. It may be the effort you put in, the help you provided or the forgiveness you had the courage to move towards.
If the past year has been particularly tough and the idea of going straight to a positive note is difficult, you could take the approach of 10/5/15. This means 10 minutes of stream of consciousness (anything that comes out of your brain), followed by 5 minutes of harsh reflections that you want to get out and finally 15 minutes of positive and insightful things that you would like to congratulate yourself on doing or overcoming.
Play Build Up Your Family/Mates
Build up your family/mates is a game for when everyone is together. Working best in an informal setting you move around the circle or dinner table deliberately building up members of the group one by one with kind words from every other member at the table. One method is to direct the intention towards “What has X done well this year?” A tactful incentive may be necessary (especially for families), but it will be worth it to hear family members in particular articulating things that the others have done well over the last year and celebrating together. I (Jess) practiced this with a group of 15, 15-year old boys and it was a huge success so I believe with the right approach this can translate into families.
A Year Timeline
Get a big bit of paper. Put it in landscape position and draw a line through the middle left to right. Write January One on the left side of the line and December 31 on the right. This is a timeline of your last year and on it you can start to note the events or insights of significance. After putting the event in bold you can write around it a whole range of important details such as:
- What did that event show you about yourself?
- What value, strength or passion did it highlight?
- Who helped make that opportunity come to life?
- What were your priorities at that point?
- What emotion was primarily attached to that experience?
- What was holding you back at that point and why?
- Is it part of a bigger pattern?
This graphic representation should provide you with a range of strengths, values, resources, relationships, emotions and opportunities that, without drawing out would most likely float by unnoticed.
Positives, Negatives and Interest Stories of the Year (PNI’s)
For those wanting a quick way to reflect this solo or group exercise will bring to the surface a brief overview of past year. When sharing positives, negatives and interest stories make sure to focus on one person at a time and try to listen deeply to the story being told. There is often more below the surface and this can be a great opportunity to draw out the strengths and internal resources that the storyteller might not realise are present in the situation. One-word answers are not accepted and try to encourage the storyteller to paint as clearer picture as they can. Note: this is a great exercise for road trips.
These are just four among many simple reflection and celebration exercises. So please take the time this year to give thanks for the amazing effort you have put in and even better to celebrate together.