A Conscious New Year: Release 2017 + Celebrate 2018

via @voguemagazine

via @voguemagazine

By Shelby Dwyer, LMHC

The confetti-soaked night of December 31st is an electrifying annual moment.

People uncover self-confidence, intrinsic motivation, and become blissfully optimistic. So much of our focus falls on the future through setting resolutions and goals for the year, whether it’s choosing travel destinations to satiate wanderlust, or merely thinking about how we will achieve self-actualization and become a magical unicorn.

However, there is also an opportunity to shift our focus: we can ring in the new year by honoring the one to which we are saying farewell.

Reflecting on the past year allows for us to take inventory of our victories and our areas for improvement. We spend 365 days living our life occasionally pausing to take in our experiences for a brief, fleeting moment. Devoting one day or even one evening to mull over our past year can be liberating and cathartic; we can savor our successes and offer ourselves the space to acknowledge our faults. Furthermore, when we contemplate experiences and behaviors and sit with our reactions, we can begin to sever ties with those emotions and experiences that no longer serve us.

Some of us may grieve the passing year.

Change can be unnerving, and transitioning into a new year without any predictability for all that lies ahead can be a lot to process. Perhaps there were personal losses, health concerns, financial instability, all of which can shake us to our core. When we’ve been exposed to negativity repeatedly, our brain will naturally continue to follow those pessimistic thought patterns. We feel exhausted from all that we’ve endured from the year, yet hopeful for the opportunities a new year may bring. Although it may be difficult at first, acknowledging all the tribulations within a safe space is a way to release that negativity.

Step One: Release 2017 

If you’re having trouble releasing the past year, here’s a way to do so:

(DISCLAIMER: Anyone with a trauma history may not find this exercise appropriate; in that case, I recommend that if you choose to complete it that it be done with the assistance of a licensed clinician)

Find a space in your home or another safe, comforting place where you will be able to sit in relative silence (not your bed, save that space for sleep and sex).

Light a candle and grab a piece of paper and a pen. Find an object that offers something to either your sense of touch or sense of smell and have this nearby, as well. If you’d like, play some soothing ambient, instrumental tunes.

Take some deep breaths and write down everything you can recall from the past year. This does not have to be in chronological order, nor do you have to write in full sentences. Flip the paper over and on the back, write down every emotion that arose while you wrote down your past experiences. Once you’re complete, close your eyes or look away from the paper and take three deep belly breaths.

When you feel ready, read the emotion words you’ve written. Allow yourself to sit with these feelings for a few minutes, knowing that in this moment they are memories and not how you currently feel. Emotions are temporary. Sit in the discomfort and breathe through that discomfort. You may want to set a timer, as this can help solidify that there is an end to feeling these difficult emotions. If at any moment it feels too overwhelming, take those three deep belly breaths; touch or smell the object you brought; focus on the music playing or the flickering flame of your candle.

Once your timer goes off or you feel ready to let go of these emotions, say aloud

“Thank you, experiences and emotions, for offering me strength and teaching me life lessons. I release you with compassion.”

You may be so compelled as to shred the paper, ripping it up and tossing it up in the air like confetti. Or, if you have a safe way to do so, burn the sucker in a fire-proof bowl or pot.

Step Two: Celebrate 2018 

Peering through another lens, we may celebrate the passing year. Maybe it’s been epic: you landed your dream job, you met an amazing romantic partner, you began to finally feel more connected with your soul and life’s purpose… Basically, all the good things. Small victories, large victories, this is a time to honor the hard work you’ve put in that has paid off.

Entering a new year is refreshing and rejuvenating; change revives dormant energy within us.

Use that fresh energy to spend your New Year’s Eve in a conscious way.

  • Invite your close friends over for a nourishing, healthy home-cooked meal. You may choose to indulge in traditional alcoholic beverages, or maybe instead you and your guests imbibe in kombucha or fresh-fruit flavored soda water (e.g., lemon, lime and cucumber; smooshed cranberries and orange). If you choose to avoid alcohol, think of how amazing it will be to wake up in 2018 without a hangover! And if you choose to drink, maybe try to limit yourself so that you can still be present for the ball drop, and avoid feeling shame-ridden in the morning. Either way, make sure you hydrate with water.

  • Take a yoga class at a local studio. Many studios now offer incredible workshops on NYE and NYD, offering meditative ways to transition into a new year. Not only will you be zenned out and ready to welcome the new year fully present, but you’ll have nourished your body and mind through the meditation and asana practice.

  • Turn your bathroom into an at-home spa. If possible, try to keep your phone out of reach. Allow yourself the quiet time to reflect on the past year and enjoy the luxuriousness of pampering yourself.  Light candles or incense, play soft ambient music, and bust out that face mask you’ve been saying you’ll try for months. Draw a warm bath with Epsom salts and essential oils (my go-to lately has been bergamot, palo santo, and eucalyptus). Give yourself a facial: spritz some rose water on your face, mix 2-3 drops of lavender essential oil into your nighttime moisturizer and massage your face, paying extra attention to your jaw and temples, places where we tend to hold tension. Massage a creamy lotion onto your whole body (bonus points if you dry-brush before the tub!), adding a couple of drops of essential oil here too if you so choose. Put on your comfiest, hygge-iest clothing, maybe wrapping yourself up in a cozy blanket. Make a decaffeinated warm drink, perhaps a spicy rooibos chai or soothing turmeric milk. Allow the evening to be quiet and contemplative, as low key as it gets.

Enter 2018 with comfort and consciousness. Offer yourself and the universe gratitude that you are alive and healthy enough to experience a new year. Honor your past without dwelling on it, and welcome the future with an open heart and mind.

Cheers to your healthiest and best year yet!

Shelby is a licensed mental health counselor living in Boston with her husband and two cats. She is near-obsessed with living a conscious and wellness-driven lifestyle. Follow her on social media @theyogitherapist.


Michelle Pellizzon