For some, 2014 wasn’t chock-full of happy relationships and smiling children. As we look back on the year, and plan for the next, we inevitably remember the not-so-happy moments. To complicate matters, sometimes happy moments can remind us of our current troubles: a joyful memory from a former relationship can cause feelings of sadness in the present. It’s difficult to avoid “Year in Review” segments you see on the news, TV, or internet – and it’s even more difficult to avoid reviewing our own past year.
Many took issue with Facebook’s “Year In Review” app, which gives users a chance to look back but may also dig up painful memories.
Web designer Eric Meyer had an unfortunate year with the tragic loss of his 6-year old daughter, Rebecca, in June. When Meyer logged on to Facebook this December he was greeted with Rebecca’s angelic face and the words “Eric, here’s what your year looked like!”. This caused a flood of painful memories to return to Meyer. Meyer then posted an emotional blog entry stating “I didn’t go looking for grief this afternoon, but it found me anyway…”
For others, while the year was thankfully devoid of tragedy, it just wasn’t “good enough” – we remember the missed opportunities, failed goals, or compare ourselves unfairly to someone else’s more “picturesque” year.
So how can we tackle a painful year?
1. Practice accepting the past and refocusing on what went well: It’s not helpful to ignore and bury painful memories from the year. Instead, we should work on accepting them, while at the same time re-focusing our attention on the things that did go well during the year.
2. Start asking why, not “why me.” Assess situations where things didn’t go right and ask yourself “What could I have done differently?” Come up with your answers and when that same or similar situation happens, you will be better prepared!
3. Think of the old saying, “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” An inactive mind and body allows more negative thoughts to manifest. That’s why it’s important to get busy and active in your life. It could be going for a bike ride or visiting the gym. It doesn’t even need to be a physical change. You could take up new hobbies and learn a new skill. Just as long as you keep moving forward. Keep in mind that this is the perfect time for experimenting with a new interest.
One of the most effective methods for dealing with the past is focusing your energies on preparing for the future. Setting realistic and measurable goals and devising plans for the New Year can provide a new sense of hope when dealing with an otherwise dreary 2014. So set those resolutions and keep working on them for a happier, healthier lifestyle—to say nothing of a more positive Year in Review when December 2015 rolls around!
For more on mental health, follow Dr. Fader on Twitter @drfader.