Today is the last day of the year 2014. On the surface, today is no different than any other day: the sun rises, people wake, breakfast occurs, and dogs are walked. Yet this Wednesday is imbued by significance because of where it falls in our calendaring system.
Annual events such as the New Year, birthdays, and anniversaries encourage reflection. One looks both at the past and the future. As a psychologist, I discourage over-rumination of the past (loosely related to depression) as well as excessive worry of the future (loosely related to anxiety). The sweet spot is the present: being fully alert and aware in the moment.
Still, messages from our past can and must be used to guide our future. Existential Therapy addresses many of the components that can arise during these annually charged reflections: the inevitability of death, freedom of choice and its associated stress, and a sense of isolation due to awareness of being born alone and dying alone. From this awareness, perceived meaninglessness can arise.
In contrast, from this awareness, a more enriched, textured life can arise. In our society, we have freedom. With that freedom comes a responsibility: reflection and insight help to drive conscious choice that moves meaning. None of the possible choices in our lives will avoid death. None of the possible choices remove the fact that you are born alone and will die alone. But you can feel more connected with society and individuals during life. You can set up a life compass that points to what is meaningful.
Set time aside today to actively engage in reflection of the past year as well as how to best move forward in the direction of your personal values, your personal mission statement, for a meaning-driven life. Here are some questions to help start your journey in reflection.
1. Over the past year, what are the three things, people, events, animals, that you are most grateful for?
2. Over the past year, what is something that you accomplished, or explored, or a pattern changed, that you feel proud for?
3. Over the past year, reflect on two to three difficult moments. Were you able to accept the parts not in your control? Were you able to engage in change with the parts in your control?
4. Now, looking towards the future, 2015, what are three goals for the next year? Make them specific and achievable. They will be your guide. Alignment with these goals will indicate that you are living a value-driven life.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
Dr. Groesz has been interviewed by Men's Health Magazine, Self Magazine, USA Today, and radio talk shows on her eating disorder research. This blog showcases opinions on topics that range from overeating to life's meaning to mental health disorders.