I know, I know. Let’s be real, 2016 wasn’t the greatest year in our books. Between the theatrics of politics, to turmoil in the Middle East, to racial tensions, and even Harambe, 2016 has taken a toll on a whole bunch of us. It seemed like every other day there was something else in the world to be worried about. Our environment, whether it’s good or bad, is a great influence on our thoughts and outlook and can seriously affect our wellbeing and mindset.
The holidays are coming to an end and so are family get-togethers and the endless array of food. Celebrating the new year can be a stressful time, especially if you feel like you haven’t accomplished as much as you wanted to over the last year. Reflecting on the past 365 days can put you in a pretty bad mood! But, it’s important to remember to focus on the good things that have happened.
I may seem like a hypocrite by starting off this article with pretty much everything that went wrong in the past year. But to be fair, it’s a type of memory bias, called “Negative Potency,” in which we tend to remember negative events more clearly and accurately, and with stronger feelings than positive ones. We, as humans, are more prone to exhibiting better recognition memory for negative information. But how do we combat this? Most of the time, we tend to have stronger feelings and use stronger words with stronger connotations when something bad happens, and these linger in our minds longer than something good.
So how do we combat this memory bias, especially going into the New Year? First off, think about all the great things that have happened over the last 365 days. Think of all the blessings you have, your family, your friends, great meals you’ve shared, awesome Netflix binges, sleeping in all day on Sundays!
Think of how you have grown as a person in the last year, and how your viewpoints on things may have changed. These little things DO matter! Be grateful for the good that has happened and hold on to those feelings. Even if you haven’t reached your goals from last year, you ARE closer to accomplishing them. You are making progress. And progress means change and change means growth!
Now, if there are things that didn’t go your way, start thinking about those things in a more positive light. Try to remember that everything happens for a reason and although you may not realize it now, or ever, have faith in that belief. Remember that a new year is upon you and if there is something that you don’t like, either about yourself or your environment, you CAN CHANGE it.
One of the best parts of celebrating the new year is looking forward to your goals and future accomplishments. Have realistic goals that you want to accomplish and try to make a plan for each month of how you will reach those goals. This way, you will be able to reach these small milestones every month and they will eventually lead you to where you want to be.
Create small positive changes, like saying “today is going to be a good day” to yourself in the mirror every morning, or doing a few minutes of mindfulness breathing, or even writing three good things that happened to you in a journal every night. It may seem like it won’t make a difference at first, but having positive thoughts is the gateway to leading a healthier life.
Remember, change ultimately means growth. You cannot become who you want to be by remaining what you are now. The new year is a sign of creating a better you, a healthier and happier you. Create change for the better, but take it one step at a time. Take it slow and let it happen organically. This year, you don’t have to create a new ‘you.’ Simply be a better version of ‘you.’
Dr. Rabia Toor is a recent graduate of Saba University School of Medicine. Her passion for social work and providing care motivated her to pursue an MD. After suffering in silence for many years, she believed it was time to speak out and be an advocate for the education and treatment of mental illnesses. Her first foray into the arts is a documentary called “Veil of Silence,” a film on the stigma of mental illness in the Muslim community. She hopes to continue her work in the future as a family physician specializing in psychiatric care. Between studying mindlessly for hours on end and being a social advocate, she loves eating Mexican food, crocheting, playing with her kitten and shamelessly discussing her Pinterest fails.