Looking Back and Looking Forward

A road leading to a sunrise with an arrow from 2021 to 2022

By Jeannie Finnegan, CDP, Elder Care & Dementia Care Specialist at Stanton Aging Solutions

Each year, many of us make resolutions to become a better version of ourselves in the new year. Many times, these new year’s resolutions focus on the negative — our worst qualities that we want to change, our bad habits we want to break, or our biggest mistakes we hope to rectify. If your past year had major losses, challenges, or setbacks, you may long for “the good old days” or how things once were, idealizing the past and longing for something that is gone. This is very easy to do when thinking about our pre-pandemic lives and the ways things are now, and certainly, many have experienced the loss of family or friends, jobs, and more.  

Depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges have increased astronomically over the last two years, and many have struggled with very real trials. Is it any wonder that so many of us long to “get back to normal?” But if you give it serious contemplation, would you really want to go back to exactly how things were?  Or would it be more positive and hopeful if you chose to “move forward” or “press on” in 2022, thinking of it as a blank canvas or clean slate? Giving your new goals, plans, and routines a name that is more optimistic and growth-focused can be a greater incentive for real healing and change.

Step Forward with Optimism

Before we slam the door on 2021 entirely, maybe we want to reflect on what was good and find some things to be thankful for. This could be the first positive step into the new year. Think of what you are blessed with, such as your car, a place to live, your job, your health, (even the family that gets on your nerves). Maybe you start with something as basic as being thankful for the air you breathe. Although it might be hard to think of anything good when there has been so much suffering, it’s not helpful to wallow in negativity. In fact, studies show that those who practice gratitude are more optimistic and feel better about their lives. They also exercise more and have fewer doctor visits than those who focus on more negative experiences.

Create a New Perspective

We can try to look at 2021 through a “gratitude lens” and move forward with a more positive view. Consider starting a daily gratitude journal or post something daily on social media noting at least one thing you’re grateful for. It is likely that once you start thinking through your blessings, it will be hard to limit it to just one. One analogy that can be helpful is that of the “rose, the thorn, and the bud.” Each day, try to think of something beautiful or good that you can be thankful for (the rose), one challenge that you overcame or worked through (the thorn), and one thing you are looking forward to in the future (the bud).

Reflect, Accept, and Forgive

Starting a new year is an ideal time to reflect on not only what we can be grateful for, but also to heal from difficulties and hurts and then grow in the year ahead. Instead of being reminded only of wounds or trials and then becoming bitter, or just trying to sweep them under the rug, perhaps there is an element of surrender that needs to happen. Or perhaps there is someone we need to forgive (or ask forgiveness of) before we can move forward in peace and avoid carrying burdens into the new year. Forgiveness can be a gift you give yourself in 2022.

If you find yourself really struggling to move forward or feeling stuck, consider reaching out to a friend, pastor, counselor or mental health professional. If you are a caregiver in need of resources and support, we’d love to help.

No matter where you find yourself in this brand-new year, know that you are valuable and that you have opportunities for growth and joy in 2022. There is only one you, and you have unique gifts and talents to offer the world and those around you. May 2022 be a year of hope, peace, and gratitude for us all.

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