3 ways to add positive traditions to your life
A new year is here. Like it or not, the number on the dial flipped over to a new number.
Big changes are tough for people with bipolar disorder, and the flip of the year is an enormous change. While many people think the new year is just one day turning into the next, when you have a mental illness, that one day can feel like so much more.
I often get stuck thinking about all the things I did wrong during the prior year, or dread I won’t survive the trials of the coming 12 months.
How do you keep going when the weight of the new year feels too heavy? Find comfort in your traditions. Here are a few of the traditions to improve mental health I come back to at the end of each year.
Journal a Year-End Review
The first year-end tradition I pick includes pulling out my journal (affiliate link). I spend a few days thinking about the prior year, both the things that worked well and the times that were challenging.
I make simple notes in my journal as I’m thinking, often only a few words for each memory. Then, I use that information to make a few plans for the coming year.
Sometimes you need a prompt to get you moving, so I use the My Positive Year-End Review Guide to get me started. (Yes, I really use the products I make for you.)
As explained here, the 23-page review guide takes some time to complete. There are four sections to help you focus on the positive.
- Celebrate your wins
- Appreciate your gifts
- Remember your lessons
- Plan your next year
There’s room for 15 responses under each subheading. If you’re like me, you’re only going to come up with 1-3 on your first go round. So it usually takes me a week or two just to complete the guide exercises.
Next, I use all of my entries from the guide, and turn them into journal entries. I write at least one paragraph for every item on the four lists. This helps me meditate about the events of the last year, pondering how I felt about them, and if they brought me relief or stress.
I really take my time with the review guide. A lot of times, it takes until the end of January to get through the whole booklet.
Taking the time to fill out the guide and then journal about your responses helps you see what things are working in your life and where you may need to make improvements.
There’s comfort in knowing you’re moving in the right direction. Spending some time with the guide and my journal helps me start the new you with a positive mindset.
The next year-end tradition for me includes comforting entertainment.
Pride and Prejudice (BBC Series)
My best friend, Lizzy, loved the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice (affiliate link) featuring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. Lizzy and I used to set aside time to watch it together at least once a year. I lost her in 2007, but to honor her and keep her memory with me, I watch the series every December.
There’s an unexplainable comfort in watching a movie you’ve seen before, especially one you loved. Watching Pride and Prejudice always gives me peace, and I can’t help but chuckle as I imagine Lizzy sitting next to me, saying the lines before the actor does. I swear, she could quote every word.
I have watched Pride and Prejudice every December for at least the last 20 years. Having a tradition to return to at the conclusion of the year makes me feel safe and stable in a world that is anything but.
You can form entertainment traditions around movies, TV Series, books, museum visits, music albums, or anything else you can think of.
The activity doesn’t matter as long as it’s one that brings you comfort and helps you feel refreshed.
Finally, my last year-end tradition is to clean up my home and life.
Deep Cleaning and Discarding
I’m a tax preparer, so January 2nd through April 15th, my life is little more than taxes and sleep. Everything else gets neglected, no matter how much I hate putting other things aside.
To keep myself from feeling overwhelmed by the things I have to skip during tax season, I deep clean my house in December. I move furniture and vacuum under it, dust the tall shelves and ceiling fans, and give the hard-surface floors a good scrubbing.
Outside the house, I remove all the leaves from the yard and flower beds, trim back bushes and dead pampas grass, and organize the garden shed. My goal is to put everything in place so I can jump into activity when the grass starts growing again.
Then, I walk through the house and shed and look for things I haven’t used in the past year. I pick at least 10 items and either throw them out, give them away, or donate them to Goodwill.
Finally, I do a digital clean up. I reorganize my writing files, delete the drafts I know I’ll never finish, and update my link bank, the place I keep links to all my online content. I also purge things from my office at work, so everything in my life is orderly to start the year.
Do What You Can
I always have more planned for December than is humanly possible to do. In my mind, I imagine I’m The Flash (affiliate link) and can do an all-day job in five minutes. So far, my super speed hasn’t happened.
So I start my year-end projects by making a list of all I want to do and then put the list in order of importance. I highlight the must-do’s, and I congratulate myself if I get those done. I may toss the rest of the list or add it to future to-do lists.
With bipolar disorder, year-end traditions are about maintaining balance. Spending dozens of hours binge-watching videos or cleaning the house obsessively is not healthy. Instead, try to do everything in moderation and never forget self-care (affiliate link).
The turning of the year can feel like jumping from the tropical sun into a frozen swimming pool. The shock can be overwhelming, even though it really is the turning of one day to the next.
If the end of the year is a tough time for you, put together a few traditions to add comfort and stability to your life. Try journaling with the Year-End Review Guide. Choose entertainment and creative activities to make you feel safe and bring back wonderful memories. Make a to-do list and deep clean your life and home, clearing out unwanted and unused items.
Whatever you choose for your year-end traditions, find activities that will help you feel comfort and peace.
Until next time, keep fighting.
Q: What are traditions?
A: Traditions are customs or beliefs that are often passed down from one generation to the next. They can include cultural practices, family rituals, or personal routines that have significance and meaning to you.
Q: How can traditions improve my mental health?
A: Traditions can provide a sense of stability, comfort, and connection to others, which can be beneficial for your mental health. By engaging in traditions, you may feel a sense of purpose, belonging, and identity, which can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
Q: What are some examples of traditions I can use to improve my mental health?
A: There are many traditions you can try, such as daily meditation, journaling, spending time in nature, celebrating cultural holidays or festivals, cooking family recipes, or creating art. The key is to find traditions that resonate with you and make you feel good.
Q: What if I don’t have any traditions?
A: It’s never too late to start! You can create new traditions that align with your values and interests. Start small and be consistent. For example, you could start a weekly game night with friends, go for a walk every morning, or practice gratitude before bed. Ask your loved ones for help if you need more ideas.
Q: Can I combine traditions with therapy or other treatments?
A: Absolutely! Traditions can be a complementary tool to other mental health treatments, such as therapy or medication. Talk to your healthcare provider about incorporating traditions into your treatment plan.
I hope these answers help you understand the benefits of using traditions to improve your mental health. Remember to be patient and gentle with yourself as you explore what works best for you.