It is a new year. And you may feel really excited about it. Or you may feel a sense of foreboding.
I get that. The new year can bring a lot of mixed feelings.
In addition, sometimes we also often feel a lot of pressure at the beginning of a new year.
Perhaps we feel pressure to set goals or intentions. Or to choose a word that defines our new year. Or to make a vision board that represents all our best dreams coming true in 2022.
And perhaps those activities excite you and you love to do them. Or perhaps, if you have been like me in the past, you feel skeptical of such activities. Perhaps that is because they strike you as dabbling in the realm of irrational positivity.
Irrational positivity is a set of ideas that denies the existence of natural human suffering and social injustice.
Irrational positivity further suggests that a person’s thoughts govern everything that happens to them in their life. Thus irrational positivity maintains that anything bad that happens to people is their own fault and a result of negative thinking.
Irrational positivity flies in the face of wisdom and everyday examples. And it is also lacking in compassion. Irrational positivity also tends to be very individualistic—focusing on people’s individual successes or failure.
As such it fails to draw on our communal strength to make the world a better place for everyone.
I have written more about irrational positivity here:
Better than Positive Thinking: Resilient Thinking
Can Self-Help Perpetuate Injustice?
So, if there is such a think as irrational positivity is there such a thing as rational positivity?
And can such a rational positivity be a constructive force in our life, especially as we look to the new year?
Rational positivity as a set of beliefs that hold that while life contains suffering and injustice, human beings are powerful both individually and communally.
Rational positivity suggests that we can always change our world for the better in large and small ways. And rational positivity tells us that tomorrow, or this year, can always be more loving, just, and humane than today.
This kind of positivity looks a lot like hope.
And it is also an expression of resilient thinking. (Again, you can read about resilient thinking here: Better than Positive Thinking: Resilient Thinking.)
Let’s tie this back to activities we might do to start our new year.
Perhaps you desire to cultivate hope for the New Year without descending into irrational positivity. Me, too.
If so, here are some activities you can—or twist on old ones—to build hope without descending into irrational positivity.
One: Start a simple breathing practice.
One of the best things you can do to build hope in the New Year is to start a regular breathing practice. It can be very simple. For instance, at the beginning of the classes I teach at my local college, we usually begin each class with a moment of silence
We sit silently with eyes open or close, depending on the person’s comfort level, and we focus on counting ten breathing cycles. Breathe in. Breathe out. (1 cycle.)
On my evaluations this year, one of my students wrote, “Please keep doing the moment of silence. It really helps set the tone for class and calm my brain down.”
I get this. Breathing helps me do that, too.
And breathing practices or moments of silence aren’t just for the classroom.
You can do them at the beginning or end of your day or anytime in between when you want to clear your head and create calm.
Just sit or lie down quietly somewhere.
Close your eyes if you desire, or keep them open. Then focus on breathing in and out slowly for ten breath cycles. (Or however many breath cycles you desire.)
You can read about breathing practices I have used in the past here:
12 Cool Things That Happened When I Practiced Breathing for a Year
I have recently also enjoyed using Daily Calm meditation videos on YouTube. Like this one:
Daily Calm—10 Minute Mindful Meditation Video
The more we calm our mind, the more possibilities and peace come into our awareness. This gives us hope, and a simple breathing practice can do this this for us.
Two: Choose a word for the new year.
Many people, including me, like to pick an inspiring word that they want to describe the new year. Choosing such a word can sometimes be more helpful than traditional goal setting, and there is a reason why.
Goals are often very specific, which is certainly fine. However, if we set a specific goal, there is usually only one way we can achieve that goal. For instance, if we set the goal, “I want to lose weight” and we are talking about body weight, there is only one way to achieve that goal.
And if we fail to achieve this specific goal, we feel like a failure.
If, however, we decide that we want the word “Flow” to be our word for the year, there are many ways we can achieve the feeling of flow. This range of possibilities can kindle our creativity and helps us succeed in ways we did not previously imagine.
Here is a post about choosing a word for the year:
Does Having a Word for the Year Help?
Choosing a word for the year gives up hope when we choose words that hold personal meaning and joy for us. It becomes even more meaningful when we look for all the ways we can embody this word in our year or see it embodied.
Three: Practice adding deliciousness to your life.
Another thing we can do instead of setting goals (which often focus on quitting bad habits) is to focus on ways we can bring more deliciousness–more love, sweetness, and joy–into our life.
And the more deliciousness we add to our life, the less likely we are to engage in unhelpful coping mechanisms, which is what bad habits usually are.
To add deliciousness to your life this year, you might do the following:
Develop a simple breathing practice. (See #1 above).
Play energetic or soothing music you love regularly throughout your day and perhaps dance to it.
Practice affirmations rooted in hope.(Affirmations for People Who Hate Affirmations.)
Spend time daily contemplating that the Universe adores you. (Here is a Youtube Video that Might Help: The Universe Loves You Unconditionally.)
Take time each day to recognize that you have intrinsic worth, and you are connected to everyone else and something bigger than you. (You can read more about intrinsic goodness here: Why You Have Intrinsic Worth Today)
Walk regularly around trees and water to nourish your soul.
Paint a room or part of a room a color that brings you joy.
Choose a topic you want to research throughout the year and dive into it.
Start a hobby that encourages flow like watercolor painting, knitting, crocheting, woodwork, tai chi, yoga, dancing, or coloring. Activities that promote flow bring more peace, joy, and hope into our life.
Starting a walking, game, or dinner club with friends.
Send cards in the mail to friends. You will likely get some back and feel connected and loved.
Practice loving connection with other people, which helps both ourselves and other people flourish. You can reading more about this here: Flourish-Friendly vs. Control Relationships.)
Start a contemplative practice that connects you with yourself, other people, and the Universe. (You can read more about this here: Contemplative Practices: A Post for Everyone.)
What are some other delicious things you can think of that bring good into your life and the life of others?
Sent an intention this year to add deliciousness regularly to your life.
Four: Re-frame Gratitude Practice as Playing with the Universe
You might be aware that gratitude practice is all the rage right now. Initially, all the talk of gratitude practice both annoyed and exhausted me.
And then I started thinking of gratitude as playing with the Universe. Now I really enjoy it. You can read more about this idea here, and perhaps it may inspire you to develop a playful gratitude practice: What I have Learned about Gratitude Lately.
One way you can practice gratitude is to list five things you are grateful for at the end of every day. You can just list them in your head or write them in a journal.
Five: Develop a Nature Practice
Historically humans have spent most of their time outside surrounded by a rich diversity of animal and plant life. Such life gifted us with an abundance of visual, auditory, and tactile stimulation.
And no doubt the wild world was dangerous for humans at times. But it was also incredibly stimulating in the best possible way.
However in contemporary society, human beings spend an increasing amount of time inside in front of technology. While this ability brings comfort and novel entertainment into our lives in many ways, it cuts us off from the rich diversity of and meaningful connections with the natural world.
And our mental health suffers for it. In fact, we can be nature-starved and not even know it, which can lead to a variety of mental health issues. (You can read more about this here: Why You May Be Nature-Starved.)
One of the best things you can do for yourself this year is develop a weekly or even daily nature practice. To do this, you just walk regularly around in as rich of a natural environment as you are able to walk in.
This might be a forest. Or it might be a local park. It might just be your neighborhood or your back yard.
And if you would like some activities to do on your walk, you might find this book helpful:
100 Things to Do in the Forest
Developing a consistent nature practice gives us hope because it reminds us of the beauty, diversity, and meaningful connections available to us. It helps us cultivate a sense of belonging.
Make a Love-Focused Vision Board
Love-Focused Vision Boards can be a useful tool for cultivating hope in the new year. That is because they help us practice visualization, which can indeed help us better achieve important personal goals and desires.
There is a lot of scientific research documenting the power of visualization. You can read more about this here:
The Science of Visualization: Maximizing Your Brain’s Potential During the Recession
The Complete Guide to Visualization for Logical and Rational People
Professional athletes have long used the power of visualization to help them improve their game and achieve success. And this is no surprise.
If we picture with vivid detail ourselves achieving something and feel this achievement in our body (which is how athletes practice visualization), it can help our brain figure out how to make it happen.
Vision boards can operate in a similar way.
To make a vision board, you collect pictures that represent the major goals or feelings you would like to see become reality in the new year. You arrange these pictures decoratively on a board—like a collage.
You can do this with material pictures and poster boards or with digital pictures arrange on a PowerPoint slide or in a digital collage you make in a program like Adobe Spark or Canva.
Then post your vision board in a place you see regularly. For instance, you could hang a poster vision board in a wall on your house or make a digital vision board the background for your computer screen.
When you make a Love-Focused Vision Board you imagine the good things you want to see in your life in the following year that bring good both to you and to others.
Some people who use vision boards suggest that our focus in life should be perfect bodies, fancy houses, cars, and lots of money. And by the way, there is nothing wrong with beautiful bodies, houses, cars, or money. All these good gifts have a place in our life.
But the most important thing in our life is cultivating connection with ourselves, other people, and Something Bigger than ourselves. When we focus on these priorities first, other beautiful and excellent gifts follow, some of which are certainly material.
On the other hand, if we don’t make loving connections a priority, all the beautiful bodies, houses, cars, and money in the world won’t make us happy.
So, to make a love-focused vision board, first imagine cultivating a loving connection with yourself, other people, and Something Bigger Than Yourself.* Imagine what a more just and loving world would look like for everyone. Then construct your vision board based on the images that flow from those imaginings.
A loved-focused vision board helps us make loving connections the priority. And that always brings more hope into our life.
Here is a bit more about vision boards: How to Make a Vision Board for 2022 and Why You Should.
A Parting Note
Many common new year practices like choosing a word, expressing gratitude, or doing a vision board can be great practices when done with an attitude, not of irrational positivity, but of hope.
Hope is a set of beliefs that tell us we can always change our world for the better in large and small ways. It reminds us that tomorrow can always be more loving, just, and humane than it is today.
We’ve got this.
Did you know you can work with me in the new year? I work with both individuals and groups in my philosophical consulting practice, Inside Out Consulting, which you can read more about here. I would love to work with you.