This has been an interesting year, one which has represented some pretty phenomenal growth in the mental health fields and in recovery. We’ve seen a heightened awareness regarding mental health, and been fortunate in our own recovery community as we’ve opened new programs and refined our mental-health track. The ardent efforts to end the stigma surrounding mental health issues have expanded to a multitude of social media outlets, with memes making mental-health issues easily searchable and accessible to those suffering and those in the field of providing care. Being a part of this has been encouraging. It’s been quite a remarkable year.
As the year comes to a close, I want to stop and acknowledge that which we have accomplished. It’s so easy to list the things we, as individuals, didn’t do. We are skilled at self-flagellation, that’s for sure. I wrote about this last year, suggesting we change the way we look at the new year and the impending resolutions and expectations we place on ourselves. Sure, we want to grow and be better, but as recovering addicts and alcoholics, we are prone to placing unnecessary expectations on ourselves and then falling apart when we don’t meet them. This self-defeating behavior is not an act of self care or kindness but rather a means of passive-aggressively beating ourselves up when we purportedly “fail.” Ultimately, it’s this call for “perfection” that eventually becomes hazardous to our mental health.
This week, I’ve read some amazing posts which also spoke about approaching the new year a bit differently from the usual fare like this fairly common happening we see every January: you go to the gym to do your regular workout, and bam, there’s suddenly a line to get to the treadmill…at 2 pm on a Monday. It’s not surprising, though, as many people roll into the new year earnestly committing to a new workout regime. The problem is, come the end of January, the crowds peter out and those plans fall to the wayside. This isn’t to say that committing to a new exercise plan or eating better or staying sober or being kinder or being more of service are things we shouldn’t strive to do. We should, but without the limitations of setting ourselves up for unattainable goals (like being the next Mother Theresa if we are prone to being a curmudgeon.) I’ve done this sort of thing myself: committed to going to the gym at 5 am every day. Guess what, I went…once. The truth is, I’m not a morning person, never have been, and that “plan” of mine was truly an act of self-sabotage. Kudos to the early birds, though. Personally, I do much better sticking to the latter part of the day.
This year, instead of making lists of things you want to do or plan to do, try this:
- Make a list of all the things you’ve accomplished this last year. You may be surprised at how much you did accomplish. Doing this also does something else, it enables us to begin to be grateful for the present and for our abilities.
- Make a list of those whose lives you’ve touched and who have touched yours. This is another way to surprise ourselves. Honestly, sometimes we don’t even know until we start investigating our own actions.
- What did you learn? Even the small things count.
- This is a wonderful opportunity to investigate things we would have liked to do differently. I like what Ingrid Mathieu says in her post about this, “I encourage you to look at this question with an eye toward balance, not beating yourself up.” This is really the best way to address this.
As we enter 2012, I encourage you to commit to this: Find a sense of humor in even the toughest situations. There is silliness and fun to be found everywhere, if you just open your heart and mind to it. Laughter is really the best kind of medicine. In sickness and in health, may the new year bring you great joy.