2020 stunk. Here’s how to start 2021 with a fresh mindset

Let go of the bad, and embrace the good that’s yet to come.

When December comes around, it’s natural to hope for a fresh start and a new beginning. But if your year was as bad to you as 2020 has been to, well, everyone, chances are your problems, fears, and anxieties will still be with you on January 1 (possibly wrapped up in a horrendous hangover, too).

It’s true that the strike of midnight on New Year’s Eve won’t suddenly make the world a better place, or put an end to the pandemic. But changing your outlook on past events can indeed help you recharge, and give you the energy you need to face the next twelve months. Here’s how to use New Year’s Eve as an opportunity to let go—and open your arms to the possibility of a better 2021.

Turn new year’s day into a ritual

Since the beginning of time, people from all cultural backgrounds have celebrated change. That’s why we throw birthday parties and make a big deal of life events such as graduations and marriages. But this was a particularly tough year for everyone, so staying up and toasting when the ball drops might not pack the same punch as usual.

Instead, try to let go of 2020 by creating a new ritual. This can be anything you want it to be—from spending the day or the hours leading up to New Year’s meditating, to performing your own made-up ceremony with your social bubble.

“You can do symbolic actions, like guided visualization, where you let your worried or stuck energy flow out of you into the earth. Or real actions, like blowing your worries into a rock and burying it, or throwing it into a body of water,” says Jodi Aman, a family therapist and author of Anxiety, I’m So Done With You.

Take this as a creative opportunity to express yourself in any way you’re comfortable with. But whatever you do, the key is to focus on letting go of the bad things you’ve experienced this year and making room for the good things to come.

Remembering doesn’t mean reliving

Acknowledging all the negative things that 2020 brought with it—the whole lot of them—is important to move forward, but that doesn’t mean you need to relive past traumas, Aman says. Doing this will help you be aware of what you’re willingly leaving behind, and focus on the good things you want for the next year to bring.

“You feel the feeling without the story of it,” she says. “And it fades because it is in the story where you suffer.”

In her lecture on clearing emotional clutter, she mentions that one way of doing this is by thinking about those things that upset you this year, and forgive yourself for feeling bad. Don’t judge yourself for hurting or being affected by it. Accepting that it’s ok to feel the way you do and consoling yourself the way you would a friend (hugging yourself, kissing your hand), will help you process those feelings and eventually let go of them.

This can be hard, though, and staying positive can sometimes feel irreverent, says Aman. This is especially true if you’re one of the millions of people that have lost someone dear to them this past year.

“But when you think about generosity, kindness, and compassion as deeply honoring those we’ve lost, it helps us sustain those good feelings,” she says.

Thank yourself

Even if you didn’t accomplish most of the things on the list of goals you set back in January 2020, you also need to acknowledge the good things that happened this year. And that includes your accomplishments—even if it feels like you just barely made it through.

“I express gratitude for myself and all my support. I give myself kudos for what I did do, despite the mountain of anxiety and loss of the year,” says Aman. “Anything anyone did should be seen as a miracle!”

In your New Year’s ritual you can give yourself a moment to think or write about all the positive or challenging things you did this year, however small. You can also take this advice more literally, and thank yourself by adding some self-care to your ritual—take a long relaxing bath, do something for yourself that you’ve been putting off, or simply enjoy doing an activity you love.

Whatever it is, think of it as a present to yourself. Focus on the fact that you made it through, and that is impressive enough.

Create new traditions

This holiday season has been unusual for most of us. Surging cases of COVID-19 worldwide have forced people to stay indoors and only celebrate with those they share their space with. This is certainly a different situation compared to past years, and although it’s not ideal, it may be an opportunity to come up with something new.

Aman says making new traditions is the best way to keep your energy up, because it gives you something novel to be excited about. Again, this can be anything—playing games with your family over Zoom, coming up with a new signature dish or drink with your roommates, or developing a self-care ritual to do every year.

“I just bought an $8 fondue pot from a neighbor, and me and my family plan to make our own soft pretzels this year and dip them in cheese,” says Aman. “That is what we look forward to.”

Whatever you do to greet the new year, know that feeling tired and having no energy to celebrate is ok. 2020 is almost over, and even if things don’t change much on January 1, we still have things to look forward to, things we can be thankful for, and a whole lot of memes to help us muddle through the rest.