Why New Year is so emotional

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At this time of year, there are two types of people.  Those who love New Year’s Eve and making their resolutions and those, like me, that think it’s overrated and happily look forward to mid-January when we can all stop reciting ‘Happy New Year’ and asking about resolutions we know that no-one has any intention of keeping.

But New Year can be hard for a lot of us because the calendar dictates it a natural time to reflect on our recent past and we don’t always want or need reminders of that, especially if it’s been a hard year.  We face New Years’ Eve alone without kissing anyone at midnight.  We’ve had a painful year and it doesn’t feel as though the year ahead will be any better.  We think everyone’s lives (and the way they feel about them) are better than ours.

New Year is a heart-sensitive time and one not many of us openly talk about for fear we are called negative.  The Internet and our social networks become cacophonous echo chambers of ‘New Year, New Me’ sentiments.  People declare it ‘their year’ so full of hope.

New Year, for me chronically suffering mental health issues, is no-man’s land.  I neither want to look back at my difficult year or ahead to another (likely) year of illness.

Physiologically and psychologically, we process positive and negative situations differently.  Whilst we enjoy positive experiences, the memory we have of those can be lost relatively quickly as Dopamine floods our brains with good feelings.  Conversely, and very naturally, negative experiences not only fail to ‘light up’ our good brain chemicals and transmitters therefore leading to shorter, happy memories but we reflect and actively think about negative situations more in an attempt to understand them.  Therefore, even when it’s been a ‘good’ year, we are still likely to vastly remember the bad times.

And so, we end up on New Year’s Eve with every TV channel celebrating in time lapse as the world turns to midnight feeling emotional because we are sad about the year we have left behind (whether it’s good or bad) and unsure (or terrified) about the year that lay ahead.

It doesn’t mean that those of us who find New Year’s Eve so hard are ungrateful for the good things that have happened in that year or even that we’re alive to experience another year to begin with.  It simply means that life is complicated, beautiful and scary that it’s perfectly natural to feel anxious about it all.

As we prepare for the clock to strike midnight, we are full of emotions.  If it’s been a good year, we sit with splendid wonder at how good it feels to be alive.  I remember having the best year of my life and watching the Sydney Harbour fireworks with friends in tears, overcome with just how content and in love with my life I was.  Three years later and the depression is still so relentless and life-threatening, I don’t want to see January 1st despite planning to launch my own mental health social enterprise business.

And so on New Year’s Eve we try to close the lid on the past year however good or bad it treated us and we face another 365 days of the unknown. We wish it treats us kindly.  We hope that we can achieve the dreams we are working so hard toward.  That we met the special someone or have the child we’ve always dreamed of.  We plan on kicking ‘this years’ butt’.  And yet, New Years’ Eve is tinged with sadness because we have to let go.  We have to emotionally let go of the last 365 days in order to face the next and that’s not something that can be dictated by a ticking clock on the wall.

Many people view the countdown as the perfect opportunity to tell each other how much we mean to each other.  To say ‘thank you for everything’.  To remind them how special they are and how proud we are to call them friends/family/colleagues and whilst that’s a beautiful thing, if there is anything I could wish for 2018 is that you spend all year telling the people in your life how much they mean to you.  Please don’t wait until 11.55pm on New Year’s Eve.  It takes nothing to text, email, call or write a card to someone to remind them that you are thankful to have them in your life.

So, I suppose what I’m saying is this; however you feel as the clock strikes midnight, feel it.  Whether you are lost in the moment on the dance floor unable to believe how happy you are, spending it alone and crying about life or pissed off that you’re working a shift when ‘everyone else is having fun’, feel it.  You have no right to be judged for your emotions and the people that do are not the people you need to carry with you into 2018.

There will be no ‘new me, New Year’ bullshit from me or resolutions I have no intention of keeping.  For me, I face this New Year as I do every other; expecting that I won’t get better but hoping I do and continuing to try and live regardless.

I genuinely hope that 2018 is as kind to you as you have been kind to me throughout the year.

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