The Psychology of New Years Eve Reflection

Like it or not, it’s new years eve.

The end of another year, 2017 finally done. Parks and foreshores have begun to swell with crowds, bottle shops are a buzz as party planners queue with boxes of booze, and the TV media has started feeding us the usual ‘best of’ showreels of the year that was.

All of this drags us kicking and screaming into the most challenging part of new years… reflection.

As the earth pulls into the final arc of its 365-day orbit of the sun, we’re almost psychologically programmed to reflect back on the year. Where were you last new years? What about the one before that? Are you happier now or before? Are you where you expected you’d be at this time last year? What have you achieved this year?

The sky will erupt on the stroke of midnight with explosions of colourful fireworks signalling the arrival of the new year. Once the smoke settles and renditions of Auld Lang Syne fade into the night it will be January 1 of 2018. But, is new years day any different? The sun will rise bringing harsh daylight to sensitive eyes and sore heads but, it’s just another day isn’t it?

Is there genuine significance to a new year? Is the start of a fresh orbit around our closest star a chance to start over? It’s funny how we chunk our lives down to 365-day bits. Instead of viewing life as a marathon, we see it is a series of year-long sprints. Once we reach new years eve it’s “tools down” where we pause, party, drink, reflect, drink, reflect more… did I mention drink? Then, we start the ritual again, running ourselves into the ground for another 51 or so weeks before we find ourselves back in the same setting, holding a champagne and watching fireworks explode at midnight all over again. It really is a strange tradition.

If you’ve had a year that ruthlessly sucked then new years eve can be a sense of relief. A chance to regroup, shift mental gears and plan for a better year ahead. There is a sense of things coming to an end and a feeling of a new beginning. Sometimes it feels as if there’s an electricity in the air on new years eve. You can almost feel the reboot of a global collective consciousness and the enduring anticipation, excitement and uncertainty that comes with facing a new year. What will the highlight reels look like in a years time? What human achievements, disasters, wars and events will the media be replaying as moments that defined the year? Well, if I knew the answer to that, I’d buy a lottery ticket. But, no one does and, that’s both exciting and scary.

All of this creates a lot of pressure for a single night. A timestamp you know, for a fact, you’ll be looking back on in a year’s time. It’s an emotional night full of expectation, involuntary reflective thoughts, and lots of alcohol. It’s also a night where you’re expected to be happy and connect with others which, in itself, sets your expectations up for potential disappointment.

In reality, new years eve is no different to any other night of the year yet; we can’t help but assign some special meaning to the 31st of December. The psychological significance of the night can be a good thing, but it can also create tremendous anxiety for us. This pressure influences our thinking and causes us to make plans aligned with the sort of night we think we “should have” rather than just trust our instincts and do something we know will make us happy and relaxed.

The other problem with having such a distinct milestone for reflection on the timeline of your life is it causes you to compare yourself with others as well as with your previous expectations of where you thought you would be at this time in your life. Perhaps you thought that you’d have the perfect job, a great house or living in the city of your dreams but instead, you don’t have any of these things. New years eve can be an arrogant catalyst for negative reflection and upward comparison, leaving you to feel quite miserable.

Personally, I do think there’s significance in new years eve and that it is possible to use the end of the year as a healthy catalyst for change, reflection and future planning. I think it’s key to focus on the positives of what you’ve achieved or learnt in the past year. If you’ve had a crap year and find yourself in a situation you’re not happy with, then use the night to make a fresh start and embrace the new year to work towards your dreams and make tactical life changes that manifest what you desire in the future.

Happy New Year to everyone and I hope that 2018 is everything you wish for! Now, let’s get a drink and see you next year!


2 Replies to “The Psychology of New Years Eve Reflection”

  1. Happy New Year. I totally agree that NYE is a great time to reflect and look back and also look forward. Not a great idea to compare yourself to others though, we’re all unique.

    1. So true, we are all unique and I guess what one considers as a ‘successful’ year may be completely different to someone else. Always dangerous territory!

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