The New Year: Let It Go, Let It Go, Let It Go!


For some of us, the weather outside may indeed be frightful. For others, our Yankee spirit sees the snow fly and temperatures drop and we strap on skis or snowshoes. We feel grateful for the trees, minimal traffic, and the clean air of a rural, small town landscape.

In the world of counseling, we are concerned with the weather inside. This time of year, our hearts and minds are often bubbling with stress. The holiday season is filled with both abundant joy and sometimes painful reminders of the loss of loved ones who have made their celestial departure. These feelings of holiday joy and pain are further mixed with the pressure of finding the right gifts and not beginning the new year in debt. One way to look at our January credit card bills would be to see that we truly engaged in the season of giving!

I write today to tell you that we have no choice but to let it go. 2016 is gone. And so is 1986 and 1995, when you made that really bad life choice. I know your child or grandchild may have been singing you the theme to the hit motion picture Frozen and yet you still resist. Letting it go, whatever it is… is the mandate of every new year’s celebration. It is in this darkest time—literally when the sun shines the least—that we begin to go the other way.

The Winter Solstice has become a personal favorite. Here in NH, we are humbled by mother nature’s deep freeze. The silence of the streets and woods during an all day snowstorm is a time to check out the weather in our hearts and minds. In these northern regions we can appreciate the sun’s light and warmth because we know what it’s like to live without it.

In Norway, they use the word “koeslig”–which loosely translates to “coziness”–to describe the spirit of this time of year. Due to even fewer hours of sun in Scandinavian lands, people in Norway keep candles lit, cuddle up under blankets, and drink hot cocoa (and I’m sure the occasional warm fermented beverage). This koeslig spirit seems to be one where people openly accept and even look forward to the seasonal change. They create cozy atmospheres in their homes, gathering by fires together, as opposed to isolating and cursing Jack Frost in vain.

The darkness of winter and the upcoming new year create a question: can we look forward to change, even if it might be challenging? I believe we must. I think we might be onto something when we recognize that challenges are on the horizon, and that we will be able to handle these challenges. No matter what. Get rid of your notion that you can’t take it. If you’re reading this, you’re still taking it and you’re in the game.

This may seem all roses and sunshine, and a big bucket of self-help speak from your neighborhood counselor, but this is really important stuff—regardless of the season. Whether you believe in counseling, going to the gym to sweat out the toxic thinking, asking for support from a friend or relative, or writing down the negative thoughts on paper and throwing them in the wood stove, you deserve to be clean and clear. You deserve to be ready for 2017. Physics quite literally demands that we clear our stagnant energies, useless behaviors, and self-destructive thinking patterns in order to make room for new ideas. From conversations with people of every age, and from every economic and cultural background, I have discovered that a willingness to grow and learn is the key to folks finding their groove in life.

In order to have the mental and emotional energy you need for the coming year, get down to the business of pruning and weeding your garden. Practice self-reflection. Read books. Talk to people you trust. Build a trusting relationship with a counselor (I like to work!) in order to start the year with a lighter mind and heart.

When people hear the words let it go, they often imagine something glued to them that they cannot let go, and if they do, the skin will come with it. I think the key is to think of the “it” as life: Let life go. Get on with the business of living. Happy New Year!

Pete Afflerbach, MA LCMHC is a licensed mental health counselor. Pete works with all ages and has particular specialties in working with teens and those struggling with addiction. Pete is enthusiastic about helping people break down the challenges they face into smaller, more manageable pieces.

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