7 Ways to Release What Didn't Serve You in 2018
December 26, 2018
Each year, at some point between opening Christmas presents and toasting the start of the new year, I like to release what I’ve been hanging onto from the previous 365 days.
I thank my mistakes for all they taught me, think through the lessons I’ve learned, then say a very clear goodbye to everything I want to leave in the past.
I think of it as the same way I used to clean out my college dorm room each spring— I’d toss my notes from the classes I hated, and save the ones from those I enjoyed. I’d donate the furniture I’d stopped using, the clothes I’d stopped wearing. By the time my mom and I were packed up and driving away, I’d feel ten pounds lighter.
Releasing the past doesn’t just mean ditching something—it also means creating space for whatever’s coming next. By cleaning your "mental" house, so to speak, you’re opening yourself up to new potential and a new way of seeing things.
“Closure means finality; a letting go of what once was,” writes psychiatrist Abigail Brenner, MD. “Finding closure implies a complete acceptance of what has happened and an honoring of the transition away from what's finished to something new. In other words: Closure describes the ability to go beyond imposed limitations in order to find different possibilities.”
It's noticing what didn't serve you in 2018—and committing to letting it go, as much as you can.
Personally, I’m ditching my not-so-fun habit of beating myself up for not being more productive. For you, that might mean deleting a year’s worth of Tinder date contacts from your phone. Or perhaps it requires saying goodbye to a passion project that had morphed into dead weight. For others, it might be bidding adieu to self-criticism and nagging negative thoughts.
Of course, deciding to release the past is one thing. Actually doing it—and then moving forward—is another. But physical rituals can make letting go a little easier.
Here, 7 rituals that can help:
1. Pen a Goodbye Note
Take a little inspiration from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and get your thoughts out in a letter.
Research shows that writing down your deepest emotions can help you process them and find more happiness in the future. Sounds like a recipe for 2019 success.
2. (Safely) Burn It Down
Got something you want to leave behind? Physically destroy it. That might mean writing the worst of 2018 down on a piece of paper, then burning it in a safe way. Or, maybe you shred the paper, or rip it up into tiny, unreadable pieces. Another option: Write it on toilet paper and give it a flush.
If you’re in NYC on December 28th, you can shred the past en masse at Good Riddance Day, a Times Square gathering that offers people the chance to dispose of anything negative from the past year via a paper shredder.
3. Say 'Thank U, Next'
Ariana Grane put it best:“I've loved and I've lost But that's not what I see So, look what I got Look what you taught me.”
Take a moment to acknowledge what you’ve learned from your past experiences, habits, and relationships, say thanks, and then move onto whatever’s next. If it helps, even grab a Thank You note and write it out, Jimmy Fallon-style.
Acknowledging the ways your past has helped you (even when it’s felt frustrating or painful) can help you cultivate a little gratitude—and provide closure.
4. Shout It Out
Still holding onto some anger from the past year? Join the club.
Get yourself to a forest, body of water, or any other quiet/private place and scream it out. Trust: It can feel cathartic to hear yourself release the pressure.
Shout out all that you’re still holding on, everything you want to get rid of, and listen closely as the sound fades away.
5. Jot Down a Replacement Plan
Let’s face it: Ditching what no longer serves you only works if you fill the gap with something that does.
Say you want to let go of the pressure you put on yourself to work out every day. What will you replace it with? Perhaps it’s a self-compassion practice, or a set of mirror validations. Or, maybe it’s an hour of reading a good, nourishing novel.
For everything you hope to leave behind, give a little thought to what you hope to cultivate instead.
6. Move Your Body
One of the best ways to shift from old to new? By shaking out your physical body. Perhaps that means sweating in a sauna or pounding the pavement as you say goodbye to 2018. A yoga flow might help you twist out the old and create space for the new.
Whatever helps you feel like you’re physically expunging the past can boost your mental cleanout—and your mental health.
7. Clean Your Space
Take a cue from Marie Kondo and release whatever doesn’t spark joy (or, y’know, serve a necessary purpose).
Toss old notes, clean out junk drawers, and donate anything you know you’ll never use, wear or read again. Cleansing your physical space can help you feel less trapped and create room for new possibilities.