Navigating Optimism and Combating Intrusive Thoughts into the New Year

Usually, the end of the year comes with articles on top of articles and posts on top of posts about changes that people want to make and habits they want to start once the clock strikes midnight on January 1st. With those also come some sort of critiques, or sarcastic jabs about how resolutions never work, so what’s the point. The cycle is the same every single year.

To no surprise however, this year is a little bit different. While you’ve probably encountered some posts about resolutions (and critiques of them), you have more likely seen memes and posts about what a garbage year 2020 was and how 2021 is going to be a time of revival and even hope. Some memes have also made fun of that optimism, implying that those who are excited for 2021 should expect more of the same of everything that occurred in 2020. 

It’s a lot to take in. While this year has been pretty terrible for basically everybody, we know that everyone’s grief, trauma, and issues from this year vary. It’s not up to us to tell you whether you should feel more hopeful or cynical about 2021. 

With all of this considered though, we know that it can get overwhelming and confusing figuring out how you want to enter the new year. Resolutions and setting goals is a great way to start taking action on personal growth, but how do you figure out the overall mindset you want to have, especially when it comes to events that are out of your control? You might feel guilty for even daring to be optimistic, and intrusive thoughts – those negative, pessimistic thoughts that feel like they come out of nowhere that make you feel terrible about yourself and everything around you – can also have you spiraling about how 2021 is likely to be as awful as 2020. 

Like we said: overwhelming and confusing. When thinking about the unknowns in the future, it’s important to remember that as much as we can plan, anything can happen. This isn’t meant to be scary or imply that planning is a waste of time, but to remind you that the idea that “anything can happen” can include good things just as equally as the bad, which our brains automatically tends to go towards. You have every right to be excited about what the new year might bring, even if you’re not 100% – or even 10% – sure about what’s in store. At the same time, it’s okay to not be excited, and even cynical that nothing will change significantly immediately.

Optimism and hope can feel silly and forced at times, but being able to change our thought patterns to tell ourselves that it’s okay to be excited and positive can help our moods and ways of going about things significantly, and entering 2021 accepting that might be the best time to begin practicing it.

We hope you (safely) enjoy your New Year’s Eve, and in the meantime, enjoy the multitude of “screw 2020” memes online.

What are you doing for New Year’s Eve? What has been your mindset and your thoughts about the end of this year and the start of 2021?

Moderator ★

Hi! The moderator is a research team member with a background in behavioral health. We're here to help answer your questions and stimulate some great conversation! We don't provide therapy and are not available 24-7 so please if you are in crisis, go to our crisis page: We look forward to talking to you!

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