The New Year can be a time for renewal, strengthening relationships and attaining a goal. However, a sad fact about the New Year and the holidays is the escalation of breakups. If you are someone facing 2016 unexpectedly without a love, you are not alone. But even if you are with the love of your life, are you treasuring the relationship? For both singles and couples, this is a perfect time to start a Gratitude Journal.
Starting the year with a broken heart can be devastating for couples who had been in a long-term relationship. Researchers at Macquarie University, in Australia, led by Celia Harris and colleagues, pointed out that a long-term couple may develop interconnected or collaborative memories, such as the names of musicals and vivid descriptions.
However, even the end of a short-term relationship can trigger profound sadness. What is key is that you prepare your heart to love again.
• Start your days with gratitude. Make a list of as many happy moments as you can find tucked away inside that broken heart. Be grateful that you have been freed to find a person who values you, a love you will value. Research from Gary Lewandowski Jr., psychology chair at Monmouth University, in New Jersey, says that writing about positive aspects of a breakup increases feelings of comfort, confidence, optimism, relief and wisdom.
• Resist the temptation to talk unkindly about your former love. Angry thoughts and words trap you in negativity.
• Practice image replacement: If you find yourself feeling alone and falling into a dark hole, find a photo of yourself when you were happy and in love. Focus on the inner you, whom you know to be lovable and deserving of new love.
What if you are in a relationship, but have some unfulfilled wishes and dreams?
• Set aside time to share together what it is that you love about each other.
• Make a relationship checklist. Start the list by saying, “I think you are the most perfect partner in the world. Our life might be better if …” Be honest. Be open. Think of out-of-character fantasies that you wish to express.
• Take out your calendars and set aside “Date Night” at least once a month. It should be a time for embracing laughter, taking a trip, visiting a museum or art gallery, or attending a game together.
The New Year is a time to look back on the past with gratitude — even if it was a difficult year — and look forward with anticipation and hope. Then make a resolution to embrace love and forgiveness to all those in your life, and peace of mind will be your gift.
Rita Watson, MPH, is a relationship columnist for the Journal who writes “With Love and Gratitude” for PsychologyToday.com.