January: Looking Forward / Looking Backward

 It’s January! This is the month of post-holiday letdown, packing away Christmas, getting back routines, preparing to face the inevitable real blast of winter, and the endless chatter and build-up to the Super Bowl, now moved to February! The first month of the ancient calendar year was named after the Roman god Janus, who was identified with doors, gates and beginnings. Janus was depicted artistically by the statue of a single head with two faces, each face pointed in the opposite directions. I think there is a lesson for us at this time of year for our emotional well-being: it can be good for us to look forward and to look backwards.

Looking Backward:  Remembering, reminiscing, and looking back make us feel good. The past can be our teacher and we can learn from the mistakes we’ve made and those painful experiences we’ve endured. Driving instructors tell us to always keep an eye in the rear-view mirror! Our past can sneak up on us and interfere with current relationships and present enjoyment of life, if we are not watchful. The past can also imprison us and keep us chained to previous memories, hurts, and resentments that replay over and over in our minds and hearts. Experts tell us that much of clinical depression is based on an excessive preoccupation with the past. We are wise to look backwards carefully and in moderation.

Looking Forward:  Plain and simple, we feel good when we have some things to look forward to - a dinner with family or friends, a vacation, or a new interest. We need to be intentional about planning and scheduling activities that we can look forward to, especially in the winter months, when it is easy to be passive and ‘settle’ indoors. Setting goals for ourselves is another way of facing forward - whether it be plans for our business, family, personal life, or our home. We need to be careful that our goals are realistic, specific, and measurable. Driving instructors also teach us to anticipate traffic ahead of us! Yet, excessive looking ahead in our personal lives is much of what anxiety and obsessive over-thinking are fuelled by. We need to keep our forward focus in moderation.

Balancing a healthy amount of looking back and looking forward is one good way of taking care of our emotional health. Perhaps in the process, we won’t forget to enjoy the present. That will be the topic of my next blog, coming soon!

Happy January everyone!