Man jumping for joy down a city street.
Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

New Year Momentum: Diving into Change vs. Dressing up Regret

In my first post in this short series, I explored the power of science behind small victories. The “Go big or go home” mentality may work for a single football game, but it lacks practical roots for growing new habits over the course of a year.

Today's topic is much more personal for me. Please take what I share as illustrative. Hopefully, it will help you along your New Year's journey.

The Moment the Dam Broke

The other night I was cleaning out some old t-shirts from my dresser. Even though I had Marie-Kondo'd the heck out of that drawer, I couldn't fit anymore shirts in there. It was time to get rid of a few.

Wrinkled and crammed shirts screamed for refolding. I lifted them out, sorted them by type, and then refolded the ones I wanted to keep.

Two of the of shirts caught me off guard. One, a grey shirt reading “Big Dude” in large colorful letters, had a matching “Little Dude” shirt my son used to wear. It reminded me of all the times he wanted to match Daddy and be my partner-in-crime.

Then I unfolded a green shirt which reads “Best Dad Ever” in large letters.

Staring at those bold letters, I wept.

But not over the state of my drawer.

My son is now seven and desiring to be more himself. It's awesome, but sad at the same time for Daddy. There are many mistakes I've made which I wish I could turn back time and fix. Things like anger, lack of patience over dumb things, etc.

And to be candid, I've been dwelling on this guilt for a while now. The t-shirt moment felt like a small cork popping-out of a dam holding back a high tide.

And as I step into the new year, I look back and feel mad at myself for not growing, maturing, or changing faster in some areas.

My wonderful (and wiser) wife gets on me about not dwelling too much on mistakes. And she's's just some emotions are harder to dig-up it.

Stuck on Repeat

Psychological research has shown the danger of extended “rumination,” or dwelling on negative thoughts as if “stuck on replay.” In fact, the research shows rumination is more severe than self-blame when it comes to sparking anxiety or depression.

For me, I've definitely been stuck on repeat with these negative thoughts...

  • I'm a bad Daddy.
  • My son's not going to want to be like me.
  • I'm the bad parent.

And this rumination also links to “Catastrophizing,” where one assumes the worst outcome.

(I prefer the more lighthearted game of “Worst Case Scenario” played by my favorite couple in the show This is Us. In it they catastrophize situations on purpose to work through them together).

By assuming the worst, one perpetuates a cycle of frustration and loathing.

I want to focus on stopping this harmful cycle of dwelling on past mistakes. If I dress them up with the clothing of catastrophe and send them off into the world, I will perpetuate them.

Diving into Change

What am I going to do to stop the cycle of dwelling so I can dive into healthy resolutions?

For those of you who love practical, hands-on things to do, here ya go...

1. Lean into God more

For those of who know me, you know I love God. Yet, like anyone else, I let the stresses of life eat away at my devotion to Him, which in turn spills into how I love others.

So, I need to lean on and to absorb the truths of God WAY more than I do my anxieties.

Jesus tells His followers not to worry or have anxiety at least six separate times in Matthew 6:25-34. He's not talking about retirement plans or which iPhone model we don't's stuff like clothing, food, daily needs. Because our Heavenly Father has it all in His hands, worry is antithetical to trust.

One song from this past year captures the idea of worry melting before God...

And this verse nails it as well...

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

To dwell in this, I am going to listen and to read the Scriptures with a prayerful and reflective focus. (More on this to come!)

2. Practice more gratitude

Yup, instead of complaining, catastrophizing, or lamenting my horribleness, I need to thank God and to praise Him. I need to notice the amazing people and things He's already given me.

Thanksgiving is the antidote to complaining.

It's the happy unicorn to my Eeyore.

One practical way I will tackle this is by keeping a journal for what I am grateful about each day.

On a deeper level, when rumination or anxiety begin to rise, I will answer with gratitude and praise.

3. Take care of myself physically

My doctor said physical exercise is a research-based method for battling anxiety and depression. Not only that, she said it will help my cholesterol levels.

So this year, I plan to keep a doable workout plan so I don't drop the ball like last year.

4. Seek the help of others

Every Han Solo needs their Chewbacca.

This year, I want to be more open with my family about my emotions so I'm not bottling things inside.

I want to workout, to pray, and to read the Scriptures in community. (Psst, if you're interested in any of these, please let me know!)

As well, I need to stay candid with those I love and with those who can help me. I've been keeping my wife in the loop more, trying to express all this to her.

I also shared with my doc about my struggles with anxiety. For now, she is prescribing more exercise and healthy habits. I'm starting there but will reach out to her if I need extra help.

Hitting Play

So, I am moving forward this year to leave rumination behind.

I want to be more like Christ. I want to clothe myself with Him.

Not my worry.

This article was updated on November 26, 2020

Jordan Hopkins

Jordan is a freelance content writer and educator. He is passionate about serving others and amplifying their narratives through quality writing. You can find him hanging with his family, fishing, playing guitar, and grinding the best beans for his morning coffee.