December is a time of celebrations, traditions, and festivities. It is a time to express love and generosity to those around us. It is a time of selfless giving and focusing on those in need. It can also be a time of spiritual renewal and deep personal reflection.

This December try adding a new tradition - a year-end retrospective that will allow you to clear out any old negative patterns and make room for new healthy patterns and beliefs. This retrospective will help you bring closure to this year as you prepare for a positive start to the New Year. In addition, you will build confidence and increase your level of happiness.

Here are a few things you may want to gather for your year-end retrospective: a journal, pen, candle, ambient music, and any special objects that will help you create a peaceful space. Schedule an hour or so of uninterrupted time to do this process. If you have trouble finding the time, remember- you are worth it! It is important for you take time for yourself and your personal growth.

Once you have set the mood and are ready to start your retrospective, open your journal and write down the major life categories that are important to you. Some examples of areas to include are: work, school, family, friends, leisure, hobbies, spiritual, and health. It is important to include each area in your review so that you get a well-rounded picture of your year.

Now, take a mental journey through the year and ask yourself: What were my biggest disappointments? What were my challenges? What would I have done differently? What did I learn? How do I limit myself? It is important to be very honest with yourself. So, dig deep and find all those negative statements you say to yourself – like I am not good enough, I can’t do anything right, I’ll never be a success. Look at the patterns that hold you back from achieving your best. For example, maybe you let fear keep you from taking an action that will change your life. Or maybe you keep getting involved in the same type of unhealthy relationships.

Once you have identified your negative beliefs, attitudes, and patterns, write them down on a separate sheet of paper. It is time now to clear away these limitations so that you can move forward with a clear and healthy mindset. Take a deep breath and destroy this list in a way that feels right to you - shred it, crumple it, or burn it. While you are destroying the paper it is important to hold the intention that you are clearing away these limiting thoughts and beliefs in order to make room for the new. Use your imagination and create a vivid image in your mind’s eye – perhaps seeing these beliefs rise up in the smoke and disappear from your life.

After you have cleared away the old limiting thoughts, it is time to focus on your accomplishments and successes. This builds confidence and self-esteem. In addition, research shows that happiness is related to satisfaction with the past. We also know that the way we end an experience determines our view of the whole experience. Therefore, by ending the year on a positive note, you will increase your satisfaction with the year, which will help increase your level of happiness.

Begin this section of your retrospective by asking yourself - What were my biggest accomplishments? What did I do well? What was my greatest contribution? What are my strengths? Be sure to look at each life category when answering these questions. If you are not used to looking at your strengths and accomplishments, this task may be challenging for you. However, it is important to identify a few accomplishments and strengths in each life area. Give yourself credit for even the small accomplishments.

Write these successes and accomplishments on a separate page in your journal. As you write each one, take some time to close your eyes and relive these wonderful moments. Engage all of your senses – making these images as vivid as possible. Feel each success like it was happening right now. Notice how your body feels as you relive each positive experience. Because your brain doesn’t distinguish imagined events from real ones, you will get the same benefits (i.e.- flow of endorphins) from imagining your successes as when you experienced them.

Now that you have cleared out your limiting beliefs and patterns and identified your accomplishments and strengths, you are ready to close out this year. You are ready to step into the New Year from a position of confidence and strength. You are ready to move forward and achieve your highest potential.

Author's Bio: 

Kirsten Harrell, Psy.D. is a psychologist, consultant, life coach, inspirational speaker, and entrepreneur. Dr. Harrell has combined her expertise in positive psychology, stress management, and mind-body therapies, to provide cutting edge services to individuals and businesses for over 15 years. In addition, she is a leading authority on the use of positive thinking to create health, happiness, and success. Dr. Harrell has taught graduate level courses at the University of Dayton and Wright State University. She is the President and co-founder of Popular Inspirations, Ltd. ( and co-creator of ipopins (the one minute affirmations).