For many years, I was the life of the party on New Year’s Eve. It was one of my favorite holidays and usually involved champagne, lots of friends, a black dress, and a big headache on the first of the year. Back then, if I would have told anyone in my social circle that I’d actually prefer to stay sober to start the new year, they would have laughed in my face!
After almost a decade of ringing in the new year in the stereotypical way, I didn’t want to go out for the big night anymore. I knew what the night would be: lots of fun, lots of drinks, lots of money spent, lots of time waiting for a cab home, and lots of Advil the next day. It was great while it lasted, but by 2015, I was ready to try something different for the new year.
I realized that waking up exhausted with a hangover was not the ideal way to begin a fresh start, and I felt ready to try something different. At first, it felt almost sacrilegious to tell my friends “no” when I was invited to different NYE parties. People were confused and couldn’t understand why I’d want to spend one of the most exciting nights of the year sober and staying in. But I was really set on doing something different, so I did a little research on alternatives. I was pretty open and curious while looking for options, and though I wasn’t necessarily looking for something spiritual, it ended up being what caught my eye.
I came across a local Buddhist meditation ceremony that night and convinced a friend to go with me. When we first arrived, I felt uncomfortable and out of place, mostly because I’d never been to a Buddhist temple before, and everyone was totally silent. Talk about the polar opposite experience of all my previous New Year’s Eves!
The ceremony involved writing down what you wanted to let go of, and then bringing it up to the altar to be burned. There was something really cleansing about thinking about what I wanted to let go of, mostly negative feelings about a toxic relationship I’d been stuck in for years. I felt like this was the moment I could finally shut that door and move on. There was a talk from a Buddhist monk about moving forward in life, and I went home that night feeling inspired — and I was in bed before midnight.
From that year on, I’ve made the New Year’s switch from partying to picking an activity that I know will make me feel good. I tried everything from a meditation ceremony, to ordering a nice meal and watching a movie, to having friends over to set intentions for the year ahead. Even though this change was mostly sparked by my need to no longer start a new year out tired, I quickly grew to love this new tradition I was creating.
I can tell you that each year in the second half of the past decade has started much brighter than the years prior, when I drank too much and stayed out too late. It’s been so refreshing to wake up feeling good and well-rested and to actually enjoy January first, instead of spending the day in bed. This tradition has helped me to start the year on the right foot, and I’ve found that I’ve been more likely to seek out alternatives for other holidays, too.
There are many years ahead, so who knows if I’ll return to the party scene at some point, but I know I’ll always keep the intention of doing whatever makes me feel like I’m starting the new year off in the best way I can, whether that’s celebrating with friends or simply taking time to rest. For me, it’s really all about being honest with myself and my desires, and it’s nice to know there are healthier and equally enjoyable ways to bring in the new year.