At the end of a year, people say, “Hopefully, next year will be a better year.” or “I’ll be so glad when this year is behind us.” I get some years are worse than others, and a new year represents a clean slate. But, I wonder if we’re generalizing an entire 365 days of our lives based on a few experiences or moments.
Two years ago I started charting my year. One of the benefits is being able to look back and get a clear picture of each day instead of just remembering a few major events and characterizing my whole year based on them.
As someone who’s struggled with depression in the past, I don’t take sunny days for granted and there’s value in tools to help me not spiral into darkness. Charting my moods has shown me it’s okay to be sad sometimes. When life throws a
But when the crisis has passed, and my blue marker is still the one I grab, it’s time to assess the situation. My joy, peace, and happiness can’t depend on circumstances. I need to get my joy back regardless of what life’s throwing at me. Sometimes I realize I need rest or space to breathe and be alone. Or maybe I’m eating too much sugar and not exercising enough. Or I need to schedule a coffee with a friend. Or sometimes I’m defaulting to what my last few days have been.
Depression is an ugly bear that sneaks up and sometimes you don’t even realize it’s overwhelming you. Days can turn into weeks, months and years. This chart helps me keep a pulse on my outlook on life. It reminds me that a rough few days doesn’t mean my month or year is going to be this way. Until I notice the string of blue, I keep trudging along in my gloom instead of making changes.
Another benefit is the opportunity to choose gratitude. When I pause and assess my day it helps me get out of my emotional head and into a logical one. Things might not have gone perfectly, but does it deserve a blue mark? Did more things go well than poor? We remember events based on the emotion we experienced during the event. We can change our view of an event if we change the emotion we remember the event. Pausing and reflecting on my day helps me be purposeful.
IF you count the sunny days and the cloudy days, you will find sunshine predominates. -Ovid
I’m always pleasantly surprised at the end of the year when I count my boxes. In 2018 I was happy 77% of the time. I was 7% happier than I was in 2017. I was sad 10% of the time. That’s an average of three days a month–less than once a week. Not too bad!
If you’re interested in doing your own Year in Pixels, you can download a pdf copy of the chart I use below. To use it, choose colors for each mood and color the boxes to the left of the faces. At the end of each day, color a box that represented the dominant emotion of the day. I used purple for an awesome day, pink for a great day, yellow meant I wasn’t happy or sad and blue was a sad day. Put the chart in a place you’ll see it–
Happy New Year and cheers to intentional living!