“New Year’s Eve is for amateurs.” You’ve heard those words, perhaps even said them yourself. But as the calendar creeps closer to December 31 and you have no solid plans, does it feel right to you? Does the idea of sitting home watching Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper—yes, CNN decided to take her back after all—leave you feeling like a loser? Well, it shouldn’t. There are reasons to actually plan to spend New Year’s Eve at home.
“It takes a strong, self-respectful person to say: ‘That night is just for me’ or ‘That night is for me and my boyfriend only,’” says Dr. Nancy Irwin, a West Los Angeles doctor in psychology. “It really only has the importance one gives it. Animals have no concept of New Year’s. It is a completely social construct.”
Of course, if you’re a person who really enjoys a good party, go ahead. You might have a great time and naturally possess a good sense of limits and balance. You know that champagne and other indulgences are available 365 days a year, so there is no reason to try to consume it all at once, right?
But unfortunately, the axiom about amateurs doesn’t come from nothing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that fatalities in alcohol-related crashes in the 12-hour span between 6 p.m. on December 31 and 6 a.m. on January 1 nationally is around 50 people, while any comparable time periods after the holiday see about 20 deaths. And, likely, for every death on the highway there are several thousand alcohol- or drug-driven errors of judgment of a non-fatal nature. And we’ve all witnessed a few.
Perhaps there is a New Year’s Eve in your past that you do not want to repeat. Or maybe you just want to start the New Year with a truly fresh perspective. We talked to three therapist/life coaches to see what they suggest on the whys and hows of not being a party animal on December 31:
What might compel a guy to take an alternative approach to New Year’s Eve?
“To me it is a day that I choose to be introspective, stay home alone or with people I want to spend it with,” says Sharmen Lane, a personal and professional development counselor based in San Francisco. “[It’s not about being] with a bunch of crazy drunk people that I will likely never see again. It’s a day to look at my life over the last year, to be thankful for the good stuff and release and let go of the not-so-good stuff.”
But some people actively avoid partying, for good reason. “If the day happens to be an anniversary of something really bad, a death perhaps, an accident, a blow-up, then yes, it could be very useful to soft-pedal or ignore the day,” notes Anne Wondra, a soul and wellness coach from Waukesha, Wisconsin.
What significance do you attach to the date, if any?
“I don't think it’s important to mark New Year’s as a milestone,” says Lane. “It is simply just another day and only has relevance because as individuals we have given it relevance. New Year’s means something to me because I want it to mean something.”
Yet, there may be good reason to mark it. “Our lives move so fast forward,” says Wondra. “And until we stop and look back, to take note, we often don't appreciate how far we've come or what we've accomplished.”
How important is it that you spend the evening with one or several people?
“There is no right or wrong in this! You can choose one way one year, and another way the next year,” says Dr. Irwin. “Barring any antisocial tendencies, a person who can enjoy this time alone has a really high self-esteem and knows that happiness is an internal job. They are choosing to be alone and go within.”
Factoring out the bad behaviors of others might be a good idea too. “I don't think it is important at all to be with others on New Year’s Eve,” says Lane. “I like that I can carve out my night exactly as I want it to be. No one chooses where I am going to go or what I am going to do except for me. No one can ruin my night by puking on my favorite shoes, spilling a drink on my new shirt or getting drunk and hooking up with someone and leaving me stranded.”
What are some alternative activities you would consider doing?
“For some, the biggest, scariest challenge is spending alone time,” says Wondra. “It’s important though.”
She says to ask oneself, “Who is on your ‘Wall of Inspiration?” By that she indicates that it helps to have heroes or people we admire and respect, and to ponder them at New Year’s or other times. To what end? “Because thoughts become things,” she says. “What we think about, focus on, and feel passionate about, we create and attract more of. Some call that the Universal Law of Attraction. The people we admire who inspire us, they are models of what’s possible. They also likely possess the attributes we most admire and aspire to. That’s tapping something inside that pulls us forward into the best possible vision of ourselves and our lives.”
How do you answer the age-old question, “What are you doing New Year’s Eve?”
“Be prepared for others to look askance and perhaps make degrading comments,” says Dr. Irwin. “Be strong, use a sense of humor, and say, ‘Been there, done that.’”
“My answer is this: ‘I’m staying home, ordering a pizza and I’m going to create the year I want,’” says Lane. “It's a great time for me to get some perspective on the things I want to accomplish in the coming year. It's my favorite day get clear and get a jumpstart on the awesome year to come."
So it seems if you want to go out to meet someone who is self-actualized, maybe New Year’s Eve isn’t the night. That person is home, thinking, planning—and staying out of accidents. Perhaps that person is even spending the evening on RealJock.
About Russ Klettke: Russ Klettke is an ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified fitness trainer and also the author of “A Guy’s Gotta Eat, the regular guy’s guide to eating smart” (Marlowe & Co., 2004, with Deanna Conte, MS RD LD), available where books are sold and in more than 100 public library systems in the U.S., Canada and Europe. For more information, see http://RussKlettke.com.