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  • Writer's pictureSue Bulmer

Choosing a Word for the Year

Since I have been reading Environmental Art Therapy and the Tree of Life I have started to feel November as the beginning of the year, in line with the Celtic New Year. The trees drop and disperse their leaves and seeds and everything around is dying as the new cycle of growth starts again as the seeds nestle in the compost of the previous year. Beginnings and endings are inextricably linked as we celebrate the end of the natural growth year and the beginning of the next. I think this is why I've been feeling reflective a little earlier than usual this year and have been mulling over my year so far.

It's also the last quarter of the calendar year so I’m looking back, as I now do each month, but also looking forward to 2023. As part of this process I’m checking in with my word for the year to see how it’s going. Have I managed to stay aligned to ‘Align

When I chose this word I knew I wanted to live in a more connected way, aligned to the seasons and to my values, beliefs, goals and ideas. I wanted to feel more physically and mentally aligned too. I am happy to say, looking back, I feel I’m on track and I'm so pleased with the many small (and sometimes very surprising) changes I've managed to make. SO how have I done it? Well, I've thought about different areas of life and managed to summarise it into the following categories or areas of life I wanted to align (although I think they all overlap in terms of wellbeing):

REST: I'm getting more rest and am clocking about an average of an hour's more sleep per night than I was in the summer. I think this is partly due to darker nights and my new habit of going to bed earlier but I have also nailed my bedtime routine to include my gratitude journal, reading, sleepy tea and a cool restful bedroom with relaxing essential oils in a diffuser. Lavender and Sweet Orange are my faves but I'm also loving Bergamot, Frankincense and Chamomile. As the nights get colder and we are all conscious of soaring energy costs I keeping my toes warm and cosy in bed with my favourite 'hottie bottie' (hot water bottle) from WeeWoolies.

MOVE: I’m so much more physically aligned as I move more this year: a January yoga challenge, a March through March charity 10K a day step challenge as my parting gift to Imara. I have also joined a gym in October and starting wild swimming on holiday in September - two things I would never have foreseen at the beginning of the year when I chose my word. I have even managed a November swim at the weekend with my swim buddy and as tried out our new Neoprene gloves to keep hands warm, they made such a difference and we stayed in longer than we ever have. I'm hoping with some neoprene socks I might be able to continue with my wold swimming throughout the winter months. It makes me feel AMAZING!!!!

LISTEN: I’ve listened more to my body and mind more and I stop when I need to. This summer I didn't pick up a paintbrush for several months, after a very busy start to the year. Usually, I would be having a major stress about this but this year I just went with it and realised it was what I needed. I've also made the effort to listen more to other people and try to be fully engaged in their presence. I heard a great quote earlier in the year from philosopher Simone Weil which said 'Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity' and this has really stayed with me. It's a work in progress but I'm trying to align to this and be generous with my attention. I've also been listening to some fab new podcasts including The Wintering Sessions by the author Katherine May which fit very nicely with my winter alignment. Talking of winter, we plan to have one night each week where we listen to an audiobook together, lights down low, fire on, warm and cosy, no TV or digital distractions. I can't wait until we start!!

NOURISH: Nourishment comes in the form of better food, lower carb and higher protein, more water and less alcohol. Psychological nourishment comes in the form of more time to read for fun, more walking in nature and more time away in my caravan to places we can be still and enjoy nature. Mental nourishment came in the form of the Balance App and a short course at work as I started to meditate. I must admit, this is definitely a work in progress. I feel great when I remember to do it, but it often gets forgotten. But I will not beat myself up about it, I will just turn up and begin again in the true spirit of mediation.

WORK: I finally took a huge step and gave up my pharmacy career as I began to pursue my goal of living a fully authentic creative life. I now work in a job I love as an Art Psychotherapist and Artist and am living true to my creative values. I still cannot believe I changed career in mid-life, I now feel like I am where I am meant to be.

REFLECT: I've taken more reflective time this year, joining in with the monthly #lookbacktoleapforward accountability check in on Instagram from Tamara Grand. Each month we look back over our previous month and set ourselves a series of small goals for the month ahead, This really helps me to feel like I'm on track, even if sometimes the steps are small, they are all heading in the right direction. I took a day away for a personal creative reflective practice retreat with a fab company called Inner Outings. The location was perfect, the people lovely, the space warm and welcoming - proving once again that investment in self-care and reflective time is money well spent.

SEASONS: I feel much more in line with seasons. Allowing myself to spiral inwards in winter, rather than my previous default of 'keeping on going not matter what', emerging again into the warmth of spring and summer more rested and energised. This is in huge part to the book I mentioned at the beginning of my post, which I have been working through with a wonderful group of fellow art psychotherapists. We meet monthly online to discuss each chapter and share our thoughts, usually processing what we have read with a creative task. I've learned so much from my fellow book-clubbers, it has been a privilege to be part of the group. This weekend we are actually meeting up face to face, as we come together from our various corners of the country to celebrate our year of working together with an eco-art-therapy retreat, spending time together in nature. I cannot wait!!

CREATIVITY: I took the time earlier in the year for a solo art retreat when I spent a week in Cornwall, exploring the area and making art. I went with zero expectations but came home and developed a whole new body of work. Open Studios in June was a great success and was followed by several months of as I settled into my new job and also spent some quality time with family. In September I started a fantastic six week course by artist Sally Hirst. Confident Compositions was amazing, it was well structured, interactive, informative, fun and I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in it. I fell behind with the weekly modules but as you ahve lifetime access it doesn't really matter. You can catch up at your own pace and there is so much content that I know I will go back to the exercises again and again. I've a whole new sketchbook devoted to the course and it's a pleasure to look back over and see new directions for exploration.

Yes I certainly do feel more aligned in 2022 and I’m already starting to think about 2023 and pondering my word for next year!! I have a few ideas that I'm already thinking about. I will blog about it soon.

Have you checked in with your word of the year? How’s it going? What was it? What will next years be? Leave me a comment to tell me

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