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Before You Make Your 2022 Resolutions, Try This

A poet and poetry therapist shares a technique for creating meaningful intentions for the new year.

By Jennie Linthorst

I don’t know what I think until I write it down. —Joan Didion

Too often the new year comes with a barrage of seemingly good ideas for resolutions that can leave us feeling disappointed come February, when we’ve abandoned our well-intentioned plans or have simply failed to reach our goals.

Before I make my resolutions, I compassionately review my year and explore what no longer serves me. To do this, I use a very specific writing process.

As an expressive writing coach, poet, and poetry therapy facilitator here in the South Bay, I know that writing is the perfect vehicle for getting clear before I set my internal compass for the new year. Through the process of expressive writing, we can reevaluate events and issues in our lives and gain new understanding.

This connection between expressive writing and wellness is widely researched by Dr. James Pennebaker at the University of Texas, Austin. His landmark study revealed that those who maintain a regular practice of expressive writing experience stronger immune support, better sleep habits, improved mental health, regulated blood pressure, and reduction in pain caused by chronic diseases. Writing helps the brain contextualize and organize sources of grief or trauma. Without it, thoughts get stuck in unconstructive repetitive patterns.

In the field of poetry therapy, accessible poems are used as inspiration for expressive journal writing. Poetry captures the language of our human experience, offering imagery and words that help us map our own internal terrain and feel connected to the larger play of humanity. When my clients write in response to a poem, share, and are heard without critique, they can clarify and see new pathways to wellness in their lives.

This year, before you craft your New Year’s Resolutions, I encourage you to reflect and write from this poem by Lucille Clifton:

i am running into a new year

i am running into a new year

and the old years blow back

like a wind

that i catch in my hair

like strong fingers like

all my old promises and

it will be hard to let go

of what i said to myself

about myself

when i was sixteen and

twenty-six and thirty-six

even forty-six but

i am running into a new year

and i beg what i love and

i leave to forgive me

The exercise: Read the poem and underline any lines that resonate for you in your life today. Next, journal-write from those lines. Some questions to consider that may be useful for your writing include: What are you running toward and/or away from? What are some of your old promises? What have you been saying to yourself in this past year and in previous decades? What can you leave or let go, and how can you give yourself some forgiveness in that process?

Let what you write be your guide in creating your new year’s intentions.

Blessings to your writing and to your new year.

Jennie Linthorst is the founder of LifeSPEAKS Poetry Therapy. She is on the faculty of UCLArts & Healing and presents workshops nationally, including the East and West Coast Expressive Arts Summits. Jennie’s poetry has appeared in numerous publications, and she is the author of two books, Silver Girl and Autism Disrupted: A Mother’s Journey of Hope.

Visit her website at

This story appears in the January 2022 issue of The El Segundo Scene

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