It’s that time of year when we tend to reflect on the past and make plans for the future. If we aren’t doing this, we probably should be. It is a good idea to take stock of our lives and decide what we are missing, what we need to let go of, and then think about our goals for the coming year.

Resolutions for the new year should be reasonable. We shouldn’t set ourselves up for something we may not be able to do. If we fail to keep our resolution it only serves to make us feel bad about ourselves and can lead to feelings of jealousy toward those who have made more progress on their goals.

To have a great chance of success, choose realistic goals and take baby steps. For example, don’t try to lose 50 pounds in a few months. Aim for 10 to 15 pounds, and then when you reach that you can aim for another 10 or 20.

If you are unemployed, dream of the better job, but be ready to take the smaller one or volunteer somewhere that interests you until you get your foot in the door and up the first rung of the ladder. Most importantly, don’t set yourself up for disappointment, guilt, shame or anger.

This brings me to another very important thing that most of us never think about. When you reflect on the past year, are there any unresolved conflicts or bad feelings that you are carrying around with you? Do you have any resentment? In order to move forward in a positive way, we need to take inventory of ourselves on an internal level. It’s easy to look outside ourselves, but we also need to look inside. This is a very private personal reflection that takes a few hours or sometimes days.

The word resentment literally means re-sentiment, or feelings sent again. I am talking about those old hurts and anger that keep coming back. If we are not ruminating, then we find ourselves returning to these negative feelings from time to time. Clearly, feelings sent again.

Resentments are not good for us; they are unhealthy both emotionally and physically. Recent scientific research has proven that we are healthier and happier when we are joyful and have grateful attitudes, and deep resentment compromises our immune systems. “Resentment cuts us off from the Sunlight of the Spirit” (from the 12 Step programs). If we want to be clean and clear inside we must resolve our resentments and also work through and let go of our conflicts. Not only will this keep you from becoming that dark, bitter person, but it will lead to more energy, a clearer vision going forward for the new year and also better relations.

Others will notice the sparkle in your eye when you get rid of the darkness that sometimes haunts you. Your energy will be different; others will get a more positive vibe from you. But most importantly, you will feel so much better and you then will be free to work on the resolutions you have made.

Some of you have asked how to do that. There are several different ways.

Some people write a list of resentments and conflicts. They think long and hard about them, then decide what part they may have played in creating them. Clean up your side of the street, then either make your amends or let go.

Others talk it out with someone, usually after writing the resentments and conflicts down. It is good to take a little time to write because when you put your first thoughts on paper or computer, others come to mind. This way you are making sure that you are being really honest with yourself. The goal here is to clean house and move on.

For those of you who believe in it, praying for those you resent can also take you a long way.

Whatever you do, make a resolution to resolve those inner negative feelings that really only hurt you.

Don’t carry the baggage of 2011 or other past years into 2012.

Make it a happy new year and I wish you the same.

Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com. Please send your anonymous questions and responses to newshrink@gmail.com. Got something on your mind, let us help you with your life matters.