Lifestyle: The top 3 changes we can make for the new year

I hope the Christmas period contained some moments of joy for you, or at the very least you could make peace with the disappointment you may have felt, in recognition that overall 2020 has failed to deliver the usual Christmas or year, that we expect.

As the madness of Christmas comes to an end and the new year is fast approaching, my rhoughts have been turning to why we inevitably feel we must learn something or turn over a new leaf at the chime of midnight on 31st December?

I've seen lots of people on social media speaking the truth that the only thing we really should be working towards at the turn of a new year is getting comfortable with the truth of who we are. Messy, imperfect, incomplete beings, not doings (there's a clue there) that we are.

But that still implies some form of self improvement, however is it really a bad thing?

I've always been deeply interested in self discovery and improving myself. Self awareness is a powerful tool when you are feeling hurt or lost and you can always go deeper to uncover unconscious thoughts and behaviours. 

However, this last year has taught me more about myself than ever before. I have had many moments of awakening in the past, usually after coming through a painful or traumatic experience. But the thing I have done every time is expect more from myself, try to do more, be more, please more. This year it has been about realising that if I don't love and respect myself, I will forever feel undervalued and underappreciated.

It has been a revelation to get to know the true meaning of having boundaries. By the way, for many people boundaries are just an unconcious and natural response and it comes with a secure upbringing and really knowing yourself. But for many of us who did not have that experience, we got really good at hiding our needs, meeting with others, being forever accommodating and letting go of ourselves.

That in itself is a whole other blog post that I will come back to another day, but the point is, having boundaries and knowing your outer limits is loving yourself (and others). Respecting your limits and non negotiables is loving yourself (and others). It is enlightening when you find those that won't let you speak your truth or that fall away when you stop doing what you're doing, usually when you're at a point in your life when you can't any more (like new motherhood) or when they don't bother to ask you for your whys. 

Even that alone, is one of the most empowering habits you can get comfortable with and improve upon. However, if it's a life long habit you have of leaving yourself at the door, it is not going to be a comfortable ride and it may feel very lonely as people fall away. Disappointing people and not giving them what they want is a trade off for getting comfortable with knowing what you do (and don't want). 

This new year, my goals look very different to previous ones. I would usually have a written list of goals to meet and things I wanted to do. The pandemic has forced us all to take the foot off the gas and really reflect on just being, rather than doing.

It's amazing how much truth can shine through when we're not distracted with creating the image of who we want to be. There is little wonder that there has been an uprise in depression and anxiety as we all strive to create a perfect image on social media of who we want to be, rather than just being who we are. It's called cognitive dissonance, where someone holds conflicting beliefs, values or attitudes.

For example, you could be a passionate advocate for the environment but feel compelled to live a consumer lifestyle with more shiny new stuff, in order to fit in or project an image. I myself struggled with the idea of 'marketing' things in my career when I don't really buy into having more stuff that we don't need.

For some it is more than just the social media element, it may be a lifelong career of creating an image of who someone else wanted us to be in order to feel loved, accepted or appreciated. Again, this is a much longer and in depth blog post which I will come back to another day but strap yourself in for that as it is a ride!

There are some things that I do intend to 'improve' upon as we enter a new year, so here are my top tips for anyone also wanting to feel positive at a very uncertain juncture in our lives and not knowing what the next year will hold.

1) Clarity -  people talk about meditation a lot these days and some are more familiar with its benefits than others. The simplest way I can describe the process is clearing out the mind in order to find clarity and peace. Feeling clear helps us know ourselves, find that which gives us joy or peace, and find contentment or drives us on to change something. 

If we're not creating space to know ourselves, how will we achieve peace or change? It doesn't just have to be achieved in a room sat cross legged. For me it is on walks that I find myself meditative. The key principles it generally requires are; solitude (it's easier to tune in to yourself without others distracting you, even if they're quiet), clearing the mind of noise and unwanted thoughts (tuning into nature and being an observer of what is around you and passing thoughts) and giving time for your mind to rest. The latter is better achieved when in a state of either laying down or sitting. 

2) Acceptance - getting to know ourselves and being comfortable with who we are is a huge step to feeling content. If we are forever chasing happiness, we will be forever disappointed. Instead aiming for contentment with the moment we are in, whilst finding opportunities to create joy. Note how I said 'create' as joy is not found or discovered but is something we make, either by ourselves or with others.

Self discovery can be the key to accepting and understanding our emotions. Why we may feel disappointed with relationships, or struggle to achieve the success we want, or why some goals, like a healthy body, feel so unobtainable. Thoughts drive behaviours, emotions are there to guide us to our whys. We can be consumed by false thoughts, which can lead to inauthentic behaviours but generally how we feel cannot be wrong and can lead us to great insight about ourselves.

3) Living in the moment - especially with so much uncertainty around us we are struggling to find control in the things we normally seek to influence. The reality is, you never had control. Either control of work, relationships, or the environment around us. That is different to self-empowerment, though and this is what we should seek to master. We can put our best foot forward by seeking to have better control of ourselves, even if it is simply how we feel about a thing. 

We may feel fearful about the world at the moment and that is okay. Accepting that feeling, acknowledging it, is the fastest way to release it. It sounds obvious but worrying about something not only provides fear for tomorrow, but it steals your peace and joy for today. 

Really getting comfortable with living in the present moment, as it is right now, in this very minute, is a great practice for releasing uncertainty and fear. Noticing what you can see, hear, feel, taste, right now helps to bring your mind back to this very moment when it wanders to what the future looks like or tries to send you to the pain of the past.

If you follow these 3 practices, (I say practices because they are life long and require effort), you will find a more peaceful, content and joyful you in the new year and beyond. They will serve you far more than a goal about how much to earn next year, or where you will travel to next, although of course they have a place too. The changes above will hone your senses, make you clearer and what you want (and don't want) and that practice will help lead you to a more fulfillment and success.

I would love to hear how you get on and what other changes you are making for the new year ahead. Drop us a comment below...

S x

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