Every year holds good and bad. It would be unrealistic to expect a whole year to be happy without any setbacks. I have certainly had my fair share of setbacks, especially over the last two years but the setbacks have made me resilient and have also helped me find amazing coping skills that I want to share with you. Here are insightful ways to make this year a happier year:
Don’t believe everything you think
Once you realize that your brain is going to be active and send you thoughts all day every day (yes – even when you are asleep – dreams/nightmares), you learn not to believe every thought you think. It’s a FACT that we all experience intrusive thoughts but you don’t have to believe every thought you think. Actually – you will be a miserable person if you do. Our brains are geared towards threat and therefore we often default to the negative. It’s a survival thing. We have insecure thoughts harassing us, like an inner bully telling us we aren’t good enough or aren’t loveable. “No one would love me if they knew the real me” is an intrusive thought many of my clients have. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy teaches you not to ‘buy into’ every thought you have. You can’t stop the thoughts but you can control your FOCUS. Learning to dismiss negative thoughts is a great mental skill – one they should teach in schools!
Take it one day at a time
There is no point in catastrophising and worrying about the huge ‘mountain’ in front of you. What you need to do is break it down into smaller more manageable chunks. Instead of worrying about all you have to do for that month or week, break it down into each day and then try to stay in the moment. Our minds love to carry us to the past or make us worry about the future. But the real power lies in NOW. This very moment. The thoughts and decisions you make today will naturally shape your future. The past is done and it can’t be changed. Being mindful is a great skill. Immerse yourself in the day, watch your focus and use all of your senses to stay as present as possible. What can you see, hear, smell, touch and taste. Our brain can’t manage both – so the more you engage your 5 senses in your surroundings and keep your mind active the less time it has to worry and overthink.
Prioritise friends and family
Being around others releases a wonderful hormone called Oxytocin. It’s a feel-good hormone and it lasts longer than dopamine. Dopamine is a short term “high” derived from things like eating food, sex, shopping etc Real happiness comes from being around people and connecting and bonding. It’s how we are wired yet society and consumerism has made us believe that we need more stuff, more status and more power. It’s not true – that real feeling of being alive comes from connections with others not from material goods. Sure – they do the trick for a while but it’s short-lived. Reconnect with old friends and reaching out to others more often.
Maintain a good work-leisure balance
If you want to be stressed out and on edge, go ahead and be a workaholic. Some people (A-type personalities) are naturally more driven and goal orientated but everyone needs to live a balanced life in order to make this year (and every year ahead) a happier year.
Self-compassion is key
Self-criticism doesn’t work. It’s far more effective to show yourself care and self-compassion. That means treating yourself as you would someone you truly cared about. If someone you loved got fired, you wouldn’t tell them that they were useless, you would be supportive and encourage them and this is what you owe to yourself. We all make mistakes and we can learn from them but self-criticism will lead to low confidence and withdrawal and avoidance in the long term. Be kind to yourself, you’re all you’ve got.
Don’t take life too seriously
Maintain perspective. I like the coping statement: “This too shall pass”. Even when life seems overwhelming, be safe in the knowledge that it won’t be as intense as it feels when you’re overwhelmed. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and feel stressed out. This is when it’s a good idea to take a step back and ask yourself why you are getting yourself so het up?
Maintaining a sense of humor is important and trying to see the funny side of life can help to protect you from the harshness of life. This sense of security and comfort can also come from connecting with those around us as they are surely experiencing similar feelings. Whilst this nowadays can be tricky due to the increasing restrictions, technology has thankfully played a big role in bridging this gap. An entertaining way to combine the two would is with the age old right of passage of prank calling. Luckily technology has advanced since then – gone are the days of using landlines and you can now download a spoof call app to scramble your information so it looks like you called from a different number. Protect your privacy and change your caller ID today!
Covid-19 has definitely affected everyone and made it harder to feel at ease but there’s no point resisting what is. Coronavirus is here whether we like it or not so there’s no point in fighting something we can’t change. Instead, focus on what you can do within the current restrictions. Shifting your focus will help you feel more empowered instead of hopeless.
Here’s wishing you a year that is as good as you make it. I hope you achieve what you strive for and that you are able to reach your goals. Life isn’t a race, it’s okay to slow down and live life fully rather than racing around with too many to-do lists. Covid-19 has definitely encouraged mindfulness! Try to do something each day that you enjoy to lift your spirits and soon life will change again. One thing is certain in these uncertain times – change is inevitable and we’re all getting good practice in dealing with uncertainty.