Though a new year is often considered a time to seek and find happiness, a consistent approach to wellbeing is a year-long celebration, writes Amal Awad.
A new year – whether Western, Islamic or Chinese – signifies a new beginning and a fresh start. We get excited. We catalogue the year that was, complaining about how difficult and trying its various milestones were, and how we just can’t wait for that clock to strike midnight because in our mind, it’s like the gunshot at the start of a race.
“Next year will be my year,” you tell yourself. “Next year will be different. Just give me a signal and I’ll be off.”
I can save you the suspense and tell you right now that next year will indeed be different, but in many ways, it will be exactly the same if you consistently behave like the bystander in your own life. The fact is, next year will be what you make it.
Change is necessary in life, and like a snake shedding its skin, new life and those fresh starts are part of the deal. But – and this is very important – you don’t need a party hat and fireworks to bring about change.
I know so many people who scoff at New Year’s resolutions. You’re practically writing yourself a free pass to fail, because nobody sticks to them.
The reason for this is simple. These desires we vehemently cling to as the sky lights up in vibrant colours make us feel alive and as though seismic change runs according to a calendar. In fact, transformation and growth are at your fingertips at every single moment and in every choice that you make.
I know people who want to lose weight, but they hide behind excuses (I’ve been guilty of it, too). I remember one friend telling me years ago that she didn’t want to shed the kilos because she felt people would change towards her – in other words, that they would treat her better and this would annoy her.
Even now I can’t fathom the belief system she used to keep herself overweight, but I can also see that her body size was a shield and an excuse to feel bad about herself. She was living from the outside in, handing over all of her personal power to others and their opinions.
It’s something many of us can relate to, given that weight loss seems to be a top New Year’s resolution. We all hide behind grievances, because as long as we don’t have a say in what happens in our lives, we can feel safe in our misery. And this is why the New Year can be a sham if you’re not convinced of your own power to change, at any time of year and under any circumstance.
You can start right now to identify what you want to be working differently in your life. You can banish limiting and unhelpful beliefs about yourself and move forward, making your life truly better, joyous and more fulfilling.
Recently I came across a set of books that deal with creating your own “happiness”. One of them is Affirmation Creator by Frances Verbeek. I am sometimes weary of products that capitalise on wellbeing, but this one was a practical and inexpensive way to create affirmations. It’s essentially there to be used and not read; an action pad that will help you “create a head full of empowered, loving, peaceful beliefs”.
It may sound cheesy, but I’d prefer some fromage over the bitter strains of a disappointed and unfulfilled heart and mind. I’m an advocate of positive thinking and affirmations as a tool to grow and be increasingly empowered. I stand by their effectiveness, though I temper that statement by saying they require consistent effort and dedication.
The excellent thing about this affirmation creator was that it was easy to use and completely practical. It breaks down into a couple of easy steps that you need to do to change the language running in your head.
With that in mind, I present to you some simple, effective and practical steps to positive change and growth. This isn’t an exercise in becoming something you’re not. It’s more like engaging in an honest dialogue with yourself.
And as one friend recently pointed out, isn’t our shadow self, despite her darkness, so very interesting?
Tips for creating affirmations
- Identify and write down one limiting and negative belief about yourself.
If you’re like me and you have lots, focus on one or two at a time. Or have a theme week, kind of like a party, except less fun and without the snacks and balloons.
- Flip it: Switch that belief around, but only use positive, empowering words.
For most of us, it’s easy to identify what we don’t want. We could pen an entire book on the things that annoy us. It’s a great deal more difficult to say what we want and to go for it with confidence and self-belief.
- Believe in yourself, even when you don’t feel like it.
The beauty of affirmations is that they become the language of your brain. Don’t worry about how they work. Just know that like software downloaded onto your PC, they will do their job. This means saying them even when you’re feeling the total opposite.
(But don’t do it aloud on public transport or in a café, because people will stare and then you’ll feel self-conscious and eat your feelings.)
Happy New Year, folks!