As the earth has ended its journey round the sun for another time, we see the end of one year and the beginning of a new year ahead. Herein lies one of the many lessons that nature shows us to guide us through life – every end marks the start of a new beginning. Whilst endings can be either very bittersweet, very sad or indeed very happy if we are coming to the end of a difficult time – this ending will always come due to the impermanent nature of this life however, with it brings the hope of new beginnings.
With this I am very much reminded of the quote from T.S. Elliot:
“For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice and to make an end is to make a beginning”
Around this time of year it is very commonplace to make “New Year Resolutions” where these can be very unrealistic goals we set for ourselves based on what is going on externally – perhaps shifting a few pounds of weight, joining the gym and starting a rigorous fitness regime, meeting someone or starting a new career.
Whilst these are all fine if treated in the right way with the right mindset – quite often we dive into these goals without our minds being right from the outset. This leads to perhaps one or two weeks into January (if we are lucky) our willpower weakens and we end up resorting to our old unhealthy habits feeling like a failure at the start of a year following our spending and eating excesses over Christmas – we have even coined the term “Blue Monday” mid-January to reinforce this message and focus on the negative aspects of our lives!!
Life is difficult enough without adding on the extra challenge of new year resolutions onto our existing overloaded plate - especially when we have an inner critic inside our head just waiting for the moment to start the negative chatter in a repeat cycle in our minds.
So, what would happen if instead of new year resolutions, we started focusing inwards for the new year ahead and listened to the words of T.S. Elliot to give ourselves a new voice. By this, I mean giving ourselves the gift of self-love and self-compassion for 2023.
How would our life change if we made a small shift in our daily mindset to try and notice more often that self-critical voice that often enters our head when we tell ourselves “we are not good enough...we will never be happy...we will never achieve our goal” you know the voice – it's that same broken record that plays over in our heads when we do break one of those resolutions or we make a mistake, when we look in the mirror or maybe something happens in our life that upsets us.
How differently would we look at these situations if we spoke to ourselves in the same way we would speak to one of our friends, a family member or even a child if the same thing happened to them and they needed words of encouragement?
I bet the voice in our heads would sound a lot different than the voice we hear when we find ourselves in these situations.
It would certainly help us through the situation easier and we would respond to it in a more healthy way and not let it dictate the rest of our day, week or even month perhaps year!
What would happen if we were our own coach – we had our own backs and if we did make a mistake we would accept this do what we need to improve the situation and move on in a positive way – our perspective of life and indeed ourselves would change.
As we know real change does not happen overnight. We can't expect years of beating ourselves up and negative self-talk to disappear overnight – but WE CAN do this very easily if we make one small change each day – one small nudge in the right direction each day will look and feel a whole lot different than another year of negative self-talk - believe me.
Perhaps we catch the voice once each day (This voice as we know is a repetitive one that can repeat itself several times a day). Perhaps if we become present enough just for 5 minutes each day by taking 5 to 10 conscious deep breathes to come into the present moment and then maybe listen to what is going on with ourselves for the remaining few minutes– what a powerful gift we could give ourselves each day – as with having that small insight each day we could train our minds to think very differently in firstly how we view ourselves which would then naturally extend to how we see the outside world and those around us.
Five minutes each day is an achievable goal as I'm sure 5 minutes of being present will feel a whole lot better than five minutes watching TV or social media.
Perhaps when we are in this present moment, we may start to hear the voice of self-criticism and catch it just for that short moment of time and replace it with words we would tell our friends or our children – how would that make you feel?
I like to call this our “Friend Filter” by catching our inner self critic and challenging this voice and only accepting the language of what we would tell a best friend if he or she was in the same situation. I'm sure if we start giving ourselves an easier time it would certainly reduce some of the anxiety we may be feeling.
As quite often ruminating our thoughts in the past will lead to feelings of low mood thinking of things that have have gone before us that we cannot change. If we are anxious, we are worrying about a future situation that has not or may not happen – where we find our inner calm and inner joy is by coming into the present moment and dwelling there for as long as we can.
This will take training – but small micro changes over time can lead to significant change – there is no better gift or resolution we can make to ourselves this year than the gift of self-compassion and having the gift of presence to allow ourselves to be our own coach our own best friend.
Once we do find that self-love our whole world will open to us, and we will naturally make more healthy choices for our body and mind and notice more positive opportunities, as we now love ourselves and will want to heal rather than punish ourselves as we so often can do.
No one can make us truly happy but ourselves. The pain of unhappiness often comes when we outsource our happiness. We can often expect others to make us happy, or indeed things or situations e.g. “I’ll be happy when I'm on holiday, when I loose weight, when I meet someone.”
In putting our happiness on hold or in the hands of other people, we are miss out on so much...only we have the power to make ourselves happy and we can do this by changing the relationship we have with ourselves.
“Be good to yourself ‘cause nobody else has the power to make you happy”
George Michael. Heal the Pain
Imagine how life would look if instead we had our own back if we changed our inner dialogue. We have this dialogue with us for the rest of our lives so wouldn’t life be easier if our inner narrative was on our side?
No matter what goal you set for yourself it will be a whole lot easier if we have self-compassion through the good and bad times that may come our way along the journey to achieving whatever our aim is.
How would the new year start to look if we celebrate our small daily wins (even on “Blue Monday!!)...look for the good things instead if ruminating on the negative...how would this impact our stress...our view of life?
We can worry about what people think of us when most people are too busy worrying about their own inner dialogue too as everyone has this voice. We are all the same that’s what connects us.
However, it’s the relationship that we have with our inner narrative that separates our viewpoints and experiences in life.
Lets start off our new year looking for the micro wins. The one small thing or moments that happen each day...perhaps we could Journal these and what a present that would be to ourselves at the end of this year. We could look back on the year and be reminded of all the goodness in our lives that we can be thankful for.
These micro wins can be simple things like watching a sunrise, watching our children play..maybe even joining in. Perhaps listening to our favourite song, laughing with a friend, getting or giving a hug. Whatever this may be, no matter how tiny. If we train our brain to seek out the positive each day our focus will shift and the world will look like a much better place.
So take some time to consider this in this coming new year – what one small micro change could you make to allow yourself to come into the present moment and start to shift our inner self talk to someone we want to listen so we can finally come home to our true authentic selves...
“We do not heal the past by dwelling there, we heal the past by living in the present”
If you want to meet the love of your life look in the mirror - he or she is there - waiting to be found.