January 1st. Welcome to the New Year! It’s time to start being the person you say you want to be. In my 13 years of experience as a counselor, I’ve found that most people could use a little motivation and even some direct advice. I’ve listed things that you can start doing and stop doing. It’s up to you to decide if this advice applies to you, so if the shoe fits…
(1) Stop living in the past. Maybe life has chewed you up and spit you out. You’ve been betrayed, abandoned or forgotten. Someone who was suppose to love you failed you, and you have the right to be angry about the failure of those who were supposed to be there for you. However, as long as you are focusing on blaming people in the past, you are wasting valuable time and energy in the present. What can you learn from the past to help you right now and in the future? How can you be there for those that you love, even if it means creating new patterns of relating to others?
(2) Stop feeding your anger. If your mind is focused on assuming the worst about others and the world, you will inevitably be less patient behind the wheel while driving and waiting in line at the grocery store. You will be more likely to take out your anger on your kids or the small, weaker ones around you. Instead, work through your conflicts with others and learn to forgive those who have hurt or offended you. If your anger has become explosive, seek professional help to get it under control so that you can be the person you want to be.
(3) Start prioritizing your health. If it’s been a while, make an appointment with your doctor for a check up. Update your glasses or contacts prescription and get in for your routine dental exam and cleaning. I’ve found that mothers with young children have the most trouble attending to their own medical and dental health. They are actually visiting the doctor and dentist all the time…just not for themselves (I’m absolutely guilty of this). As parents and caregivers, our care for others is only as strong as we are. As they say on the airlines, “Put on your own oxygen mask yourself before assisting others.” Do it.
(4) Start to exercise for your mental health. Exercise has been hijacked by the culture of calorie-counting and weight loss. If you want to exercise for those reasons, please do so, but don’t forget about the benefits of being alive in your own body. Exercise is our most natural and accessible way to release anger and anxiety—we need to take in the benefits of getting physically stronger and of regulating our breathing. Find an exercise that you enjoy. If you don’t like running, then don’t run! Join a Zumba or yoga class. If you need social connection, play on a community softball or volleyball team.
(5) Stop lying. Strong healthy lasting relationships are based on trust. Trust is grounded in the truth—period. I have known so many people who think that lying won’t affect the quality of their relationship as long as they don’t get caught in the lie. WRONG. Lying will always affect a relationship. You can not give your whole heart to those that you love if you are hiding something.
(6) Re-connect with spirituality. I’m not talking about religion necessarily here, but if that floats your boat, go for it. When life shakes us to the core, it is our connection to something that is bigger than us that stabilizes us and gives us hope. Explore your beliefs about a higher power, your beliefs about the universe or even about the spirituality of your youth. Talk about your questions and ideas with others around the fire and break bread with those that you love.
(7) Laugh more! Laughter really is the best medicine. Listen to a child laugh when they are being tickled and take notes. Pure uninhibited joyous laughter. Have your friends tell their funniest stories around the table. Take in some epic fails or crazy cat videos. Life is ridiculous!
(8) Connect with others who are not like you. Find others who don’t share your cultural background or religious and political views. Be friends with them in person. Be friends with them on social media. Be curious. Ask questions and listen. You’ll feel more alive and less alone. You’ll be surprised by others and touched by their humanity and them by you. They will change your life.
Make this year the year you started to live life to its fullest. Make it the year that you leave the past behind you and step into the person that you have always wanted to be. Go for it! I believe in you!