So here we are again. Another fresh and opportunity-laden new year stretches out before us. Welcome to the world 2019. After all, this year will be ‘the’ year, won’t it? You surely must have read a lot about the power of a new year; about new beginnings, new challenges, new horizons, new directions, new lifestyle — the new you. They are all wonderfully valid in their own way — to be embraced, committed to and encouraged.
I’d like to introduce another idea into that new year mix. Much of the pressure and stress we experience in life is brought on by the countless miniscule choices we make or don’t make throughout the year. As the old year ends, we can feel weighed down with the consequences of some of those choices. This new year presents us with an opportunity to find ways to lighten the load and become more aware of how much metaphorical, emotional and physical baggage we haul around. Let’s make 2019 the year we lighten the load and start thinking and acting with clarity. So, how do you begin to ‘live light’?
Starting the year with an extremely long list of resolutions is often a counter-productive strategy when it comes to change. If you’re someone who struggles to make change stick, then attempting too much too soon can backfire and leave you feeling deflated and worse than you did before you started.
Change should come in chunks and be dealt with one small piece at a time.
So, here’s a pick-and-mix menu of small changes that can help you make real progress in the year ahead.
Be true to yourself
Endeavour to be yourself. Personal honesty is a skill many people struggle to master. Continually try and forgive yourself and don’t carry the burden of fear and regret. Try not to worry when you mess up. You can always try again tomorrow... and the day after.
Develop your resilience quotient by re-framing negative events and putting a more positive spin on them. Failure is part of life and can be seen as an opportunity to learn some of life’s most important lessons. Tomorrow is another day and people who don’t feel weighed down by regret or failure know this.
Try to worry less about what people think (or at least what you think they think). Sometimes you’ll need to make choices that make sense to you, even if they don’t necessarily make sense to those around you.
All actions have consequences and that means you need to be able to live with the choices you make. When it comes to those key life events, making the right choice can sometimes be overwhelming, so taking the time to weigh things up and planning before you opt for a certain pathway will empower you and give you that self-belief — a key ingredient in success.
Minus or plus?
Minimising the effect negativity has on your life is also a key factor in ‘living light’. Avoiding at least some of the interaction with those who make you feel low can give you an enormous sense of relief and freedom. Granted, I understand you can’t always pick and choose who you interact with. However, by reducing your exposure to negativity you will in turn increase your own positive outlook.
If you’re embarking on a detox programme I always suggest you start with the toxic people; negativity is infectious, so the more you limit your exposure the less likely you are to catch a dose of it.
Once you begun to minimise the negative, there are lots of small ways to maximise the positives in your life. It’s a proven fact that those ‘up-beat’ optimists among us are more likely to live longer, forge better relationships and bounce back quicker from adversity.
Living light is about learning to put positivity into your life wherever you can. And believe me, you can actually learn to do this.
Negative thought patterns can be broken, but you have to want to do it and work at it. Anxiety, low mood, stress, fear, low self-esteem... these repetitive emotional behaviours conspire to weigh you down and keep you trapped.
The first step to becoming unburdened is to recognise when these emotions strike and take a step back. This is the only way can you achieve that disconnection between thought and reality. This objectivity will allow you to manage that negativity far more effectively and begin to understand that this is unhelpful thinking and only serves to hold you back.
Each new day is a gift
Do you go to bed stressed and wake up tired? Increasingly, our modern, technology-filled lives are nibbling away at our sense of inner tranquillity, leaving us feeling frazzled and like we’re always running on empty. So, instead of re-charging your phone, it’s time to re-charge your batteries and plug into a new way of thinking.
Try starting your day with easy conversation or relaxing music or peace and quiet – just for a little while.
Avoid social media being the very first interaction you have with the new day. All of those competing voices, all of that ‘noise’ can be overwhelming for the brain.
Taking a little time to ease into things can bring enormous rewards for the day ahead. Just starting with that clarity will aid your focus and give you a more positive energised feeling.
The same goes for the very last thing at night — avoid social media being the final interaction and thought you have prior to sleep. If you must have a smartphone by the bed (and I’m afraid many of us do), disable the pings, dings and rings which will pull you out of important quality sleep which is a must.
It cleans the brain and freshens it for the next day. It’s essential to sorting your thoughts and preparing your body and mind for the day ahead. Getting plenty of rest is necessary in the reduction of stress and helps to boost your immune system.
Re-learn the gentle art of relaxation
When was the last time you had a complete rest day? When you did absolutely nothing? Taking a whole day off from everything might seem impossible, but it’s vital to dedicate at least some time to ourselves. As adults, we often have to subjugate our own needs to prioritise the needs of others. Making time for yourself every once in a while to do…well…absolutely nothing…is definitely a personal skill worth developing. You’re worth it.
One way to have the time to do this is to learn how to make the time.
When you manage your time more effectively, it’s amazing how much more you seem to have. By practising time management in everyday life, and not just at work, you’ll discover that there are more hours in a day to dedicate to pleasure and relaxation. The key challenge for those wanting to live light is not to automatically fill this time with more from the ‘to do’ list. Instead, use it to enjoy yourself and achieve more of that life balance that will ultimately make you happier.
Tidy your mind, tidy your space
A cluttered and messy mind is a restless and unfocused mind. Trying to go in numerous different directions at the same time results in very little getting done. Mental clutter happens when you find yourself worrying about the future, pondering the past and replaying countless scenarios endlessly in your thoughts. Luckily, there are strategies you can employ to calm things down and tidy your head space.
Declutter the environment around you. Have you considered that physical clutter can lead to mental clutter? I think it does. I’ve found that clutter assaults the mind, making it harder to know where to start. This then energises the brain into working overtime to process all this ‘cluttered’ information. There’s no denying that organising your living space can help you organise your mental space.
Leave the past right there
There’s so much clutter and baggage associated with what you’ve done or not done in the past that it can overtake your future thoughts and plans. Because mind clutter is usually related to the past it can overshadow the future. I believe a new year should equal a new start – and you can’t make a new start when your head is filled with the mistakes you’ve made, the opportunities you’ve missed and the grievances you’ve had. It just won’t work.
To truly move things forward you need to throw off the chains of the past. If you’re genuinely burdened by what has gone before, seeking professional help is definitely worth considering. Sometimes, we aren’t strong enough to move forward on our own and having a person by your side to guide you can help you navigate the road ahead.
What the ‘new you’ really wants
By being decisive, clear and staying focused, 2019 is a great opportunity to remedy your approach. Focusing on what you really want and working back through the steps to get you there will help you to set a course for success. There will be ups and downs along the way — that’s life — but it’s all about making that series of small changes and weaving them together to transform your bigger picture.
Don’t feel guilty to say NO in 2019. Pleasing all the people all of the time is impossible and detrimental to your own health and well-being. But don’t be afraid to say YES either — YES to new ways of thinking, yes to changing things that can be changed and yes to welcoming a new you.