It goes without saying that 2020 was a year like no other. Yet when the clock struck midnight, the slate wasn’t suddenly wiped clean. So how do we enter 2021 with positivity and grace?
1. Validate the triumphs and tribulations of the last year
Don’t dismiss everything you went through in 2020. While everyone had different struggles, the reality was that it was a struggle for everyone. Validate that! Sometimes people are worried about speaking their truth for fear of being perceived as negative. But what if we flip the narrative? What if we just acknowledge when things are hard? It’s quite powerful, actually! Children are taught to name their emotions. To talk about when they feel scared or sad or happy. But as adults we’ve lost this ability. It all gets quite jumbled up and we feel pressure to put on a brave face. We minimise our feelings and push them down. We say things like: ‘It could always be worse…’ or ‘At least….’. But when we name our feelings it gives us space to move forward from them. Whatever 2020 was for you, don’t be afraid to name it.
We know that resolutions get a bad rap. On the last day of December we may feel resolute, but by the second week of January our will-power is feeling less…powerful! Instead of resolutions, think of some intentions. Set yourself up for success. Perhaps your intention is a word or phrase like: ‘letting go’ or something more specific like being more open to experiences. Whether you have an intention like learning a new language or just learning more in general, the best part is that it’s ongoing. If your resolution is to stop eating chocolate, then once you’ve snuck in a piece of Cadbury Dairy Milk (and let’s face it…yum) then you’ve failed. But if your intention is to create healthy habits then everything from your morning walk to eating a few squares of chocolate (rather than a whole block) means you’re living your intention. Perhaps choose a few words or a mantra that you can focus on for the year. One that is about what you can gain and not on something you need to lose.
Perhaps you’ve heard about mindfulness or maybe you practice it already. Or maybe it’s the kind of thing that makes you roll your eyes. We get it, mindfulness is everywhere. But what does it really mean? In essence, mindfulness is really about focusing on the present moment. Our mind can take us into the past or future in an instant and usually this time travel is associated with worry or stress. So how can you cement yourself in the NOW. One way is to try some simple breathing exercises. Close your eyes, breathe in through your nose and count to four slowly. Hold your breath for the count of four and then breathe out to the count of four. Hold your breath for four counts and then repeat these steps again. This is called ‘box breathing’. You may even like to picture the four sides of a box as your breathe. Another excellent mindfulness technique is to immerse yourself in your surroundings by naming five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. It’s such an easy way to ground yourself if your mind is getting too busy. There are also plenty of apps like Smiling Mind or Calm that you can use.
In essence, a positive start to the year doesn’t mean ignoring the difficult times. It means acknowledging that you are resilient enough to overcome them. It doesn’t mean making huge changes like deciding to run a marathon tomorrow. It means understanding what makes you…you! What makes you feel good? What tools can you put in place to support your growth? Most of all, be kind to yourself. If you’ve got that covered, the year is already off to a positive start.