Want a change? 7 principles to make this your best year yet – Part I

Are you suffering from the post-holiday blues and wondering how to improve your life? Perhaps you are dreading that this year will be just the repeat of the same, living with stress and anxiety. Maybe you have a very busy life and there are a lot of demands on you from family and partner and/or your work. Do you often find yourself prioritising the needs of others and neglecting yours? Maybe you feel like you are stuck in a rut. Are you looking for a change?

The New Year offers an opportunity to start something new. Perhaps you have decided to start a healthier life program hoping that this will change the way you feel. In addition to starting to follow a diet/exercise plan or stopping drinking for January or whatever it is that you have planned to do, I would suggest that it might be beneficial to spend some time thinking about the principles that you live by in your life.

Having balance and feeling content in life requires more than a behaviour change. Often if your mindset doesn’t change, then the old habits are difficult to shift in the long-term and soon the good intentions fall through.

To offer you some principles to consider, I decided to write about the principles that I have seen so many people struggle with but when there is a positive shift, it can significantly improve emotional and physical wellbeing. These principles are self-care, having self-compassion, setting healthy boundaries in relationships, trying something new, being present in your life, connecting with other people, and finally adopting the principle of gratitude. The post is divided into two parts, this one focusing on four principles and the second part looks at further 3 principles, which can read about here.

  1. Self-care

When was the last time you did something nice for yourself? If you are the one, who always priorities others and never has time for self-care. This is your time now. You deserve to be looked after. Change your mindset and make yourself a priority. As they say “you can’t pour from an empty cup”.

When thinking about self-care, perhaps you hear a parental voice saying that you should not be selfish. You may have grown up with a parent who always prioritised their own needs and it has been hard for you to start looking your needs when your needs have never been looked after.

If you feel guilty for looking after your needs and it feels selfish to consider your needs, what would you say to a friend who thought this?

Start with small everyday things that help you gradually to have a good balance in life and have both emotional and physical well-being (enough sleep, good diet and enough physical activity). What kind of small changes would make you feel good today?

2. Change your relationship with self – Have self-compassion

Do you find it easy to empathise with others but you are very critical of yourself? Why did I do this or say that? Perhaps you get stuck on blaming yourself for mistakes made. Could you offer some compassion for yourself?

Self-compassion is based on three principles (Kirsten Neff):

  • Being your own best friend – What do you say to a friend who is struggling? Become your own best friend and a coach, the person who you can trust when things get tough.
  • Suffering is a shared human experience: a struggle is a part of life. Continuing to criticising or blaming yourself forever will not change anything but can make you feel really bad about yourself, anxious and depressed. Perhaps you fear that if you are not critical of yourself, you will collapse. It is, in fact, more likely that if you adopt self-compassion as part of your principles for better living, you are likely to want to do more for yourself. Have a go, see what happens!
  • Mindfulness – Being aware of your feelings; the more you are aware of your internal world the better decisions you can make in your life that will support your well-being.

Change and adopting the practice of self-compassion can be challenging. Some time ago I wrote a post about it that you might find interesting. You can read it here. I have recorded a FREE Self-compassion guided meditation. Download your copy here!

3. Set healthy boundaries

What are your personal boundaries like in relationships? Do their need to change for you to feel happier?

  • Porous: Little regard for self and other people’s needs are prioritised, always agreeing to what other’s want/need with little consideration for self and own needs. Or you may be over-reliant of others and struggle to trust your own judgment in making decisions. Perhaps you feel that to be liked you need to always agree with others. You may have experienced your personal boundaries being violated by a person(s) by e.g. violence or sexual abuse and now as an adult, it is difficult to set boundaries. This can leave you feeling angry and frustrated with people. Recently, I wrote about the impact of childhood trauma on adult well-being, which you might find useful. You can read it here.
  • Rigid: Do you keep others at distance and it is difficult to trust another person? Do you often struggle on your own, because asking for help feels so uncomfortable for you? You may feel lonely and alone in the world.
  • Healthy boundaries: Brene Brown put it simply as thinking “what’s ok with me and what’s not ok with me”. Recognise what kind of feelings something creates in you and use that as a guide for setting boundaries. E.g. Being able to ask for help when needed, letting people get to know you, being able to communicate wants and needs, and being able to accept when others have different opinions.

The more aware you become of your relationship patterns, the healthier boundaries you will have with people. The way you relate to people is often linked to your early relationships and these dynamics may be repeated in later life. Psychological therapy can be very helpful in understanding your relationship patterns.

4. Try something new

Do you like the comfort of routine and always doing the same thing? Is fear stopping you from living your life to the full? Stimulate your brain by trying something new even if it feels scary. I love the saying “feel the fear and do it anyway”. Trying new things can really liven up your life and give you thoughts about what else you might want to try. There is also another saying “if nothing changes, then nothing changes”. Explore what is fear stopping you from doing?

Often when people are anxious or fearful about something, they start avoiding what makes them anxious, yet this can contribute to the anxiety increasing as the fear doesn’t get challenged. Seek support in form of a supportive friend or therapy is also a good place to address underlying fear that might be stopping you from living your life to the full.

Finally

How are you doing in relation to practicing the above principles so far? I’m assuming that if you are still reading, this is something that you might find difficult and that’s ok. It is sometimes so hard to be a human. You may have developed unhealthy ways of behaving and relating to self and others as a result of significant life events, but gradually you can change it. Take your first step and seek support!

If you would like support with anyone of the topics mentioned above, get in touch. I would be happy to discuss with you how therapy could help you. Contact for your FREE 15min consultation here.

The second part focuses on being present in your life, connecting with people, and expressing gratitude. You can read it here.

By |2018-01-01T22:02:03+00:00January 9th, 2017|0 Comments

About the Author:

Dr Mari Kovanen, CPsychol, is a counselling psychologist in private practice in Reigate, Surrey. She has a specialist interest in working with individuals who have experienced childhood trauma and/or emotional neglect. Her another interest is providing relationship counselling both for individuals and couples. info@drmarikovanen.co.uk

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