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CommunityMental HealthForget Jan 1: NOW is the only time to change

So much of our life has changed in the last few years. The world as we know it is no longer the same — what is important to us, who we spend time with, how we travel, how we plan, how and where we work, as well the days we work and spend time with our family have all changed suddenly. And as much as we struggled (and complained), we all adapted to all the...
Dr Saliha AfridiMarch 1, 202210 min
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change through journalingShutterstock

So much of our life has changed in the last few years. The world as we know it is no longer the same — what is important to us, who we spend time with, how we travel, how we plan, how and where we work, as well the days we work and spend time with our family have all changed suddenly. And as much as we struggled (and complained), we all adapted to all the changes. We did things in the last few years that we never thought were possible. And that’s the thing about human beings, we do not like change, but when we are faced with it, we adapt and adjust within weeks. 

So, since the winds of change are blowing, we might as well consider other things that need to change about how we have always lived, worked, and related. 

Reflect on the past

We all want new beginnings, they feel like a clean slate to start from. However, the past will follow you into the future if you do not spend time honoring it, learning from it, and integrating the learnings. You can do this as a daily practice or a once a week practice of connecting with the past. As you go through the questions, go back to them frequently and remember the associated memories and lessons. Write as often, or as little as you need. Also, try to go through the months, and maybe even go through your phone’s photo album to jog your memory. Here are a few questions and prompts for you to consider.

  • My favorite memories include _________.
  • I celebrated _________.
  • My most difficult experiences include_________.
  • I learned_________.
  • The biggest challenges I’ve overcome are _________.
  • The biggest wins have been _________.
  • The people who have been most important to me are _________.
  • Some things I wish didn’t happen in my life are _________.
  • I am still grieving the loss of _________.
  • I am grateful for _________.
  • I wish I made more time for _________.

Write about your future self

We know that new year resolutions don’t work for the majority of people, so why not try something different this year? Write about your future self. This exercise requires you to choose the best possible outcome for yourself and your life. If everything went right, and just the way you wanted it to, what would you be doing, who would you be with, how would you feel, look, think, act in the future?. Once you have visceral and visually engaged with these images, write about them in great detail. This exercise is shown to improve your mood, and outlook on life. You can do this exercise as often as you like. 

Cultivate the perfect relationship within you

The only person who will travel through all the years of your life is yourself, so make an intention to start spending time with yourself. The only way to achieve self-love, self-care, self-confidence, self-respect, and self-compassion is through the self. It is said that ‘stillness is the altar of the spirit’ so make time to still yourself, by disconnecting from technology and connecting to your inner world. Go for walks by yourself, journal, engage in exploratory therapies, and dialogue with yourself. And as it is with all new relationships, when you first start doing this it will feel uncomfortable. Stay committed to yourself.

Ask yourself “Where do I need to grow up?”

Make this a year you grow up in the area of your life where you are feeling held back. This is not easy to do when you have abdicated your care or your approval to others your whole life. So ask yourself, where do you need to take ownership of your life? Where do you need to show up for yourself? Where do you need to take responsibility for your happiness? Where are you giving your power away and why?  It is much easier to blame COVID-19 or our boss, or our family members for holding us back; however, there will always be external circumstances that come on our path. Some will use them as an opportunity to grow up while others will use them as justification to remain stuck. Now is the time to grow up and take your power back. 

Instead of waiting for the “right time,” start today

Even if it is the tiniest move in the direction of the life you want, do something every day that is moving you closer to the type of person you want to be, and the type of life you want to live. If you want to feel more energetic, start walking five minutes every day, if you want to be calmer, commit to meditating for just a minute three times a day. If you want to have better relationships with loved ones, spend face-to-face time with them, away from technology every week. It’s the small steps, the ones that don’t require a lot of energy, that build momentum and move you in the direction of your life. Get rid of the all or nothing type of thinking. Start small, start today. 

Dr Saliha Afridi

As a clinical psychologist for the past 13 years, Dr Saliha Afridi has spent 12 years working in the UAE and founded The Lighthouse Arabia in 2011, a community mental health and wellness clinic providing quality psychological and psychiatric care to children, adults, couples and families.

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