Less is More in 2014 [ Five Resolutions for Your Emotional Health ]

The New Year can be a time of feeling refreshed – of experiencing excitement and purpose in leaving old habits in the dust, creating new goals, and perhaps even pursuing challenging adventures! Maybe 2013 was full of disappointment and heartache. As a result, you are nothing but utterly ready to shed those bad experiences and discover new beginnings. Oppositely, perhaps your 2013 was a year of great joy, love, and achievement. Possibly, you are eager for what awaits in 2014, hopeful that good things continue in the positive direction they have been headed.

Either way 2014 is upon us. What will it mean for you?

“Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but how we react to what happens, not by what life brings us but the attitude we bring to life.”  ~ Wade Boggs

Many resolutions focus on the external actions and decisions we make, and this is great! However, it is important to recognize that our behaviors spring forth from the beliefs, thoughts, and attitudes we hold. I have created a list of moment-by-moment internal resolutions, which can greatly impact the way you react to the events & people awaiting you in 2014.

1. Less Ruminating : As a therapist, I am a big fan of introspection (thinking carefully and processing thoughts and feelings deeply). Introspection is important and can provide clarity, self-awareness, & direction. Yet, ruminating carries us into a darker realm where obsessive thought &  worry reside.  We may think of it as getting “stuck in our own heads.” It can occur when we are so focused on one idea, event, or worry that we are distracted from the here-and-now. Unfortunately, feelings of anxiety and depression often coincide with ruminating. Instead of ruminating, perhaps there is room for More Writing.  I often encourage my clients to journal. When our minds are overwhelmed, writing can be a great way of getting jumbled thoughts out of the darkness of our heavy minds and into the light in a very tangible manner. By carving out time in your day or week to journal, you are providing yourself with practical boundaries in the expression of certain thoughts & feelings. Writing can be empowering in that it gives voice to the activity of your mind & can provide peace and at times even closure when challenged with difficult thoughts and situations.

2. Less Negative Self-Talk : I have discussed self-talk on the Blog several times before because I believe it to be critical to individuals’ overall emotional health. Self-talk quite simply includes the words we tell ourselves.  Negative self-talk can appear as, “I’m a failure.” or “I look hideous today.” or “I will likely embarass myself in this job interview.” Negative self-talk is nasty and by participating in it, we are often setting ourselves up for failure. Negative self-talk is not only degrading, it is simply untrue. By viewing ourselves with only our imperfections or mistakes in mind, we are wrongly filtering-out the beauty and capability alive within us.  Instead of negative self-talk, consider offering yourself More Kindness. In contrast to negative self-talk, positive self-talk implies taking a position of kindness towards oneself. Many people so easily give kindness to family, friends, & even strangers yet struggle to see themselves through the lens of understanding and grace. In my Blog post, “The Good News of Being ‘Messy”“, I discuss this idea of valuing how you are created uniquely and dare I say beautifully.

3. Less Comparison : This is an important one, and it is closely tied with #2 above. In my Blog post, “Shaking off Comparison,” I discuss the very common hole many of us find ourselves in when we constantly measure our own worth by comparing ‘me to you.’  For so many reasons this is unhealthy and can lead to negative self-talk (mentioned above). And while self-degradation is reason enough to work on issues of comparison, there is another nasty side effect of comparison we often forget: damage to our relationships with others.  When we compare, we are- perhaps subconsciously- viewing the other person as an enemy. How often does this damage our ability to genuinely connect with those around you? Instead of comparison, how about this one: More Encouraging OthersTaking note of others’ accomplishments does not have to equate de-valuing your own abilities and personality.  In fact, praising the success and the positive qualities of family members, friends,  colleagues, and classmates displays a level of humility, which can be a reflection of genuine confidence in oneself.  Appreciating and vocalizing encouragement to others can also offer relief from the often draining cycle of continual self-appraisal. Looking outside of oneself and authentically supporting another individual can deepen healthy relationships, build the other person up, and simply stated- feels good.

4. Less Assuming : Working with couples and experiencing marriage myself has served to highlight the importance of this one. Jumping to assumptions and often the ‘worst-case’ conclusions in both romantic relationships and friendships hurts you, the other person, and your relationship together. In relationships, we may notice we tend do this as a form of self-defense. Fearful of being hurt or having past mistakes repeated, we may defiantly assume that we know the thoughts and intentions of the other person. Doing so can create unnecessary stress for us and anger on the part of your partner. I talk more in-detail about hostile communication, including the tendency to assume wrongly in my Blog post, “Throwing Paperclips: Relationship Conflict & Communication”.  In 2014, how about More Listening. What do happy and successful couples do? They listen. And it is the same with close friendships. It is simple but often overlooked that in relationship we cannot 100% know the thoughts, feelings, and intentions of the other person. We so desperately need to be intentional in asking questions and listening to the answers. Anger may block us from this – feeling frustrated may propel us in the direction of blame and shaming; yet, this only leaves us and them with relational scars. Listening – rather than attacking – can save not only your relationship but rescue your emotional health.

5. Less Fear : Each of us experience fear – it is a natural response to an unpredictable world. Some of you have experienced very real, deep pain in your lives. Perhaps 2013 presented you with more than you thought you could bear at once. For you, perhaps fear is very much alive.  For others of you, possibly you have been living in fear for a long time. Either you experienced hurt many years ago or you witnessed damage inflicted on loved ones, and this has left you feeling paralyzed – fearful of moving forward.  Lessening fear is a process – not a quick fix. It means More Healing than anything else.  In my work as a counselor, I have spoken with individuals who do not feel worthy of healing. They believe that their situations are ‘not bad enough’ and that ‘others have it worse’ or that they themselves ‘do not deserve to feel better.’ People have assumed that their struggles are punishment for past mistakes. There is nothing further from the truth.  In truth, seeking the process of healing from emotional wounds takes time and it takes courage.  I am daily honored to sit with individuals who invest deeply in themselves, willing to do the difficult work of looking pain and fear in the face and committing to the process of healing. I talk a bit more about this process of healing in my Blog post, “Vulnerability in Counseling: The Face of Courage“.

I hope this list provides some ideas for stepping forward into the New Year and that you allow yourself Grace & Kindness along your 2014 journey!

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Learn more about Lydia Minear, MA, LAPC’s Counseling practice @ East-West Psychotherapy Associates here.

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