Lou Hamilton, author of Brave New Girl- How to be Fearless (Orion Spring, £12.99) gives us five ways to create a brave new you for 2017.
1. Unrealistic resolutions
You peel open your eyes on the morning of 1 January; a jackhammer drilling through your right eye and two extra tyres around your belly. What just happened? Surely you didn’t drink and eat that much? Denial draws a veil of forgetfulness and hope is reinstated. It’s a New Year. Fresh start. 2017 is going to be different. Best foot forward and all that. No more booze, no food. Bring on the marathon!
Realism steps aside as you compose the list of unachievable tasks to change your life forever. Okay, write that list if you must. Get it out the way. It will make you feel better until the hangover passes and you reach for another glass of Dutch courage. The year ahead seems like a very long and bumpy road.
Now, tear up that list of unreasonable resolutions.
2. Glorious goals
You avoid Facebook out of fear of hurtling into an abyss of despair and envy at the perfect lives of all your friends. But who puts up the pictures of themselves crying over spilt milk, lost loves, ball-breaking bosses, bird nest morning hair. It makes people feel better to celebrate their triumphs and happy moments.
And, according to Dr Nicholas A Christakis, medical sociologist at Harvard University, happiness is catching. If you dare to enjoy other peoples’ up times, then you are more likely to ride high on the back of their waves. That’s why visionboarding works. You get a pile of magazines, cut out loads of other people’s pictures and phrases that make you feel good and you stick them in a scrapbook. It’s not a photo album of your life but it might as well be because that’s how your brain sees it.
Happy is happy and if you’ve put images that inspire you in your book then you will seek to make the vision come true. It’s how dreams get real. It’s how you make glorious goals exciting enough that you will do anything to make them happen, not lack luster resolutions that you trip over at the first hurdle.
3. Values in your veins
The old cynic in you, however, is world-weary. Even if you were to makes those dreams come true, get that castle in the Hollywood Hills and some Prince/ss Charming were to ride up on a glossy white stallion to deliver that glass slipper you lost, you’d probably cast an indifferent glance and mumble something along the lines of 'what’s the point, none of it means anything, I’ve lost the other slipper too, Prince/ss Charming has annoying habits, the castle needs repair and they’re building a whole new complex in the Hills that will block my view'.
No matter what good befalls you, you have no sense of why you’re even on the planet, so nothing really floats your boat. You’ve forgotten who you are and what makes you tick. You need to go back to 'Once upon a time there was a kid who had big dreams, who knew how to have fun, enjoyed simple pleasures and took the rough with the smooth'.
Get some crayons and draw a picture of that younger you. What made you laugh, what was really important to you, what made you feel warm inside, who were the people around you who made you feel great? What did they stand for that resonated with your insides. Those are your core values.
Kindness? Creativity? Fun? Calm? Whatever they are, together they make up what is the fundamental you. Somehow, along the way, you lost sight of that. A new year is the time to start reliving your values and pump meaning and sense of purpose back through your veins.
4. Healthy habits
Exciting goals and core values are the sparkles under your shoes that get you skipping out into the gloom of a grey January day with a smile on your face. But you’re going to need some healthy habits to stop you tripping over and face-planting your good intentions.
Keep your blood sugar on an even keel by avoiding the culprits that cause it to spike - sugar, refined carbs, caffeine and alcohol, unless it’s with food. Get moving even if it’s following the Bring Back the Mile routine of walking at a variety of speeds for a mile every day. Whether you’re in the school playground, in your golden years, well over weight, or super unfit, this is one for most folk.
Stand up more than you sit down. Develop good posture; it’s good for your insides as well as being a free anti-aging device. Smile more, it makes you and everyone around you happier. Do something you love everyday. Do something nice for someone else everyday. Rest often.
5. Breaking bad beliefs
And you need to declare a truce on your indoctrinated set of bad beliefs. You have that voice on your shoulder bad mouthing your every move, your achievements, your dreams, your sunny outlook, your best endeavors. Your inner bully is set on tearing you down every time you pull yourself up. It’s ready to shoot you in the foot with every step you take. It’s resourcefulness will find ways to unpick and unravel every positive thought you have and undermine every forward moving action you make.
You must learn to stand up and say ‘No’ to the mastermind in negative naysaying. And one way to do that is to flip the bad beliefs every time they crop up.
On a piece of paper draw two columns. Title the left 'negative belief' and the right 'positive belief'. When your inner bully makes an unwholesome suggestion, criticism or comment, write it down in the left column. Then write the complete opposite on the right-hand side. Now scribble out the negative and turn the positive into your mantra for the day. The more you do this the quieter the bad guy gets and the more your brain believes your new mindset. It takes repetition. Do it when you brush your teeth.
And there you have it. You have created exciting goals to aim for, you know what deeply matters to you and what will drive you towards your goals, you have created some new healthy habits and broken down that negative voice intent on stopping you.
By doing all this you have established a hopeful horizon and a means to happiness. Do the exercises, take the baby steps, be that brave new you.