- The good news about New Year
- Why your mind is such a powerful healer
- The danger of setting yourself big goals
HAPPY NEW YEAR from the Collins Household.
It’s the first day of 2021.
And, for many, what a relief!
Now, I realise that the changing of the year’s number makes absolutely no difference in real terms.
Logically, nothing has changed since yesterday.
It’s just a number, that’s all.
But humans don’t generally run on logic.
We are emotional beings who take great stock in symbols.
So this symbolic change of the year is important, psychologically.
It allows us to draw a line under what came before… namely, the horrific year of a global pandemic… and allows us to look ahead to something better.
When the year turns, we can think of it as a new leaf – a chance to reset, restart, and have another crack at things.
This is why people make New Year’s Resolutions – because it’s like being able to take out a fresh piece of paper and write a new story.
Of course, we could feasibly do this at any time of the year.
We could pick the 12th of February, the 8th of June or the 26th of September.
Technically, it would make no difference.
But we don’t.
Because that’s not how we tick.
So rather than dismissing the turn of the New Year as ‘just another day’ we should harness its psychological power.
Embrace it and make it work for us!
Let’s use today to think positively, if we can, about what we can do this year to make things better for ourselves, our loved ones, and society as a whole.
If you are thinking about some resolutions or changes for this year, I want to pass on some advice.
The healing power of your mind
Now, I’m no life coach.
I don’t think that I could ever be one of those American guru types with big white teeth and an arsenal of motivational phrases.
No inspirational TED talk from me, I’m afraid.
I’m just TOO flawed.
But here’s the thing….
Over the years writing the Good Life Letter I’ve grown ever more conscious that health is as much as state of mind as it is a state of the body.
The two things are inextricably intertwined.
You only have to look at the placebo effect, where someone taking a fake treatment can feel benefits because they BELIEVE that will feel those benefits.
A lot of people sneer at this, as if it’s proof of how certain natural therapies and medicines don’t work.
But look at it the other way….
Surely, it’s proof that – in part – the body can heal itself through the mind?
It just goes to show that symbols, beliefs and emotions can all have a physical effect.
And it backs up the need for a more holistic approach to healing where we look at all aspects of our lifestyle, outlook and attitude.
For example, last November I wrote about research at Harvard University which shows that older women with an optimistic outlook have 30% lower risk of heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and cancer than pessimistic women.
And for men and women in general, there was a 15% longer lifespan for those with a sunnier outlook.
In a separate major long-term study that began in 1975, it was found that a positive mental attitude is more important than ANY other factor when it comes to how long you live.
This is why I’m getting increasingly interested in techniques that we can use to harness the power of the mind.
One of the popular techniques espoused by the grinning motivational gurus is to “set goals” – the most popular pastime on January the 1st every year.
But be careful….
The danger of big goals
It can be tempting to set ambitious goals, like “lose a stone”, “give up alcohol”, “start running”, “set up a business from home” or “change career”.
As the famous motivational writer Napoleon Hill, said, “Whatever Your Mind Can Conceive and Believe, It Can Achieve.”
Well, that’s partly true.
Neurologically, our brains cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. So when we set a goal like this, it helps us assume the right mindset.
We will act as if we that future is not only possible, but inevitable, like we’ve made it happen already.
But there’s a problem…
For the very same reason, when we fail to reach that goal, our brains react as if we have lost something that we already had, causing us anxiety and anguish.
This can be totally counterproductive.
It’s particularly a problem in a post-Brexit, global pandemic 2021 where there is going to be more disruption and uncertainty ahead.
It maybe that external events get in the way of your big goals.
So a far better tactic in 2021 is to set yourself some really SMALL goals for January.
Make them achievable and realistic.
Examples could be….
“I will not drink alcohol from Monday to Thursday each week this month.”
“I will do two short workouts in my living room each week to start getting fitter.”
“I will try a 5 minute deep breathing exercise every morning.”
“I will switch out my usual sandwiches for a healthy soup every lunchtime during weekdays.”
When you achieve these in January, you will feel rewarded, and motivated to keep going. You will avoid that crushing sense of loss and failure that so many people feel when they don’t hit their ambitious targets.
Next month you can up the stakes, setting very slightly bigger challenges that you know you can achieve.
So instead of a New Year’s Resolution, it could be as simple as this…
Ask yourself, what ONE small thing could you do this week to take a step towards a better future?
Even if it’s something that only takes you 30 minutes, it’s a start!
Whatever you decide, I hope that this year is as fruitful and healthy as it can be.