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Mind Matters: New year doesn't have to mean same old story

The desire to give up on any changes you've made will pass (and of course reappear) – the most important skill is tolerating it when it comes, without giving in to it
Paul Gaffney

HOPEFULLY you survived the festive season and are acclimatising to the new year. Two general observations could be made at this stage. Firstly, with this fresh beginning, we can make resolutions for living a better life this year – to do more of something, less of something else, or undertake a major task in the months ahead.

For many of us, despite our efforts, we will not make, or persist with the desired changes. This can be source of disappointment, and if this is the case for you, I hope it does not linger as you can always try again.

As a psychologist, I know that people will often look for help to make changes in their lives, and encouragement is most needed when an individual is uncertain about the change or is finding it hard to stick with the resolution on that particular day.

Often, this desire to give up will pass (and of course reappear again), and the most important skill is tolerating it when it comes, without giving in to it.

If you succeeded in your resolution from 2017, I hope you are reaping the benefits. You might recall that I wrote about giving up alcohol last year, and I was able to see it through to the end.

Of course, my daughter would point out that I did have a few glasses of wine during the summer on a family holiday, as it was difficult always drinking soft drinks where alcohol was feely available 14 hours a day. I did not have an alcoholic beer all year, although watching the lads in Lanzarote getting out of the pool and pouring themselves another beer in 30 degrees of heat was definitely the hardest part.

The funny thing is, though, as I counted down the hours and minutes to the much anticipated drink after midnight on New Year's Eve with family and friends, I was very excited. However, when the moment came and I had the drink, it did not seem as much of a big deal; a bit of a disappointment, to be honest.

The second observation is how hard it is to adjust to the humdrum of everyday life, following the buzz and activity of the Christmas season. As the lights and decorations are taken down and put away, as we return to education and work, and look into the typically cold weeks ahead without another big event to look forward to, life can seem a bit dull and boring.

January tends to be a longer month when we have to begin to repay our debts from the present buying and celebrating through December. What has helped me at this time of year is to look at the small things in each day – something to be grateful for, the kindness of another person, the importance of trying to get a job done properly.

I found this again in a book I looked at over the last few days by Simon Parke, reflecting how he found meaning and purpose while working in a supermarket.

Stacking shelves, serving people and talking to colleagues all gave him important insights into himself and others, and gave life extra meaning and importance not necessarily evident at first.

So, best wishes for 2018 to you and yours. For extra help in supporting your new year resolutions you can have a look at The Little Book of Making Big Change Happen by Neil Scotton and Alister Scott, and for finding solace in the every day stuff you can look up Shelf Life: How I Found The Meaning Of Life Stacking Supermarket Shelves by Simon Parke.

:: Dr Paul Gaffney is a senior clinical psychologist. His new book, The Family Game: What Sport And Psychology Can Teach Us About Parenting, is published next month.

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