For a Happier, Healthier 2021, Ditch These 6 Habits

“The beginning is always today.” ― Mary Shelley

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New year, new page, right?

Time to put the old one firmly to bed — especially if it’s 2020 — and muscle up for a (sort of) fresh start.

After a tough year, plenty of us are amped about turning the page. Trouble is, Covid’s not done with us yet. Which means we’re poised for another year in the holding pen while it sorts itself out.

Perhaps more than any other year in recent history, it’s important we take proactive steps to support our mental health and happiness.

And we can start by ditching — or at least trying to — free ourselves of the things that will hold us back.

For a Happier, Healthier 2021, Ditch These 6 Habits

1. Complaining into the void.

“Someone else is happy with less than what you have.” — Anonymous

To be fair, 2020 gave us plenty of reasons to complain; it started with a whisper then came to rock everything we knew. You’re a rare beast if you didn’t feel a flash of frustration or do a little whining at some point this year. But complaining into the void: moaning (or tweeting) about things you can’t do anything about? What’s up with that? Focus on the things you can change or do something about. It helps you feel in control of at least some aspects of your life. It’s also far better for your mental health.

2. Waiting for someone to give you a break.

“All the breaks you need in life wait within your imagination.” — Napoleon Hill

Sorry, not gonna happen. It probably never was, but this year it’s become an even tougher gig. By the time people look after themselves and their families, there’s not a whole lot left over for anyone else. So there’s no point hiding in your room hoping for the Gods of Good Fortune to rain their blessings down on you. You have to go out into the world. You have to make your own luck. You may even have to create your own job. But that’s okay. Know you have plenty to offer. Keep trying. Keep improving. Fling enough mud at the wall and, eventually, something will stick.

3. Trying too hard to do the right thing.

“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

Look, we’ve all been kind this year. Actually, no, some people weren’t all that kind; they broke curfew and grabbed toilet paper and wouldn’t wear masks in public and got all abusive when they were told off. So they don’t get a pass mark.

But while it’s a fine and noble thing to act for the Greater Good, you can’t keep everyone happy. Even your best efforts will annoy someone, somewhere. Or they won’t like you. Or approve of you. So don’t try too hard to be the Perfect Person. Just be as decent as you can — and get on with your life.

4. Looking over your shoulder.

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” — Buddha

We all know the past is the past. We can’t grab time back and stuff it in a box under our beds. If only. We can only atone (or apologise) for whatever we’ve done wrong or whoever we’ve hurt. After that, there are no gains in dwelling on it.

The only real time any of us have is now. And what we do with it will define the future we’re stepping into. You don’t have to be mega-productive every day. That’s exhausting to be around — and a little weird. But keep an eye on whether your daily actions are moving you forward or around in circles. And if you feel dizzy, you know you need to change.

5. Purposely eroding your health.

“It is health that is the real wealth, and not pieces of gold and silver.” — Mahatma Gandhi

No-one’s perfect: we all have our vices and vulnerabilities, especially when we’re up to our necks in stress. But Excessive Indulgence in Anything will lure you down a dodgy path. Alcohol, substances, porn, sex, gambling, shopping, food, work, gaming, social media and internet trawling, can turn demon on you and quietly erode your health, wellbeing — and relationships. Watch out for the signs they are taking over and, if you clock those signs, acknowledge them and do all you can to take back your power.

6. Chaining yourself to the safe road.

“The doors will be opened to those who are bold enough to knock.” Tony Gaskins

When a pandemic rips across the globe it forces us not just inside, but to rate safety over everything else. Anyone who has a safe job — and related safe income — has every right to feel pretty happy right now.

But it would be sad if safety became our default setting; if it began to govern all our choices. Some of the richest experiences in life come from shrugging off the shackles and doing something bold, even reckless. So if Covid (or any life circumstance) has backed you into a cage, fight to keep the key. Aim to do one thing this year that you wouldn’t normally, that makes you feel brave. And when you do, chalk up a big tick in your Courage box. Because the measure of your Courage will define your life.

Thanks for reading! Join my email list here if you’re interested in practical psychology for everyday life.

Clinical psychologist, writer. Editor of On the Couch: Practical psychology for everyday life. karen@onthecouch.co.nz

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