2020 was a difficult year in many ways. But when I look back in retrospect, I see it as a year of learning.
It was the year I learnt I could live away from the city. It was the year I learnt to adapt. It was the year I learnt to let go. But most importantly, it was the year I learnt to incorporate positive changes into my life that led me to become a happier being.
I can’t specifically say what spurred these changes. Maybe because I was in isolation for so long that it gave me an un-interrupted introspective view of my own life. Or maybe because when so much bad happens in the world that it gives you perspective on the important things, that the unnecessary burdens just melt away. OR maybe I was just tired with the monotony of my own existence – that change was inevitable. I don’t know.
Although, I’m not the best with adapting to change, I’m very glad I made these positive changes within myself – because it gave me an alternate view on every situation. And with this alternate view I got to make a choice: let things pan out as they always do OR make a change and see a different outcome.
I obviously chose the latter, and I’m so glad I did. Because it helped me grow, it helped find peace and joy within myself.
Anyway, these are the 5 positive changes that really helped me un-burden myself of negativity and become a happier version of myself. If they resonate with you, maybe you can try them.
Acknowledge Your Emotions
I know this seems like the easiest thing to do, but still many of us dismiss it on the daily. Maybe because acknowledging you’re sad when something bad happens seems justifiable. But acknowledging you’re sad in the middle of the day for an undiagnosed reason – seems irrational. And yet, every single day we go through a series of emotions – some acknowledged, but others mostly dismissed.
Perhaps because feeling jealous, sad, let down, unimportant or whatever negative feeling that passes through us – that doesn’t align with the ideal version we expect of ourselves – is deemed as wrong and so we suppress it.
In her essay The Other Side of Positivity and Productivity During a Pandemic Mental Health Professional and my friend, Pia Sanghvi, says: instead of criticizing yourself for feeling a certain emotion or responding in a particular manner, leave room to understand, validate and accept how you really feel.
I couldn’t have put it in a better way – because acknowledging your emotions is the first step towards healing yourself. Because once you acknowledge how you feel, you can analyze what prompted you to feel that way. And once you figure out your triggers, you can channel all your energy in working towards dealing with those triggers in a more harmonious way.
Don’t Feed into Bad Energy
Essentially, there are two primary energies that exist in this world: Good energy and Bad energy. These energies are usually generated through people and can be felt from the vibrations they emit.
There are some people around whom you always feel so energized and positive. It could be anything: their infectious laughter, their encouraging words, their zest, their manner of responding to you or just their demeanor. Either way, this energy they emit, which makes you feel uplifted is good energy. You’re left feeling happy and enthusiastic.
Then there are these other kind of people who emit a different kind of energy. The kind that leaves you feeling drained or depleted. In some unfortunate circumstances – even rejected. Again, it could be anything they did or said like snubbing you at a party, not acknowledging your accomplishments or views, comparing you to themselves, interrupting you when you speak, judging you, or even not returning your calls or friendliest texts. This energy that leaves you feeling worse is typically deemed as bad energy.
The smart thing to do of course is minimize your interaction or avoid such people altogether. Unfortunately – more often than not – these people, rather these energies exist within our familiar circle of acquaintances. They could comprise of your own ‘friends’, common friends, a relative or even a colleague of yours or your parent.
Obviously, if your own energy is strong, their words or actions have no effect on you. But if – like me – you haven’t cultivated your own energy yet – then this collision of energies – even for a few moments can cause days of damage to your mental health.
A confession: I’ve struggled with this my whole life. And a lot towards the end of 2020. And even though I became adept at hiding it – internally I hated the idea that someone else’s words or actions could affect me so drastically. Tear down the confidence I worked so hard to build. What was worse – I had no idea what to do about it. But I knew I needed to stop feeling doubtful about my abilities; I needed to feel confident in my own skin and I needed to mentally cultivate my mind.
I’m not a psychologist and I’m not trying to be, but in my quest to negate this effect of bad energy, I did what I do best: I researched. And what I found are two of the best Ted talks I could ever stumble upon.
The first one is called Overcoming Rejection, When People Hurt You & Life Isn’t Fair by Darryl Stinson – a spiritually directed business coach and the founder of SecondChanceAthletes.com. In his talk, Stinson tells us that rejection is not something that should ever discourage us. Because rejection – unlike popular opinion – is not a form of dismissal of our own value. Rather is the psychological projection of your rejecter’s own inner turmoil on you.
Taking cue to Stinson himself, the more instances I think about when I felt rejected I feel the problem had more to do with my rejecter’s inner demons that my own self. The minute I started looking at rejection as a form of projection – my feelings of self pity and lack of self worth transformed into feelings of empathy towards my rejecter. And the minute this transformation took place – I stopped feeding into this bad energy. Because with empathy I started to feel more in control of my own emotions. In short – I took control of my own feelings and stopped feeling bad about myself.
The second one is called How to Not Take Things Personally? by Frederik Imbo a Dutch actor and most recently a football referee. I highly recommend you watch his talk and if you do, watch it till the very end.
After teaching us how to not take things personally – he pulls out a 20-euro bill and asks the audience who wants it? After hundreds of people raise their hands, he promptly crumples the bill, chews on it, spits it out and even stamps on it. Then he asks again ‘who wants it?’. When he sees only one hand raised he says “People may attack you. Criticize you or ignore you. They can crumple you up with their words, spit you out or even walk all over you. But remember: whatever they do or say, you’ll always keep your value.”
And I say, don’t you ever forget that. Because despite everything – those 20 euros are still valued as 20 euros and no form of damage could change that.
In the end: bad energy will always exist – through people, through actions or words – but consciously try not to feed into it. Try these techniques or any other that are suitable to you, but claim your value and always always let it empower you.
Empty Your Glass Completely
I’m sure you’ve heard of the popular idiom ‘glass half full’ or ‘glass half empty’. But what if I told you those aren’t the only two options when it comes to this metaphorical glass?
If you think about it – just because you see the glass half full in a particular situation doesn’t mean you’re an optimist for life. Neither does seeing the glass half empty, brand you as a pessimist. It’s a state of mind in a particular situation, not a mindset for life. And what I want – perhaps what you want as well – is to have a more permanent positive mindset.
And if seeing this highly idolized glass half empty or half full is going to define how you view the world – then I would definitely want a third option.
And that is: empty your glass completely.
Because unless you first empty your glass of all the negativity and toxicity, how are you going to find space to fill it with positivity and empowerment?
So empty it out. Take piece of paper and list down everything that no longer serves you. It could be anything: participating in meaningless gossip, feeling jealous, watching excessive Netflix, names of people with bad energy, even actual physical things you no longer like or need etc. Then, start eliminating those things from your life.
Once I was done eliminating physical things, what helped me eliminate intangible things like fear, jealousy, anger was tearing up that list and flushing it down the toilet. Of course I didn’t instantly stop being jealous or sad, but I felt lighter – because somewhere before flushing down those emotions – I took the responsibility of admitting them. Of acknowledging them in the first place – like I said in point 1. And it’s only after acknowledgement that actual healing begins.
Trust me, once you’re free of all this dead weight – of things that really don’t serve you – you are going to feel so much lighter and so much more free to fill yourself up with things that boost optimism and enliven your spirit.
Make a List
Now that you’ve made a list of things that no longer serve you, it’s time to make a list of things that do serve you.
When I came to the mountains more than 10 months ago – the first thing I did was make a list of all the things I wanted to do during my newfound free-time. It had literally everything on it – from personal goals like practice meditation, clean up old photos from my drive to work goals like redo my resume, rewrite sections of my blog, learn SEO etc. It was a long list.
In the first couple of months I was hell-bent on tick-marking as much I could off that list, and guess what? I did. But sometime after that, after the realization dawned on me that my stay in the mountains was prolonged indefinitely, the enthusiasm to tick mark things lulled as my list disappeared somewhere between my pile of diaries and books.
Then one day around June when I was boohooing over some bad energy – the list somehow resurfaced. It was right there, like a page hanging out of a diary I was writing something in. I pulled out the list and saw that so many things that I wanted to do were un-ticked. So many things I could do that very instant.
And so, to distract my mind from that bad energy – I chose one thing – only one thing – that I could do in that moment. And that one thing turned out to be starting a SEO course. Which till today has come in handy not just for my blog, but my Pinterest and Instagram too.
Bottom line: you can’t always control when or where you may come in contact with bad energy – and how it may affect you. But YOU CAN control how you can deal with it, how you can negate its effect on you.
By keeping a list of personal goals – the good I felt after studying a whole module of SEO in one afternoon – countered the bad I felt over being ditched by a friend over a mere phone-call. I didn’t wake up that morning expecting to feel bad in the middle of the day – but I did go to bed feeling so damn proud of myself.
And since then I’ve kept my list handy – and every time I feel anxious or sad over another thing I can’t control, or energies I don’t want to feed into – I refer to my list and do one thing to feel great. And now, so many things are ticked off my list that I feel so much better and confident about myself and my life in general.
Almost as though slowly I’m filling my glass with things that empower me.
Journal & Script
For as long as I can remember I’ve been journaling. It’s how I learnt to articulate my thoughts; it’s how I learnt to find my zest for life; It’s how I said my prayers; it’s how I learnt to be a writer. But most importantly, it’s how I learnt to be honest with myself.
Life is so different now – I have friends I can talk to at a moment’s notice; I have parents who respect my views. But back then when I had none – I had one ally: my diary.
I started journaling at 15 when I had so much to say, but no one to listen. Things my parents wouldn’t understand; thoughts my friends wouldn’t relate to. If I had kept all that stuff inside, I probably would have exploded. So I knew I needed an outlet, a safe space where I could be honest, I could be real.
And that is how my journey into journaling began. It’s been more than 10 years – and even now when I feel like I have unresolved feelings that no one can understand – I journal.
You should too. While we all have friends we can talk to during low moments, there’s no place like your diary. Not only does it offer you a great release, but more than that it’s one place where you can vent your thoughts and feelings without the fear of judgment.
Scripting on the other hand is a whole new game.
So what is scripting? It’s a Law of Attraction technique where you write about your dream life as though it has already happened, like you’re already living it. That is, you write about it in the present tense. You can write about your perfect day or any goals you want to achieve. But write about it as though it has already happened.
I’ve only been doing it for the past few months so maybe I’m not the best person to explain it. But here are two videos that really helped me understand it. One is by Annie Bardonski and one is by Lucie England-Duce. Although, both have a different ways of scripting, see which one resonates with you and try it out.
More than the outcome I really enjoyed the process! Writing about my dream life as though I’m living it? Who wouldn’t want to do that? And, for the few months I tried it, some things (not all) did pan out for me exactly as I wrote them. To see my writing translate into reality – did make me believe that anything is possible. The other wishes will follow shortly. I’m positive.
So that concludes the 5 positive changes I made in 2020, and wish to carry forward in 2021 – and perhaps even for the rest of my life.
I didn’t incorporate these positive changes in any particular order. Rather stumbled upon them as learning lessons through a series of trials and errors as I was learning to counter the many experiences that life – as it generally does – threw at me. But you know what? I don’t want to complain. Because I am grateful for the outcome. It helped me grow.
And maybe if any of it makes sense to you, you can try incorporating these positive changes into your own existence. If not all, maybe just try one and see? You never know – it could make all the difference.