Seven Ways to Leave Negative Experiences Behind and Create a Better Future
In this article, certified coach, Beverly Landais sets out seven ways to help you let go of unhelpful past experiences and offers a framework for planning a brighter future.
A new year begins. Traditionally it is time to reflect upon the past, take stock and plan for the future. As long as you don't get stuck looking back on what didn't go so well, this can be an energising experience. Happily, there are steps you can take to interrupt excessive rumination so you can redirect your attention more productively.
This article sets out seven ways to help you let go of unhelpful past experiences and offers a framework for planning a brighter future.
1. Be aware when you are in the thrall of negative rumination. Fighting your feelings can only make things worse. Notice and gently investigate intrusive thoughts rather than force yourself to suppress them. Be kind to yourself as you ask, 'what purpose does this serve me?' Taking a dispassionate approach empowers you to decide if you want to spend time contemplating an issue or choose to direct your focus elsewhere.
2. Nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes. Don't beat yourself up if something has gone awry during the year. Think about what you would say to a friend in the same situation. How might this change your perspective of the situation? This technique can help you treat yourself more compassionately, allowing you to learn from the experience. Taking this approach will boost your ability to deal more effectively with similar issues in the future.
3. Interrupt unhelpful thinking by doing something else. Break the spell by changing your environment and moving your body. Go for a walk and take time to notice your surroundings. If you can't get outside, change the location and do something you enjoy. Listen to upbeat music, do a sudoku puzzle, play with your dog - whatever you do, make it intentional and allow it to occupy you fully.
There are better things ahead than we leave behind. C.S. Lewis
4. Tune in to the present moment. Soothe your mind, energise your body and restore balance with a simple breathing technique. Try 3-4-5 breathing. Just breathe in for three, hold for four, then out for five. Repeat three times. This technique works because when the out-breath is longer than the in-breath, the relaxation part of the nervous system is activated.
5. You are not your thoughts. It can help to remind yourself that thoughts are just thoughts until we act upon them – then they become behaviours that can turn into habits. Recognise that thoughts are stories your mind has created that are not necessarily facts. Holding thoughts lightly and with gentle curiosity can also make a difference in their impact.
A bright future beckons. The onus is on us, through hard work, honesty and integrity, to reach for the stars. Nelson Mandela
6. Cultivate the positive. You can foster your positive emotions through simple actions. Do something kind for a friend or a stranger. Thank someone for the value they add to your life. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. The key is to look outward, as well as inward. In addition to making others happier, this enhances your positivity. In turn, this boosts the ability to bounce back from challenging times, enabling you to thrive.
7. Remember that that you have a CHOICE. You have more power than you realise – the question to consider is, how do you wish to apply this? What will you start, continue or stop doing in 2022? You might like to use the framework below to help you decide. Find a time when you will not be disturbed, and you can focus on doing this exercise:
C = Connect to the present moment to notice what is on your mind. Become aware of any physical tension you may hold, then stretch and consciously relax your body.
H = Hold any unwanted thoughts and emotions lightly. Be with all the feelings that arise without self-criticism or judgement.
O = Observe these as internal experiences that will eventually pass.
I = Identify what is working for you. Consider your strengths, skills, positive experiences, knowledge and accomplishments that have helped you in 2021. Write these up together with any opportunities for personal growth.
C = Clarify what you would like to do and accomplish in 2022. Be specific and name your goals. Know your 'why,' i.e. what are the reasons, motivations, benefits of pursuing these particular goals. How will life get better as you work to achieve them?
E = Energise by focusing effort on things you can control or influence to move you forward. What resources can you tap to help you? Think about your networks, the people you trust, and how you might apply your strengths and leverage your skills to progress your goals. Make a note of your ideas, any opportunities and potential next steps.
I didn’t get there by wishing for it or hoping for it, but by working for it. Estee Lauder
Now, what will you do and by when? The steps you take are vital as nothing will change unless you act. Choose to do one thing today and build from there. Make your actions activity-based and concrete. Think of it as switching on to something you want to do rather than switching off, as this will focus your mind on the reward ahead.
If you'd like to receive my monthly newsletter for tips and strategies for navigating modern life more successfully, you can subscribe via this link: https://www.beverlylandais.co.uk/blog
You can access my podcast via Anchor, Spotify and Google Podcasts and many others. You can listen here.