If you are reading this column, count your blessings - you have survived a potentially catastrophic 2012. But the media tells us ‘Not so fast!’ Now we have to prepare to be sucked over the Fiscal Cliff. 2013 doesn’t have to be the new end of our old world. In fact, it can be the beginning of our new, sustainable, progressive world. But before we make plans for the future, let’s take some time to assess how far we’ve come recently. As the year winds down, we have the perfect opportunity to set ourselves up for a good new year – and maybe even the best for the rest of our lives.
Review the Last Year
You are where you are in life because of a host of external circumstances and personal choices. In Time Perspective Therapy (TPT), we ask our clients to be conscious of how they got to where they are by taking a look at the past year, especially if they’ve suffered past negative experiences or traumas. If you’d like to do this, we suggest you review the last year personally in solitude, and then, if you are in a relationship, with your loved one, or a trusted family member or dear friend. Start by taking a few minutes to relax your body and your mind. It may be helpful to take some slow, deep breaths. When you feel relaxed, think about the things that have happened over the last year – in regards to relationships, work, hobbies and enjoyments, your thoughts about your life situation. Recall the negatives as well as the positives. Try not to go off track or beat yourself up by thinking about how things might have been if they didn’t go well or the way you wanted them to go, but somehow they did not go right. What happened – happened. If you hurt someone, make a vow to yourself to make amends as soon as possible. If you did something you are proud of, bask in the glow of heightened self-esteem. When you feel you’ve got a handle on your year-end review, share pertinent aspects with your loved one(s) – and ask them to do the same.
Rejoice in the Present
Hopefully having recounted the positives that have happened over the last year you’ll feel more positive about where you are. But if you feel there is nothing to rejoice about, you may be in a present fatalistic time zone. It is critical to realize that your life is not controlled by fates outside of your ability to change, modify, or temper what is not working for you so that you can create a better reality. We all get depressed sometimes and when it gets bad, we are stuck in our own misery. Switch focus and take stock of all the things you have going for you in your life right now – such as family, friends, health, a roof over your head, food to eat, a job. Then start enjoying yourself. “Make The Time” – even if you don’t think you have the time - to practice selected present hedonism by doing things that make you feel good about yourself and your life. Try sharing the experience with someone else:
• take a walk and sing a song while you do
• play a game with family
• call a friend to say you give thanks for their friendship
• go to the gym to exercise or swim
• pet a furry animal
• give someone a justifiable compliment
• make and enjoy your favorite food
• complete a simple project that you started
Present hedonism will lighten your mood and give you strength to carry on.
Plan for the Coming Year
Living day to day is how many of us get by. We think the future is too uncertain and we don’t have any control over it so what’s the sense in planning for it. When we feel this way, our present fatalism has sloshed into future negative. But by making a plan for the coming year, we gain a sense of control over our thoughts – and our future. Your plan for the coming year doesn’t have to be detailed, it can be general, and may be more enjoyable if you include others. It could start simply with plans for the coming month or two. Here are some examples:
• work towards improving communication skills both at home and work
• make a plan to contact those you were once close to
• start an in-door herb garden
• make plans to visit the museum and other cultural places
• work toward improving your health
• read books you enjoy and enrich your life
• make a monthly dent in credit card debt
Having a plan, even a sketchy one, for the next year will give you goals to work towards and a way to feel better about yourself and your life. Sharing them ahead of time with your loved ones helps insure you will accomplish them.
Your Brighter Future
If you do what you’ve always done you’ll get what you’ve always got…If the same old, same old doesn’t work anymore, maybe it’s time to do something about it. You have a choice - to continue status quo or move forward into a brighter future. We encourage you to visit www.timecure.com and view The River of Time video on the Info page. It’s free of charge and may help you let go of past negatives, build a brighter future and experience a joyous present.
The best is yet to come—if you open yourself to embracing whatever comes your way, and make time for what matters most to your new self.
Wishing you a Happy New Year!
Phil Zimbardo and Rose Sword
For more information on the effects of PTSD, see The Time Cure: Overcoming PTSD with the New Psychology of Time Perspective Therapy (Zimbardo, Sword & Sword, 2012, Wiley Publishing,) and for strategies to reduce stress and improve communication, visit www.timecure.com and www.lifehut.com.