On New Year’s Eve 2018 I cried myself to sleep. I felt so empty, trying to connect to a feeling of gratitude for my many blessings but totally unable to. I didn’t like the negative, two-dimensional version of myself I’d slowly become, particularly as I’d initially thrived after the immediate fallout of my marriage ending. I wanted to feel more happiness, more excitement, more fulfilment, but I didn’t know where to start. I had a very vague notion of what I wanted my life to be like but I didn’t believe it could happen, nor did I have the motivation, tools or conviction to make it happen. What made it worse is that thanks to my incessant use of facebook, I saw everyone else around me getting on with the business of life; taking holidays, doing things, being in love, basically thriving. Like many single people, I assumed that being in a relationship would make everything better. And I wondered when - if ever - it would be my turn.
That same winter I was lucky enough to be able to take a holiday in Whitby in the most beautiful apartment. Looking out of the window at the spectacular view of the abbey, I should have felt nothing but peace and contentment. I had my lovely son with me, my rescue greyhound was curled up next to the fire and wonderful friends and family at home. But all I could focus on was the fact that I didn’t have a boyfriend. I told myself that if I could just get through the next twenty years or so, I could at least retire to the coast and stop pretending to be happy. It was a masterclass in self-pity.
A month or so later - after several years of spectacularly unsatisfactory online dating - I was surprised to meet someone ‘the old-fashioned way’. When it ended, me clinging on by my fingernails, it’s fair to say I hit rock bottom. When we got back together, then parted company for the last time, to my surprise it didn’t hit me in the way that I thought it would. Yes, I had a fair bit to process, but I was surprised to feel this cautious sense of peace, optimism and excitement about a clean slate. I’d also had a major realisation:
REGARDLESS OF WHETHER OR NOT I WAS IN A RELATIONSHIP, WHAT WAS MISSING IN MY LIFE WAS MY RESPONSIBILITY TO FIX. So simple, but for me, a total eureka moment.
This epiphany coincided with the first lockdown. It definitely wasn’t perfect, but rather than feeling like my life was on hold while observing the coronavirus restrictions, I started to use the time. I started sharing my writing openly rather than anonymously (terrifying at first), pouring my heart and soul into each blog. I journalled, got focused on what I really wanted and completely threw myself into my job. Eventually I started to understand what people meant by ‘flipping the script’. Instead of feeling resentment about the restrictions, I noticed that I’d started to feel thankful that I finally had the space and the self-awareness to work towards something I’d feel the benefits of when things returned to normal – a happier, better version of myself.
The best advice I was given was to start very, very small, so I stripped things back to below zero and tried to be grateful for anything above that
I know that for many people, this might not feel like the ideal time to turn our minds to new habits, but I wanted to share the three things I did to build myself back up:
- I practiced gratitude
The more positive the energy you put out, the more it’s reflected back. So whether you approach life from a place of abundance and gratitude or from a place of lack, chances are you’ll get more of the same. It all sounds pretty logical, but I know how hard it is to shift apathy that is well and truly baked into your psyche. The best advice I was given was to start very, very small, so I stripped things back to below zero and tried to be grateful for anything above that, even if it didn’t feel genuine at first. Lovely cup of coffee first thing? I was grateful for that. A walk with my dog I enjoyed? I was grateful for that. Eventually I started to recognise just how much there was to be grateful for, much of which had been staring me in the face for a long time. And it wasn’t just the glaringly obvious things like my son and my family. Nowadays, I still take a moment to say thank you when I feel appreciation for anything, big or small. And I finish each day by listing in my head all of the positive things that have happened. Like anything, this is a habit that will take time to stick, but committing to it, I found I'd changed my mindset and was starting to see life through a lens of what I do have, rather than what I don’t.
Whether you call it the law of attraction, visualisation or simply getting really clear about your goals and dreams, manifestation is about setting your intention and sharing it with the universe, consistently and with an open and grateful heart. At first it was hard because I didn’t even know what I wanted. I was also cynical and disbelieving and just couldn’t keep at it. But once I was able to identify exactly what i wanted, I made manifestation a permanent fixture in my life, and I’ve started to get results. You can read a more detailed account here, but here’s a summary of my approach:
- I decide what I want: I generally have three things on my list. The trick is to get really clear about what they are, and be absolutely consistent until you get them
- I put my things out ‘into the universe’ daily: I say them out loud when walking my dog (out of earshot of others, obvs) and I can’t remember the last car journey I had which didn’t involve me asking for them either. I write them down in a beautiful journal, I sometimes talk about a couple of them on social media and where possible, I find images of what they might look like and view them regularly. This is where Pinterest is wildly useful, but if you really want to to go for it, build a vision board. I haven't done mine yet (well, besides a crap drawing of a cheque for an undisclosed sum which I stuck on the inside of my wardrobe) but they're increasingly popular with people who want to give this a proper go
- I try to feel as if I’ve already received them: And I mean really feel it. I try to step into the shoes of my future self and summon all those feelings of excitement, gratitude and joy. And yes I felt silly at first, but believe! It’ll soon become second nature
- I back it all up with action: If one of the things you’re trying to manifest is a healthy body you feel good in, you’re probably not going to get it via steps 1 to 3 alone. I suppose that logic applies to much of what we have on our wish list, so a plan is definitely helpful. But what underpins manifestation is positivity, gratitude and intent. If you have those, you’re far more likely to be motivated to make stuff happen. It’s a powerful combination
- Acceptance/self love
Of course while working towards what could be, I also want to accept what is. For me, that includes staying single until I meet the right person and knowing that if I'm good on my own if I don't. I had a minor wobble on Christmas Day when I thought about how nice it would be to be part of a couple - after all, Christmas is made for hopeless romantics! A few years ago, that could have sent me on a spiral that lasted weeks, but I realised the following day that I AM part of something, part of an amazing family, part of my beautiful, unique son's life, part of a happy, comfortable home. This year I’ve moved into a lovely house, had the most fulfilling year yet professionally and started doggedly and excitedly pursuing my writing venture. I’m very happy with my present while being excited about my future, so in isolation, being in a relationship is no longer enough to affect my happiness.
Forming new, more positive habits and perspectives takes time, discipline and practice. And it’s lifelong - it's not something with a specific 'end' like a weight loss goal or a qualification. It’s also very hard to stay the course when life knocks you off balance. But in my experience, really committing to those three things has switched something in me and it bloody well works.
And I hope that if you’re feeling like I felt just a few short years ago, it works for you too.
I truly wish you the best for 2021.
Have you done something to change your mindset for the better? Share it here!