How do you want to start your new year, gratitude, or resolution?

I am certain your first intention for 2021 is to set some new year’s resolutions and to say, ‘Thank God 2020 is over!’ It certainly has been a year we won’t soon forget.

Ten months ago, the world slowed down, and plans got cancelled. In a matter of days, our lives were put on hold as we went through new challenging times. From being forced to stay home, on furlough or redundancy, to being affected by illness or loss of family members and friends, we have found ourselves many times at breaking points. All those challenges took a lot out of us and made us revise our priorities, forcing us to strike a balance in our lives.

While some people were terrified and emptied the supermarket shelves, I delved into different topics with good intention of avoiding the pandemonium. As it turned out, the pandemic not only helped me to turn my attention to those things I once loved but abandoned due to lack of time and self-doubt, but I also reconnected with the person who was hidden inside me for many years.

New Beginning

At the start of this new year, I have decided to reflect on the months gone by – the challenges I faced and what I have achieved. I have been counselling others for more than 10 years … those who struggle with addiction, depression, abusive relationships, lack of self-love and suicidal thoughts. But until last year, I never applied that advice to myself. I felt I had more to give to others, rather than focusing on myself. I think that is what we call being selfless.

Many times, I have been called ‘super woman’, but only a few people saw how fragile I was inside. I would not have overcome the onslaught of the pandemic, had I not leaned on my family, a few friends, and the selfless online teachers. The techniques I learned, whether it being mindfulness, writing, art, and design, helped strengthen my mental resilience. I overcame anxiety and avoided sinking into depression.

Practising daily meditation and connecting with newfound online friends, helped me to feel more grounded and combat stress. I learned to reassess my health and adopted a new eating regime – no more emotional eating. I designed a new diet following the same approach as Keto and made my own goat’s milk kefir which helped alleviate my IBS symptoms and gave me a healthier skin tone. The difference is astounding. I feel so much better – I am no longer bloated and have a spring in my step.

Onward and Upward

In 2021, I choose happiness and good health. I look for light and hope to rise above all challenges. I think about all the people, present and deceased, who have helped me through the challenging times. Those who have enabled me to keep going when I would otherwise have been at the mercy of negative thoughts. I feel grateful for all those who gave their time free of charge. They have gratified many of us with freebies and we owe them a debt of gratitude.

January is a perfect time for me to look ahead and reflect on what I want. Before, I would regularly binge-read fiction books or watch movie marathons to chill. Now, I have learned the ability to be still. By being quiet, I can easily attain that level of satisfaction. I start my day with 15-30 minutes of meditation – that could be prayer, deep-breathing, or just complete silence. There is no time to feel guilty in giving myself some self-love.

I have learned that there is no need to look back and regret. Change comes from accepting who I am and what I am grateful for. I focus on ‘what I want’ and not on ‘what I don’t want’. I choose to be happy. I can reach out to anyone I have not spoken to, for ages and let them know how much they mean to me.

As I share with you these beautiful words from Pope Francis, I wish you all a healthy and peaceful year.

“Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We are all born to help each other. No matter how difficult it is, life is good when you are happy; but much better when others are happy because of you. Let us all remember then that every changing colour of a leaf is beautiful, and every changing situation of life is meaningful, both need very clear vision. So, do not grumble or complain, let us instead remember that Pain is a sign that we are alive. Problems are a sign that we are strong, and Prayer is a sign we are not alone!! If we can acknowledge these truths and condition our hearts and minds, our lives will be more meaningful, different, and worthwhile!!”

Is what you want really what you need?

If I ask you the question “Is what you want really what you need?” you’ll probably reply “yes” without thinking, believing that what you want is going to make you happy. What you want and what you need are not the same. Most of us do not know the difference between our “wants” and “needs”. If whatever you want suddenly becomes unavailable, would you still yearn for it or accept the next best thing?

“You will not get what you want, you will get what you need” – Maxime Lagace

As a bargain hunter shopaholic, I have never been able to go into a shop and come out empty-handed. Normally my obsession is too strong. I am attracted to the “Reduced” and “Sale” stickers like a vampire to blood. Just picture the first day of sales: Black Friday, Panic Saturday, Harrods …  now picture me, elbowing my way through the large crowd of frantic aggressive shoppers – not a pretty sight. Yet, I have spent the last five months without setting foot in a shop except for buying groceries and essential items. Five. Long. Months.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” – Philippians 4:12

Life does not happen the way we plan it. We do not always get what we want but we can learn to live with what we have. Covid-19 has taught me the difference between “Want” and “Need”. During lockdown, my mind was focused on health and safety for my family. I had to concentrate on buying essential items only. When procuring a pack of toilet rolls or a loaf of bread became near impossible, I forgot about my obsession.

“Luxury is a necessity that begins where necessity ends” – Coco Chanel

Do I need a new pair of shoes when I have over thirty pairs, half of them unworn and still in their boxes? Do I need new clothes when there is a heatwave and I am wearing shorts? Do I need make-up or a new bag when I am loving my time cooking up a storm? The answer is NO. It is neither “Want” nor “Need”, it is “Greed”.

We can be trapped in a materialistic world and become obsessed with gaining more than we have, to the point of excess. There is nothing wrong about having a bulging bank account or being the CEO of our own company, but when that obsession turns to greed, then we lose our humanity. It might seem physically fulfilling but emotionally, we are dead. Our needs are not met when we focus on what we want. We need a balance in our lives to create harmony.

The Key to Happiness

Life is not perfect, and we will not always get what we want. The key to happiness is the fulfilment of simple “needs” not “wants”. We have a natural tendency to want more and more. Instead, we should concentrate on our emotional and spiritual wellbeing.  We should stop chasing what our mind wants in order to get what our soul needs.

“Life does not always give you what you want, but if you look closely you will see that it gives what you need for growth” – Leon Brown

I stripped-down to the bare minimum and got rid of excess baggage. I followed Marie Kondo’s method on how to declutter ( I have now three big bags of clothes and shoes, ready to go to a good home. Sharing with others help my happiness to grow immensely. The feeling is more spiritual than physical. I can say that it is not true that the more you have the more you will be happy. For once you stop looking for what you want, you will find what you need. As the saying goes, “The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least”.

“One can find material things, but there is one thing that cannot be found when it is lost – life” – Steve Jobs

Now, please do not get me wrong. I am a total sucker for expensive perfume. There is nothing sexier than being surrounded by a mist of powerful alluring rose fragrance. Could that be compared to drugs, I wonder. The more intense, the better it is. That is the way I love it. Back in March, I placed an order for a bottle of my favourite perfume but due to lockdown, delivery has been delayed. I am afraid I cannot remember if I ordered a Bottega Veneta or Dolce & Gabbana. I believe I knew what I wanted then, but now I am not too sure. But then again, as I am running out of my current one, I guess I really, really want it. Aahhh, women are so complicated!