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Tips for creating a new and better “normal” by Dr Tim Sharp

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As noted in the previous article, the last 6-12 months might not have turned out the way you would have expected or the way you would have liked them to turn out.

Accordingly, most people are looking forward to returning to some sort of “normal”; something resembling peace and calm and certainty.

This kind of normal might sound great, especially after the challenges and abnormality of 2020 but my question for you is … is life ever really certain? Do you really want to just return to normal, to the way things were before “all of this”? Or do you want to create something even better?

In psychology there’s a concept known as “post-traumatic growth”; which in simple terms refers to when we learn from trauma or difficulty and grow. It refers to the experience of going through a dark period and then coming back out into the light; and not just coming back out to where you were in the past but rather, coming out and in some way being better, stronger and maybe even wiser.

With this in mind, and with the goal of creating a “new normal”, a better future regardless of what’s going on around you, I invite you to think about the following questions. Try the following simple exercise with a view to planning a future that’s not just as good as you remember things being but … even better!

To begin with, ask yourself this… Taking everything into account over the last nine months or so, who and/or what have you come to realise is most important in your life? Have you missed some people and some things more than you’d expected? Make a list of the top 3-5 people and/or the top 3-5 activities you most want to be part of your daily life going forward.

What has gone well? Where’s the silver lining to the cloud that’s 2020? What have you learned that you can use to be healthier or happier in the future? Again, make a list of your top 3-5 answers.

Another way to think about these important questions is via this little exercise:

What was working well for you prior to 2020?
What was NOT working well for you prior to 2020?
What have you actually enjoyed during 2020?
What have you NOT enjoyed or found difficult during 2020?

Now here’s the challenge: how can you do LESS of 2 and 4 and MORE of 1 and 3?

In the same way you did with the previous questions, make a list of what you want to do MORE of and what you want to do LESS of then… Make a plan! Write down exactly what you want to do and when you want to do it. Enter these activities or tasks in your calendar, if you use one, and make a commitment to making these positive changes.

But please note; don’t try to do too much too quickly. Making changes can be great, but it can also be overwhelming. So just aim to make small changes; but make them consistently. There’s no doubt they’ll add up and we all know that… from little things, big things grow.

And finally, don’t feel like you have to do all this on your own. In fact, we know from the research and I know from experience that making changes and coping with difficulty and, in fact, living a good life, is much easier and more fun when we do it with others. So enlist support from your partner or a friend, your neighbour or… anyone! It doesn’t really matter who it is but reaching out and garnering support from others, as well as reaching out to give support to and connect with others, will go a long way to making your “new normal” a better and more positive normal; and that’s a future we can all get excited about!

Dr Tim Sharp