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New Year Reflections

The new calendar year approaches, the television, radio and social media are intent on not letting the end of the year pass without a grand farewell. What were your thoughts as 2013 was drawing to a close?  Were you celebrating the end of the year or rejoicing in the new beginning and making plans for 2014? I wonder how much time you spend reflecting on your own personal year?  How have you managed, changed and been influenced by the shaping forces of living in a new culture? New Year celebrations are often marked by the setting of new goals and resolutions, without giving the year that has passed time for reflection and consolidation. 

But some of the many benefits of Reflection are: 

 ∼ Remember and re-experience and give you deeper meaning to your successes and learning, giving you even more reason to celebrate  

∼ Discover or rediscover your strengths and other reasons for your success 

∼ To understand the how and why of your emotional reactions to events and people and how that may have impacted on others 

∼ Help you become the leader of your life, rather than leaning on others for direction 

∼ Increase your confidence, resilience, motivation, and engage in higher more complex levels of cognition. Another way of saying, reflection helps you to be mentally and emotionally stronger, smarter and wiser 

∼ Learn what your weaknesses and mistakes were and how you can overcome and learn from them 

∼ Allow you to acknowledge the goals you set and completed and to recognize those that changed form along the way 

∼ To get to know or remind yourself of your values, and to evaluate if you are living a life in harmony with your values 

∼ To put your life into perspective 

∼ Create new ideas, move beyond obstacles and help set new goals 

Reflection can take many forms and can occur anywhere. Walking in the forest is my favourite reflective activity.  It is where I normally clear the cobwebs of my mind, find clarity of thought and creative responses to difficult situations. 

Writing is another very good activity of reflective thought. Be it only this once, at the passing of a year and the beginnings of a new one, or the small task of daily reflection kept in a diary.  

A daily reflection diary date requires some practice to make it habitual. Set a time of day for this to occur, for example after your nightly shower or bath. Spend 5 to 10 minutes writing your thoughts about events of the day.  You can increase the time you spend writing as you become more comfortable, in fact you may enjoy the task so much the length of time increases without you having to try.  

Talking is another very good method of reflection. Seek the ears of a friend or counsellor, someone who is a good listener, who is able to reflect back to you your thoughts and feelings, to help guide you to greater self-understanding.  

Finding your preferred methods of reflection can be fun and with practice will build strong reflective habits. This in turn, will help you to grow and move forward with clarity of what has passed and greater purpose into the new year.

Emotional States & The Good Life

New research from the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology in Glasgow postulates there are 4 primary emotional states: happiness, anger, sadness and fear from which more complex emotions are derived. It is these four primary emotional states that envelope and motivate us or provide caution. Just as nutritionists recommend that a well-balanced diet in moderate quantities from all 5 primary food groups is essential to good physical health, so experience of the four primary emotional states, in moderation, is essential to psychological well-being.

The emotional states of happiness, anger, sadness and fear are fundamentally a tool to help guide thought and behaviour and influence social connections. Below is a concise explanation of the functions of each emotion.

Fear: 'fight or flight' reaction. Fear warns you to be more cautious, to give more analysis to a situation before acting.

Anger: to signal something needs your attention and to communicate your thoughts and feelings when required to rectify a problem either with yourself or others.

Sadness: lets you know you have lost something of value. It is the signal that you need to take time to process your thoughts around the loss and not rush through life without due processing of loss.

Happiness: well, happiness is the feel-good emotion. The more happiness experienced, the greater the buffer against negative emotions occurring in unhealthy quantities. It is clear happiness is something to strive for and there are many pathways to happiness, yet don’t make happiness the goal, but rather the process to 'well-being', 'life satisfaction' and 'living the good life'.

Expatriate Life – New Beginnings

A Wonderous Yet Difficult Time.

You’ve finally arrived in Paris, and have a new home. You smile with delight when you first spot the Eiffel Tower twinkling at night. You are full of desire of exploration and wonderment at this beautiful new home town – Paris! The honeymoon phase of living in Paris begins.

Relocating to another country and culture can be exciting and daunting all at once. It is even more stress invoking if the new country uses a language you do not know. Depending on the circumstances of your move, typically there will be a honeymoon phase. This is a time of great delight, motivation to learn the language and enthusiasm to see and experience all of what there is.

Paris, also called ‘The City of Light’, and well known as the city of love, magical beauty and baguettes while bustling with a quiet energy ready for you to explore, can at some point become dull, grey, lonely and a chore!

Yes, you are now feeling unhappy, low, insecure, and not sure what is right or wrong. The long dark days, or even bright long days, takes its toll and you find yourself having trouble creating and maintaining a rhythm of daily life - the “honeymoon” phase is finished. You have landed in the face of French bureaucracy, not enough language skills and perhaps no French speaking friends at hand to help you out. Thankfully for many, there are relocation companies employed to help you wade through the initial challenges of finding and securing a new home and the myriad of paperwork that comes with it. But, for many others they begin alone.

For most, living and/or working in a new culture requires a period of adjustment. One may experience frustration and the humbling experience of not being able to express ones’ self as freely and fluently as in your native language. It is common to feel irritated and misunderstood, or just out of place as you move around the intricacies of social norms not yet known. At times one may experience periods of intense introspection that may lead some to question where they fit into this new culture. All the while your usual social supports are far away in a land not forgotten.

It may be you experience parts of your personality not so welcome or that just don’t fit your new city, At the same time, you may find other parts of yourself are awoken. Perhaps you just yearn to experience parts of yourself not yet explored.

A new location will have you question many things about yourself and test all relationships both near and far. Confusion, low moods, uncertainty of self and lack of confidence can soon hinder you.  You may have noticed your family members seem different. Yet, in their own way they are experiencing the challenges of the change and are also trying to put the pieces together.

It is important that these experiences are processed and understood to help you experience greater confidence and find direction in your new world. You are on an exciting journey with a great opportunity for new experiences, new goals, to learn more about yourself and a new culture and language.