Embracing change


There’s no time like the present to write an article about change, because at this time of the year the weather is changing in many parts of the world and we are barely a month away from the March equinox, the onset of daylight savings time and moving towards the warmer part of the year, at least if you live in the Northern Hemisphere. This time of the year also brings Lunar New Year, so it’s a good time to be thinking about how change impacts us and how we can try our best to embrace it where possible. 

When change is good


Firstly, though, what is change? In some ways we could argue that there are two main forms of change: the kind of adventurous, proactive change where we make a conscious decision to make a new choice in life, and the other type of change which is unexpected and sometimes imposed on us. To some extent it’s natural human behaviour to want to resist change, but as a species we have collectively survived conflicts, disasters and mass migrations throughout thousands of years of history, so the rest of this article will aim to talk about how we can indeed be open to change and adapt to it, whether it’s a good type of change or a bad change. 


We’ll start with the good, exciting kind of change. You might have reached an important crossroads in your life through having applied to start on a new course of study, or made plans to set out on a new career path or to emigrate to another country. With any bold decision comes moments of doubt, so in this type of situation the best thing to do is to try to tap into the feelings of adventure or bravery that led you to take the decision. In many ways, the most difficult part of changing something in our lives is making the first decision, so congratulations if you've already done that. 


If you’re in the process of changing something and you’re starting to doubt yourself, think through why you made this decision and if possible, talk to people around you for reassurance. If you’re doing something that you’ve never tried before, try to learn from people who have already been in the same situation (for example, if you’re travelling to a new country, read about people who have been there already).


Believe that you’re doing the right thing. Believe in yourself and your ability to try things. As long as you’ve thought through your decision well, there’s nothing wrong with pursuing a new goal or doing something differently in your life. Indeed, if you’re in a situation where you know that making a change would help you, such as applying for a different job, then sometimes actually taking the plunge can be less daunting than wondering whether to do it or not, so go forth. 


When change is bad


The flip side to all of this is that not all change is necessarily positive or life-affirming. Sadly, we can all find ourselves in difficult scenarios where we have been faced with a lot of upheaval that we would never have chosen for ourselves, such as a relationship breakdown, job loss, bereavement, or a significant change to our physical or psychological condition, or that of somebody close to us. There's no way of easily coming to terms with such change, and it’s probably not helpful to think about ‘embracing’ such types of change. 


However, sometimes this type of change is unavoidable. In the face of critical life turmoil, it’s important to recognise that there's nothing that any of us can do to change the past, and while this is easier said than done, it's best not to dwell too much on how a scenario might have played out differently if we’d had more knowledge at our disposal, or more alternative options available to us. 


If you’re dealing with an intense period of change and you’re struggling to deal with either the new scenario or the nature of change itself, try to give yourself and the situation time. If you’re struggling to come to terms with a major change that has taken place already, try to remember that even if time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds, most major life emergencies tend to be easier to handle once we’re temporally distanced from them and have the benefit of perspective. 


Most of all, while this can be easier to say from an armchair perspective rather than when thrust into the middle of change, it’s worth bearing in mind that changes tend to lead to new opportunities, even when the change is unwelcome, like a job loss. A lot of the time we move through our lives on autopilot and don’t necessarily think about where we are headed. The temporary break in routine that comes with abrupt change can sometimes lead us to consider other options and think in different ways. It’s also good to try to see any period of change as a learning opportunity. Even if the benefit is only getting to know yourself and your own resilience better, it will still prepare you for future changes that you are yet to encounter (and there will be many). 


On this note, our last piece of advice would be to look after yourself and anybody that might depend on you, and to talk to somebody that you trust if you’re feeling like you’re too overwhelmed. 


With that, we conclude this month’s mindfulness and wellbeing article, but we’d love to hear your top tips for coping with change too, so please don’t hesitate to share your ideas in the comments. Until the next time!