Parenting & Schools
Business
Happiness Exercises
Health
Relationships
Home » All, Health, Pathway 3 "Meaning"

A Gentler New Year’s Resolution

By on December 10, 2015 – 8:39 pm  16 Comments

Homaira Kabir is a positive psychology practitioner currently working in Muscat, Oman. She inspires and supports women to live engaged and fulfilled lives of purpose and well-being. She also enables adolescents to harness the brilliance of their age through programs in middle school. She is a writer whose work has appeared in media around the world. She is currently completing her MAPP from UEL. Web site. Full bio pending. Homaira's articles for Positive Psychology News are here. She plans to write monthly on the 7th.



I wouldn’t call myself a zestful person by any means. I like to be in bed by 10, I stay away from anything that can pollute my body or make me high, and my idea of a night out is kayaking alone in the dark and still waters of the sea. You could call me boring.

My lifestyle certainly does not serve me well during the holiday season. In fact, the late night parties and overstimulation somehow suck me out of my element and leave me feeling out of sorts. A few weeks of this, and I enter the New Year crawling on my knees.

The physical ‘morning after’ effects of late nights make me feel as if I have weights hanging off my body and a log lodged in my head. Alas for the long-gone resilience of youth. Steinberg refers to evolutionary programming as he describes the adolescent urge to sniff out every party in town. Then their circadian rhythms ensure that they get their fill of sleep the next day. For me now, otherwise healthy habits rob me of extra sleep. My internal clock wakes me up at dawn even though my mind stays tuned out for the rest of the day.

This leads to a major decline in productivity. Ideas refuse to flow, motivation seems to be on strike, and I find myself stuck with a single idea without any prospects of progress. The lack of creativity eventually affects my well-being. I end up feeling both empty and frustrated at the same time.

It seems that as we age, the dopaminergic pathways that feed off stimulation are much weaker than they once were. I no longer look to experiment my way through life the way I once did. My personality is more clearly expressed: as a true introvert, I find that my reward systems are activated in moments of stillness when I can assimilate stories that I’ve been collecting over several decades and make them my own. This makes me a total misfit in the holiday season. As a “closet bore,” I struggle my way through, desperately awaiting the New Year to recuperate. However, the increasing inner disconnect makes me realize that this approach needs changing.

So I have a New Year’s resolution. I’m going to recycle my negative energies into positive ones. It’s a page I’ve taken from nature’s handbook where everything that dies is recycled to breathe life into other organisms. This means that for starters, I will embrace being boring and the frustrations that come with it. It is not something I need to lock in the basement of my soul, for it is a part of who I am.

Then I will recognize that the meaning I desire does not emerge in a vacuum. We are social animals, wired to make sense of ourselves through the people and places in our lives. My moments of quiet may allow me to search for meaning. But Steger’s research on meaning shows that finding meaning is a different experience altogether. I am seeing that finding meaning comes from the openness to experience and compassionate interaction that I continue to avoid.

“Those who prefer their principles over their happiness,” wrote Albert Camus “they refuse to be happy outside the conditions they seem to have attached to their happiness.” Hardened habits contract my capacity for happiness and make me absent from the very life I wish to understand.

I resolve to transform the energy from my frustrations into energy for new experiences and deeper interactions through strengths such as compassion and gratitude and curiosity. These too are part of who I am, perhaps left idle for too long. In embracing every part of my being and in integrating all the contradictions of my personality, I can drift between its different aspects “either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show” as Csikszentmihalyi writes of artistic people.

Perhaps meaning lies on the other side of this Rubicon.

 


 

References

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience.. New York: Harper Perennial.

Palmer, P. J. (2004). A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

Steger, M., Kashdan, T., Sullivan, B. & Lorentz, D. (2008). Understanding the search for meaning in life: Personality, cognitive style, and the dynamic between seeking and experiencing meaning. Journal of Personality. 76(2): 199-228. Abstract.

Steinberg, L. (2014). Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence. New York: Harcourt Publishing.

Image Credits
Tired courtesy of Antoine K
Stillness courtesy of diana MĂRGĂRIT
Yin Yang of Life courtesy of Beth Felice

16 Comments »

  • John Bonnice says:

    Changing from an introvert to an extrovert (actually enjoying extrovert behavior) is a daunting task. Approaching it from positive psychology in a piecemeal fashion might make it possible. Certain strengths are associated with extrovert behavior so maybe taking these strengths one at a time might help.

  • Homaira says:

    Hi John, thank you for your insight!

    I totally agree its not easy! But I think its not so much about changing from an introvert to an extrovert – and perhaps we shouldn’t try either – its more about recognizing that there are other aspects to our personality such as Openness to experience and Agreeableness that can be nurtured further with character strengths.

  • Lars Nyheim says:

    Thank you for this lovely article, Homaira. It’s mindfood for the what, why & how of my own habits.

  • Homaira says:

    You’re so welcome Lars. I write to help readers self-reflect, and your words mean a lot to me!

  • Meghan says:

    I enjoyed reading your approach on not changing, but embracing characteristics. I think this an important concept because it shows the significance of staying true to oneself and having a positive outlook. Thanks for a great article!

  • Homaira says:

    You’re welcome Meghan! Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Kavisha Patel says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post. I too can relate to you – I am an introvert myself. Social gatherings can be uncomfortable and intimidating. I always wondered how easy it was for other people to feel so comfortable around others. This is something that I have been working on and your post has made me realize that I don’t need to change who I am but I need to embrace who I am and not see it as a flaw. Thank you for your inspirational words!

  • Homaira says:

    Dear Kavisha,

    I know how comforting it can be to find that others share our feelings, traits or behaviours. As humans, we are all the same on so many levels!

    I’m so glad my article helped you. All the best!

  • Meaghan says:

    I resemble these remarks even down to learning to be with all of how I am. 🙂 Many thanks for sharing, and happy holidays!!!

  • Judy Krings says:

    Hi, Homaira, You are one of the coolest most up front introverts I know. I am not a big party person, either, as the energy vampires are often too much for me to assimilate. That you are willing to be more open and curious is terrific, but the you that you already are is wonderful. I feel calm every time I read you. I think of the words, negotiate and compromise”. I often go to a party or occasion and leave early if it all gets too much. You remind of the song lyrics, “Don’t go changin’, I love you just the way you are!” But stretching a tad is courageous. Good for you. Happy Holidays and hope the spirit moves you to more joy, dear Homaira.

  • James Baek says:

    Becoming extrovert can be a scary task at first. It was actually one of my first experiences when I was a freshmen in college. It might be frightening at first, but there’s a lot of rewards of becoming a more talkative person. I had a lot of people really want to talk to me because I really put myself out there and seem like someone that they want to be around. Hope your new years resolution goes well and just go for it.

  • Stefano Sarge says:

    Hello Homaira!

    I enjoyed reading your article because I can relate to what you are expressing. I used to be very out going as a child and in highschool, where I played 3 sports and was very involved in clubs. Now, year after year, I still possess some extroverted qualities, but I am more quiet and reserved. I enjoy going out and doing fun things but always in moderation. When others want to go out all night or weekends, I’d prefer to be at home with a few friends or so, just hanging out together. I began to question myself and wonder if there was something wrong with the way I enjoy things because it always seemed that most of the time, what “everybody” was doing, I quite frankly didn’t want to. Thank you for offering this perspective of focusing on yourself and developing yourself for you and not for others or public molds that are in place for you. I will try to use your idea everyday of just developing and accepting myself! I think it is better to master something you are good at and can relate to instead of spending countless hours distracted on something you don’t really care about.

  • Judy Krings says:

    This is a great discussion. I think we all morph, if we are wise and self-aware. A process of becoming. Life is a kaleidoscope. Some days it turns for us and we choose to react in ways that serve us, if we are mindful. Other days, we focus on the change we want. We make plans, choices and act our those plans to get to fruition.

    Everyone thinks I am way more extroverted than I am. I can be and am often zestful and spunky. But there is a very solitary soul inside me that is great being alone and savoring. I think of myself as an ambivert. I am exhausted by huge gatherings and many parties, but I try to prepare myself for them and accept the next day I will be wiped out.

    I appreciate your post, Stefano. I had to work out of introversion (mostly unassertiveness when I look back on it) when I was in my 20’s. It always makes makes me smile that everyone thinks I was always and still am a flaming extrovert. But I think it is good not to be a one-trick pony. Wholeness works for me, as best I can make that happen.

    Happy Holidays!

  • Homaira says:

    My dear Judy, I so appreciate your comments! I totally agree that we all grow, evolve, change and in many respects learn to enjoy our time with ourselves, if we’re on the journey of an inner becoming. If not, for a variety of reasons, we can widen the gulf that exists with our own selves and run from our own company.

    Thank you dear Judy for your words that always always bring brightness and sunshine into my life! Whether an introvert, an extrovert or an ambivert, you are a dear friend and a light that brightens those that come in your path. May you always continue to do so, 2016 and beyond. Happy holidays!

    I can totally relate to you as well Stefano – and much of what we may have considered extroversion in our younger years may just have been the need for novelty that is at its peak in our adolescent years. I admire your courage to develop and accept yourself. I’ll be cheering you on – we’re all on this journey together, and as long as we can focus on the learning, the growth will happen. All the best!

  • Judy Krings says:

    Thanks ever so much, kind, generous and creatively inspiring Homaira. I am humbled. THANK YOU. You area a gift to us all, Homaira.

    I wish you and everyone here at PPND a blessed New Year.

    Let’s keep shining together in wellness, hope, goodness that we pay forward. Deep gratitude and smiles headed your way.

  • Homaira says:

    I’m speechless! Thank you dear Judy – it comes from the depths of my heart!

    And I too wish everyone at PPND happy holidays and a peaceful, healthy and happy New Year!

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.