7 Ways to Survive 2017

New Year affirmation by Hana @frizzkidart

Happy New Year! Congratulations on making it to 2017. The past twelve months have not been easy - I feel you. But hey, we made it this far for a reason and I know we'll go even further if we invest our energy towards love, positivity and productivity. Forget about surviving 2017, let's thrive in 2017. I have a few ideas on how we can do this.

1. Bloom where you are planted and stop believing you're not powerful enough.
One of my favourite quotes by Steve Jobs is this one: "The people who crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do." When I look at the lives and personalities of successful individuals such as Jobs they all seem to have one thing in common: they are or were 'ordinary' people with extraordinary belief(s), drive and intentions.

Your mind is not only your greatest ally or enemy but it is also a 'training ground'. You must train it to be resilient by nourishing it with thoughts that foster confidence and a sense of purpose (e.g. "I am a unique gift to this world and I delight in sharing this gift."). Everyone has strengths to harness and weaknesses to work on. You have to believe that growth and learning is possible and part of life. We all have something beneficial to contribute in any situation or organisation.

Your unique gift, talents or skills + the power of the ripple effect = proof one person can make a difference

Pro-tip: Reading positive affirmations everyday is a great way to train your mind to be, well, more positive (sorry to be Captain Obvious here). I like these affirmations by Sarah Petruno but you can always personalise them to suit your needs. Gold Womyn makes really pretty ones too.

2. Sleep early.
Anyone can tell you to get sufficient rest or to wake up early but the key is to sleep early. I tend to sleep late and then wake up early, which makes me mentally exhausted and less productive during the day. If you can be more disciplined about winding down before bedtime and going to sleep early you'll feel more productive and energetic the next day. Productivity is not just about managing your time but also your energy.

Pro tip: Exercising helps me to sleep earlier and achieve a good night's rest. Exercise doesn't have to be a drag. Stay active by doing something you enjoy, even if it's going for a walk in your favourite park.

3. Get yourself together and exude positive energy (aura). 
As a perfectionist, it's not easy telling myself progress isn't linear but it's the truth. I was incredibly burnt out after I completed my Master's thesis. Only someone who has pursued a postgraduate degree, be it a Master's or a PhD, would understand the level of stress it entails. When Jelani Cobb posted the tweet below I could relate to it.

Today, my well-being is something I work on every day because I believe I am responsible for my own health and happiness. I am also determined to make a difference in the world. How can I give by pouring from an 'empty jug'? Hence, I wrote a list of activities I believed will make me a better and happier person and I committed to them.

Outdoor adventures give me life! If you're like me you must give Skytrex a go when you visit Malaysia. 

When I became more self-aware and accepted responsibility for my own happiness I began to do more things that made me feel whole and positive. As a result, I have more loving and positive energy to share with others. Many of us are healing from past trauma, abuse, grief and negative self-talk. It's important that we give ourselves time to heal. Not by being passive but by empowering ourselves. Sometimes it means walking away from a toxic friendship. Sometimes it means taking up a self-defence class. You have to figure out what makes you feel empowered from within and seek experiences that inspire and motivate you. Once again, the process of progress and healing isn't linear so be prepared for good days, hard days and even harder days.

Pro tip: Find a stress-releasing activity or hobby that makes you feel empowered and do it as often as you can. Remember, this is about what makes you feel good about yourself and you're totally allowed to set aside some me-time.

4.  Support locally-owned businesses, especially smaller ones.
In Malaysia, the cost of goods and services have increased and many businesses are at risk of down-sizing, closing down or have already done so. Consumerism is a powerful force that sustains a lot of local individuals and families. Whenever you can, resist the temptation to buy fancy imported brands or frequent foreign-owned businesses and direct your purchasing power towards local businesses that provide goods and services that are equally or *almost* equally as good.

Gula Cakery is a new cafe in my neighbourhood.
I love their Double Chocolate Nutella Cake plus the fact they give 15% discount to ladies on Wednesdays ;) 

Pro-tip: Start with something as simple as drinking locally-made coffee, dining at a new cafe or restaurant in town or buying food from food trucks and street vendors ('gerai' in Malay) and writing a positive review about them on social media if you enjoyed what you had. If you have constructive criticism it would be best to directly inform or contact them so they can make improvements.

5. Join a local movement and be a volunteer.
After completing my Master's thesis on the role of Twitter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict I was determined to do my part in making the world a better place, as clichéd as it sounds. I came across an organisation called Initiatives of Change (IofC) through an e-mail that circulated via my university's network and their values and aspirations resonated with me. I contacted the international team and also joined the local IofC group.

The Malaysian IofC group consists of people of diverse ethnicities from various professional backgrounds.
This group photo was taken after watching Dain Iskandar Said's latest film, Interchange, recently.
(Said happens to be one of our member's son-in-law.)

Thanks to them I have met caring and inspiring individuals I never would have if I had not ventured out of my usual social circle. It's great to contribute to fundraising efforts or charity organisations such as Hand in Hand for Syria or to Oxfam but there are many local campaigns and non-government organisations that do important work and need our support too.

Pro-tip: Attending talks or events on issues or subjects that interest you is a good way of connecting with activists and inspirational individuals. Strike a conversation with them by introducing yourself and asking what they thought of the event.

6. Change your perception of unhappiness.
Last year, I picked up a book called The Good Life by Hugh Mackay and one of his contentions is that unhappiness doesn't have to be a bad thing. It's pretty revolutionary.

I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that - I don’t mind people being happy - but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep”, and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position - it’s rubbish. 
Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!”. I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness”. Ask yourself “is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.

Pro-tip: Embrace misfortunes or setbacks as blessings in disguise. Write down a list of possible wonderful outcomes that could arise from them and be grateful for the lessons they taught you.

7. Have an attitude of abundance.
You don't lose anything by helping someone or by being charitable with your time, money and knowledge. Set healthy boundaries but don't hold back on showing concern and compassion for others because abundance creates abundance. Don't underestimate how far practicing abundance can make a positive impact in your life and your community. Additionally, having an attitude of abundance makes you a game changer in any field or endeavour. It sets you apart from the rest. As the saying goes, "The extra mile is never crowded".

Pro-tip: Saying something as simple as, "Let me know if you need anything" or "What can I do to help?" is a powerful way of practicing and manifesting abundance. I also believe it's important to apply this at home, first and foremost, because your family deserves the best of you.

What do these 7 tips have in common? They focus on self-empowerment and encourage us to make a difference by being the change we wish to see in our society. 2016 proved to be a challenging year for many but that gives us all the more reason to take hatred, anger and pain and use them as opportunities to create beauty in the world and reveal the strength of our character.