Wellbeing Matters: New Year, New Shoes

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Jane returns with our weekly wellbeing column, in which she thinks about not setting resolutions, but finding happy stuff instead.

There’s a film I love, In Her Shoes, in which Toni Collette and Cameron Diaz play bickering, diametrically opposed sisters with lives that are struggling for very different reasons.  Toni’s Rose is uptight, dowdy but self-sufficient with a good career. Cameron’s Maggie is childish, careless and spiralling into chaos.

Rose struck a chord with me. Outwardly she exudes corporate sensibility and restraint. However, when she opens her wardrobe, she has row upon row of glorious, frivolous shoes. And she never wears them. Just looks at them with reverence, before putting them back in the box.

I’m Rose, but with dresses. Row upon row of frocks litter my wardrobe. I probably wear five of them on rotation. I tell myself the others are too nice for every day, that I’ll keep them for a special occasion.

What if we make every day a special occasion, scrap the idea of waiting until something comes along, and just enjoy what we have? What if we park our insecurities and inhibitions just for a while? This year, instead of resolutions, think about easy additions to life that can make you happier. Like a good book or a walk in the park.

I scrapped the idea of resolutions for myself this year when I realised that they just don’t make me feel good. When you fail to achieve them, or waver from whatever narrow path you’ve set yourself, can knock your confidence and leave you in a worse place than before. Instead, I think I need to be bolder. Both inside and out.

With this in mind, I started the new year with a vague idea of what that meant for me. I’m socially inept and can’t draw – but I like people and want to see if I can make vaguely pretty pictures with my hands. I joined an art journaling class for beginners. I spent two hours with lovely, gently encouraging people. I left covered in pink glitter, purple paint and clutching my new art journal. My smile on leaving was priceless.

There was joy to be had in letting myself go and immersing myself in the class.  I lost any sense of anxiety. I drew exactly how I thought I would – with very little skill – but I do love my mutant dandelions.

And here’s a secret – I’ve wanted to try this for years. I have a drawer in my desk full of art stuff I’ve collected. Pencils, paints, sketch books, charcoals. All sat doing nothing. Like Rose’s shoes.

Perhaps instead of setting new goals, new targets this year we can think about achieving something else. Something that puts a smile on your face. Do you have an equivalent to my art drawer? Do you want to write but the blank page freezes you out even though you have a mountain of empty notebooks?

It might help starting this year with a bit of reflection on what holds you back. Think about what you already have, and can use in the year ahead. Maybe it’s dusting off your gym kit and taking that first step on a new exercise programme. Or joining a social group that shares your interests that you’ve observed for a while, but found that social anxiety has held you back from joining.

Rose found her way into those shoes, and a brighter future. Step into your own new shoes this year. Be that little bit bolder. But don’t knock yourself if your first attempts to draw dandelions produce triffids.

Be kind to yourselves, and thanks for reading.

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