Saturday, 31 December 2016

Getting perspective on 2016.

This is the extended* Wellbeing column, first published in the York Press on Tuesday, December 13th 2016

What a year! A year that is likely to be remembered in history for a long time. A year of political upheavals, untimely deaths of prominent people, contentious US electioneering, immigration protests, starving children in war zones, Fidel Castro, new technology changing news reporting, President Trudeau of Canada, Mexicans causing trouble, Russia threatening neighbouring countries, Olympic success in the Americas and a change in the world order. 

Yes, 1968 was certainly a year of momentous events. How do I remember 1968? It was a year of teenage fun, friends, love and great music. I can remember the news stories, but overall I would say 1968 was a great year.

If you were to ask me about 1974, 1987, 1991 and 2013, I would say that they were not happy years, though I know there were many happy times in those years. You may recall them as being good ones for you. 

2016 will be memorable for many reasons, but all I read and hear, is what an awful year 2016 has been. Really? Will Andy Murray and all the Olympic medal winners in Rio think it’s been a terrible year? 

In January I wrote about the York floods and there’s no doubt that whatever 2015 had been like for those people whose homes were flooded, it finished traumatically for them. 2016 will have started badly, but I wonder how they will reflect on this year on New Years Eve. Will all 366 days have been bad ones? Will there be days when they can recall happier moments, however small? 

* Until fairly recently there appeared very little positive being written about 2016. It was all 'doom, doom, we're all doomed.' Then as the year end became hijacked by more celebrity deaths, it seems that people realised that good things did happen and some columnists are attempting to put 2016 into perspective. I am sure that while we all know people who have had a pretty awful year and that may include ourselves, we will also know people for whom 2016 has been a good year, if not a fantastic year. What about the Brexit/Trump supporters who have little interest in the Arts and social media and whose domestic lives were fairly untroubled this year?

* One columnist complained about the outpouring of grief over the deaths over Christmas, particularly George Michael. I felt a sadness for a talented song writer/singer and troubled soul who died alone and tears did come to my eyes, but they weren't for George Michael, they were for me and the past. I can enjoy his music, but there is one song that brings back a mass of memories from 1991. Just one song out of many, that I heard on the car radio on a journey home from work in London to home in Buckinghamshire. The words mean very little, I just love the tune and the memories are strong and bittersweet. The majority of people who are upset at the death of a celebrity are more sad for themselves, than the celebrity. 

*That has reminded me of a client whose driving phobia was associated with a panic attack she experienced when driving. It was then repeated many times before she saw me. The root?  We traced it to a song that came on the car radio, a song that had also been on the radio as she left the house some time before with paramedics, when she was having a miscarriage. 

*As Noel Coward wrote: "Strange how potent cheap music is." And how powerful and helpful it is proving to be with people with dementia.

It’s very easy to become dragged down by the doom merchants and negativity. It’s important to put events of this year into perspective. Reading a book about 1968 has helped me do this. 

A helpful exercise at the end of each day is to write down five simple pleasures to be thankful for. As we leave this interesting year behind, it will be beneficial for us all to recall those times of happiness and pleasure that we have experienced this year. There will be many more than five.

With my glass half full, I say ‘Cheers’ to you all. Bring on 2017. (Seat belts on!)