MY first memory of feeling that uncomfortable knot of loneliness in my stomach was during our first Christmas in Australia. We had moved into our lovely new house and as I opened the decorations to dress up the tree I found myself in floods of tears as I missed my kids, my mum, and memories of Christmas past.
We have now lived in Queensland for over ten years and even though I had the opportunity to move back to the UK, I realised that Australia now feels like home and I want to help you realise what took me (even as a mind coach) a while to comprehend: that it really is our thinking that gets in the way of us being happy – anywhere in the world.
What prevents us from living the life of our dreams is our thinking as human beings. We create an ideal in our mind of how things will be, but our mind tricks us by distorting reality, deleting facts and generalising situations to create an image that is often impossible to carry out.
In my case, my intention of moving to Australia was for the sunshine and I was lucky as Queensland is a very sunny state to live in.
But I know from research, and from the many expats I have treated here, that for many people, the image they create in their minds of how much better life will be often falls short of their expectations. For many reasons this is based on the beliefs and values of the individual. Some are running away from their problems; others expect a better quality of life.
The trouble is that people look through a distorted lens of how things will be, and, when things don’t turn out the way they expect, they often change their glasses to a new view – another distorted lens where life sucks and that job offer is nothing like expected. Some people miss the food, the local pub, their friends and family, forgetting that they moved to get away from family members in the first place. And the list goes on.
Language barriers get in the way of making friends, time differences mean you can’t talk to friends back home (and complain about how bad life is), and things can spiral down.
Looking to blame others for your feelings of loss and loneliness can create rifts in your relationship with your partner.
As human beings we like to have a reason for things, so you might blame your partner for dragging you to this awful place, citing that you expected the new challenge to be an exciting experience. This can lead to more resentful thoughts, arguments, lack of understanding, increased hostility, and in some cases can lead to the end of the relationship.
It doesn’t have to be this way. I know the secret to your success and happiness as you adjust to your new life. The answer you are looking for is very simple to understand at an intellectual level, but what I am referring to goes much deeper – and this is your challenge.
We live in the feeling of our thought in the moment. We can’t help thoughts popping into our head, but we can choose which thoughts to pay attention to. If we acknowledge the thought is there, but not feed it with other thinking, it will pass by. There is nowhere for it to go except simply disappear.
Just doing this leaves space for a new thought to pop into the mind. This new thought might be a solution that you haven’t even thought of yet. For example, setting up a meeting with other expats resulting in making new friends.
What helped me in the process was to develop an optimistic outlook. I find that when I expect good things to happen they often do. We have in our brain something called the RAC (Reticular Activating System). This is like having a Google search engine for our brain. So if you are looking for all the things that could go wrong, the RAC will highlight them for you by bringing them into your awareness, but if you think about all the things that are good, then the RAC will highlight the good stuff.
We create our experience of reality. When I was feeling fed up that first Christmas in Australia, I was choosing the role of victim, but when I stood up, brushed myself off, and looked through a different lens, I asked myself, ‘what can I learn from this?’ Not long after, I set up a meeting through a British expats group in Australia and met some lovely people over coffee at a local restaurant.
Another trap to success for us all is that we have an underlying need to stay with what is familiar. So when we have been doing something new for a while, whether it’s moving to a new country or just having a new fitness schedule, it’s ok for a while and then our mind starts to set off alarm bells, alerting us to the fact that we are out of our comfort zone and encouraging us to go back to the old way. This is just a signal and all I did, and all you have to do, is acknowledge the thought, celebrate the changes, and keep going forward.
The biggest learning that I can share with you here is that all we have is ‘now.’ Your past is just a ghost in your mind and your future is a dream, a plan or a fantasy. Everything you have ever done or achieved has always been in the present moment. Your mind and body always thinks it’s now. For example, look at your hand for a moment, wiggle your fingers, now think of something you did recently, a happy memory and now, wiggle your fingers back then. You realise you can’t do it.
So it’s a good idea to get used to enjoying the present moment, because that is all we have.
Gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions there is for bringing what you desire into your life. What you focus on increases, so the more you feel good about what there is to be grateful for, the more the good stuff shows up.
And if you can’t think of anything to be grateful for right now, hold your breath for a minute or two and notice how you feel.
If you are unable to apply the above understanding and have been increasingly low in your mood. I would always suggest booking an appointment with a specialist who can give you help and advice.