03 January 2023

By Tim Baker

Never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, myself. It always feels like setting yourself up to fail, or scolding yourself for not doing enough, being virtuous enough, being enough.

So, this New Year I’d like to propose a new tradition – New Year’s Affirmations, some gentle self-congratulations for the things we are doing right and plan to continue. There’s also some subtle mind trickery at work here to encourage us to refine our lifestyle strategies for self-care, as if we’ve already accomplished this. Think of it as a psychological ploy to make our mind believe we are already doing these things, believing it is so and thus making it so. Sound a bit too woo woo for you? Stick with me and see if I we can overcome that scepticism.

This is my own list, some of which might be relevant to you, some you might want to adopt, and then there are likely things you’ll want to add or jettison to customise it to your own circumstances, playing to your own strengths and weaknesses. Here goes:

  1. I eat a variety of healthy foods to maintain my well-being and vitality as well as for pleasure. Preparing and eating good food is a great joy that requires little effort and delivers great benefit. I occasionally succumb to a junk food fix and it almost always disappoints me, the idea being far superior to the reality.
  2. I exercise daily to enjoy the wonders of the human body, accepting its limitations and focussing on its abilities, to move, to heal, to allow a wide range of pleasurable physical activities. I delight in the magic of exercise to maintain bone strength, muscle mass, elevate mood, and enhance a range of bodily functions.
  3. I sometimes feel lazy and that’s okay, but if it persists too long, I know I need to get moving and find some kind of low-cost supervised training to kick my lazy arse.
  4. I find small windows in my day for moments of quiet meditation and stillness, to let thoughts gently drop away, to rest the cycling anxieties of the intellectual mind and put them on hold even for a brief time. With my mind at rest, I’m curious and open to what may arise and how the quiet whisper of my intuition might be speaking to me.
  5. I take great pleasure in my personal relationships, even when they challenge or frustrate me, while respecting my own boundaries and choosing to seek the company of those who support me. At the same time, I have limited tolerance for people’s bullshit and I’m not afraid to say so.
  6. Creative expression is a source of great happiness in my life that has little do with proficiency or skill or outcomes but is all about the spontaneous joy of allowing creative impulses to arise and express themselves. Music, art, writing, dance, even gardening or cooking can be forms of creative self-expression. The satisfaction they generate are sign posts to where we should direct our energies for maximum effect, particularly when our energies might be limited.
  7. The natural world feeds and sustains me in ways I find deeply restorative and which I consciously open myself to, cultivating a heightened sensitivity to the symphony of benefits it gifts me. Birdsong. The play of light on water and plants. The rustle of unseen wildlife or a fleeting glimpse of a forest or marine creature. I take the time to notice my breathing and heart rate slow, my nervous system relax, the simple pleasures of fresh air entering my lungs and the subtle tingling sensations that arise throughout the physical body.
  8. I understand and accept that the future is highly uncertain and that I am unable to change the past, and thus choose to dwell openly in the present moment. I can sit with uncomfortable feelings knowing that they will pass and I don’t have to “fix” them or identify with them.
  9. I practice gratitude for all the things that have allowed me to greet another year – a functioning health system, dedicated health care workers, medical research and science, my own resilience, the support of friends and family, even when they’ve seemed in short supply or their particular brand of support has missed the mark.
  10. I sometimes eat chocolate or ice cream and have the occasional mid-strength beer or glass of a decent red (a cheeky Victorian pinot noir my go-to), convinced that the endorphins of these occasional culinary pleasures outweigh any harm they might be doing me. And I refuse to feel guilty about it.

What would your 2023 affirmations look like? What are you doing right that you want to continue and even enhance or refine in the year ahead? For me, this just feels like a more positive way of framing things than a list of decrees of how I must do better or do more or try harder. Happy New Year all. Thanks for putting up with my rantings.

About the Author

Tim Baker is an award-winning author, journalist and storyteller specialising in surfing history and culture, working across a wide variety of media from books and magazines to film, video, and theatre. Some of his most notable books include “Occy”, a national bestseller and chosen by the Australia Council as one of “50 Books You can’t Put Down” in 2008, and “The Rip Curl Story” which documents the rise of the iconic Australian surf brand to mark its 50th anniversary in 2019. Tim is a former editor of Tracks and Surfing Life magazines. He has twice won the Surfing Australia Hall of Fame Culture Award.

Tim was diagnosed with stage 4, metastatic prostate cancer in 2015 with a Gleason score 9. He was told he had just five years of reasonable health left, but seven years on, at 57, he’s still surfing, writing, and enjoying being a dad. His latest book, Patting The Shark, also documents his cancer journey and will be published in August. Tim will be sharing weekly insights into his journey to help other men who have also been impacted by prostate cancer.