by Gerry North

So 2013 is here and already your friends are asking what plans you have for this year. Are you going to tell them only about planned holidays and new jobs or are you going to include personal development? Any personal development plans for this year could change your life forever.

Mindfulness is the big buzzword in mental health care these days. It means living in the moment and not thinking about the past or the future. We waste so much time, going over regretful past matters or worrying about unknown future events, that we fail to live in the moment we are actually consciously alive. Meditation, yoga and the like help us change our mental happiness by living in the now.

Let’s see if you can experience this right now. Wherever you clear your mind and take in everything around you. Use all your senses. See the light and colours, feel the air, smell the room, hear any sounds, feel your own body. Take it all in knowing, “I do not have to change anything around me, I can just experience it.” How do you feel? Is there a sense of calm and bliss?

The other really big breakthrough in mental health care lately is the understanding of brain neuroplasticity. Our brains, they have discovered, are like plasticine. If you are a guitar player one part of your brain has shaped itself to do that task. If you are a drag queen part of your brain moulds itself to do that as well, learning to mime, swagger and express your new identity.

What this means is your present brain has molded itself into your present thinking and skill level. But because it is like plasticine you can learn new things and develop new ways of thinking if you train the brain to do so.

No matter your age your brain plasticity can either be your handicap or your new creative possibility for change. You can leave it in a hard inflexible state with old negative habits or you can make it change the way it thinks. You can stop depression and anxiety with mindfulness; you can create a whole new you in 2013 using your plastic flexible brain. You only have to think of what you want to change and practice new skills and presto you have a new you in 2013.

Mindfulness offers us the possibility of bliss by living in the now and the ability to mould our plastic brains into new and more rewarding experiences. Now go out and see if you can learn the piano. Come back to me in 2 weeks with a piano concerto under you belt. Maybe a little longer but if you really want to do it you can in 2013.

Gerry North is a gay couples counsellor and can be contacted at [email protected] or

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