Just two weeks ago a new year dawned. On 31 December 2015 at midnight firecrackers illuminated the sky in the suburb I live in while a colony of dogs barked and yapped in fear. It was probably because families and friends were together and determined to see the new year in with some frivolous and light-hearted fun. No problem. This was after all a momentary escape from the challenges and difficulties that could lie ahead in the year to come.

Perhaps the most important task we are faced with at the beginning of a new year is to determine how we as individuals intend positioning ourselves in this new year, in this case 2016; which vision and goals will we focus our mental telescope on? The year 2016 is predicted to be a difficult, taxing and challenging year; an overload of reasons to be morose and despondent eminate from news and social media and weaves into everyday conversations. There is a severe drought, immense political and economic difficulties, crime, and, and, and… These can easily become overwhelming and elicit feelings of immense concern, despair, fear and helplessness in us. What to do?

It is perhaps the easier choice to submit and echo the dreary messages of doom and gloom. This will never have a hopeful and constructive result. I need to position myself in a manner which will work against the negativity. I certainly cannot make the wheel of fortune representing the environment I live in take an upward curve singlehandedly, but I need not succumb and join the voices from the world around me echoing bad news and making sad predictions. If I should fall into this trap, I am not assisting myself and those I have the ability to influence in my circle, loved ones, work, social circle etc.

So what can we do to literally protect ourselves against the environment pulling us down into despair? My answer to the challenges of this year is to focus inward, to “clean up” and advance my thinking processes; to become thinkingfit. Thinking is the most important thing we do. Descartes said, “I think therefore I am.” This is what distinguishes us from every other living being on the planet. Our entire conscious existence as a human being is dependent on our ability to think. Everything we do, don’t do, achieve and don’t achieve is dependent on our thinking. What we “put into” our brains will change the mix and output for better or for worse. In my entry of 13 January, neuroplasticity and the effects thereof are explained. The essence is that every negative thought can influence our brain circuits adversely. So, once again, awareness of the thoughts that we harbour, should receive prominence.

We more often than not take our ability to think for granted and assume that because we are automatically able to think, we think “well.” This is not necessarily true. What and how we think is directly linked to how we were taught to think about how the world is and how it should be by others, from our parents to broader society. Of course, there is huge room for error here and we need to personally investigate the quality of our thinking patterns to establish what is rational and what is irrational; what we need to discard and what we need to retain. Thinking is an art. It is an art well worth learning as everything we do is dependent on it. The most important aim of thinkingfit is to cultivate sound thinking skills. Every blog entry will focus on this; a bit by bit by bit. The next entry will give valuable practical steps!