A positive mindset is crucial for new immigrants

Sam Gill (name changed for privacy) and her husband, Jon, and two children met me at my office on the 29th day of their landing in Canada. They were stressed about fitting into their new country and their lack of employment. They found themselves alone in the city and complained of lack of social support. They were also anxious about getting their children admitted in school. Our first meeting was mostly spent listening to their concerns and worries. The husband was frustrated that they applied for immigration via the federal skilled worker class and are experts in their fields, and yet their credentials are not recognized here. The husband was an architect back home and the wife was a medical doctor. At times, the couple seriously considered going back home.

As an immigrant reading this, you probably understand what they were going through, as Canada has many similar stories. During that first meeting, I gathered that they hadn’t talked about their experience to anyone yet, so being able to share their challenges with me was important. And when I shared my own immigration challenges with them, they knew they were not alone. But instead of dwelling on the bad stuff, my goal was to change the seemingly negative situation to a positive learning experience.

Following are some of the ways new immigrants can develop a positive mindset, which is crucial for success in new country.

You are not alone
Immigration is a stressful experience so bouts of blues are common, but don’t get discouraged. You are not the only ones going through this. Share your experiences with others and you will come to know that every immigrant has tough times when they start a new life in a new country. These mood swings and low feelings won’t last forever, otherwise most immigrants would go back to their home countries. It is just a matter of time, right connections and right decisions.

It’s about attitude
I often say to my clients that if you wear dark glasses, everything around will be dark and gloomy, but if you change to clear glasses, everything will look bright. This realization is the turning point in many people’s lives. When we try to look at a situation from a different perspective, we tend to become optimistic and motivated. Changing our attitude changes our life. Seeing the glass half full or empty depends on you.

Stop whining
Benjamin Franklin puts it this way: “Constant complaint is the poorest sort of pay for all the comfort we enjoy.” I know life is not easy for new immigrants and sometimes things seem unfair, but a spirit of discontentment takes us nowhere. We often complain because complaining is easier than finding out what is right and good. After one month in Canada, my husband expressed that he feels life had become stagnant and nothing is working. I suggested to him to rewind his clock to the day we landed. We didn’t know anything and depended on others! After one month, at least we knew how to go to the grocery store, church and library without depending on others. These small achievements need to be celebrated. And each month, you’ll achieve more and more.

Contentment is within us
Contentment comes from the heart. There is an old fable of a king who was always dissatisfied and sad. Annoyed by his continuous distress, he called wise men for suggestions. The wise men suggested he wear the shirt of a contented man and he will be happy. The king immediately sent out his men to find a contented man. After one year of searching, they found one and the king ordered them to bring him his shirt only to be informed that the contented man had no shirt. Our contentment, therefore, is independent of material things, what we have, who surrounds us and our environment. The true source of happiness and contentment is within ourselves.

Develop an attitude of gratitude
I have another client who is going through tough times in her life; she is a single mother and has two young children with special needs. She is overwhelmed and prays nightly for guidance. I suggested that she keep a “Journal of Gratitude” by her bed and after praying write three things from her day that made her thankful. After starting it, she reported back that she is more positive than before and feels that her burden is more bearable and there are others who are faced with bigger problems. The initial months after landing in new country are stressful, but if you develop an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude, you will focus more on what you are blessed with — a new country, a land of opportunities and a way to progress. William Secker, a clergyman and religious writer, wrote, “A grateful mind is both a great and happy mind.”

– Pakistan-born Dilnawaz Qamar is a mental health counsellor with Brampton Multicultural Community Centre. She can be reached at dilnawazasghar@gmail.com

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