2020 was a challenging year that many would want to bury so deep in their memories that they could forget it. Little wonder that on New Year’s eve people were celebrating the coming of 2021 as a return to ‘normal’ life.
And yet, the start of 2021 has shown us that monsters still lurk beneath the bed and that when the clock struck midnight on 31, the problems of 2020 did not just fade away.
Cheryl Fulton, an associate professor in the professional counseling program at Texas State University, notes that holding out for a better future “not only robs you of living fully now but may also rob your future present when it doesn’t live up to its promise.” (here is the link)
That’s why lowering your expectations for 2021 will lead to greater joy and a much healthier you later. And, while it’s probably still smart to have a back-up supply of toilet paper and an active subscription to Amazon prime, it would be equally wise to plan a few strategies to help you thrive in 2021. Here, I share mine:
A Gratitude Journal:
Simply put, “a gratitude journal is a diary of things for which one is grateful.” What that really means is a chance for you to write and reflect consistently about what you’re grateful for. I made it easy for myself and bought the Five Minute Journal (https://twitter.com/5minutejournal?lang=en). Every day for a month I’ve been writing three things I’m grateful for in the morning and three amazing things that happened to me that day at night. I love this because even on the worst days you can still find the silver lining. Even more, I cherish how life-affirming it is, and has made me more present in appreciating the small things in my day. If that’s not enough to get you excited, this study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12585811/ showed that people who kept a gratitude journal weekly for ten weeks or daily for two weeks experienced more positive moods, optimism about the future, and better sleep. And tell me, who doesn’t want better sleep?
Try Meditation for Mindfulness:
Meditation is the habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. For years I’ve heard people tout the many health benefits of meditation—reduce stress, control anxiety, enhance self-awareness, yadda, yadda but I’ve always struggled with endless thinking. Anytime I tried to sit cross-legged on the floor and discipline my mind to focus on my breath it seemed as if thoughts were going around in my brain like the bullock carts they use in the villages of India to turn the water wheel.
That experience threatened to put me off meditation for life—a quiet mind is not for me, I told myself resignedly. However, what changed last year was using a guided meditation app like Headspace. At $79.99 for an annual subscription, it’s pricey, so if that gives you sticker shock, I would suggest using a free app like Insight Timer instead. For meditators everywhere, Insight Timer provides guided meditations at various lengths instructed by “the world’s top meditation and mindfulness experts, neuroscientists, psychologists, and teachers from Stanford, Harvard, the University of Oxford, and more,” according to the app description.
For a change of locale, stay in an Airbnb
I have always enjoyed staying in hotels. Before the pandemic, one of the things I liked best was to sleep in a hotel in some new city and then get up early while the birds were singing and call room service and get them to send up a big pot of coffee and then lie back on the jumbo-sized pillows and call my friends on the telephone while crunching on a buttery croissant. 2020 put all my travel plans on hold as flights got grounded and hotels shuttered. That’s when I discovered Airbnb rentals. With remote operations blurring the lines between traveling and working as well as the need for safety and cleanliness driving a preference for private, entire homes over soulless rooms in chain hotels, this trend is likely to continue in 2021. Give the ‘live anywhere’ alternative a try today!
Revel in the great outdoors
I’ve always been a gym rat, preferring Orange Theory workouts and Pilates sessions over hiking in natural surroundings. 2020 changed that. With beach vacations on hold, I discovered that hiking on the nearest trail made the perfect outing to enjoy whatever Mother Nature would throw at me (a sudden rainstorm, a fangs-drawn coyote in my tracks, a muddy, slippery uphill slide) and get moving while relieving stress. What’s helped me in this recent activity is an app called AllTrails. Wherever you might be, quickly find the perfect hike, bike ride, or trail run by length, rating, and difficulty level. Filter by dog or kid-friendly trails or find trails with awe-inspiring views. You may be stiff the next morning, but the glowing drowsy sense of well-being that creeps over you after a strenuous hike is one of the most beautiful sensations imaginable.
According to Fulton, “investing in yourself and in the present moment, with compassion and gratitude, will yield the best results for coping with an uncertain future.”
And, self-care is a New Year resolution we can all commit to!
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