One predictor will be how you answer that question.
January 9, 2021
Climate change will still be haunting us. Covid-19 isn’t going away any time soon. And the last guy in the oval office will be tweeting once again until he’s been arrested for any one of numerous charges. And even then, I bet he’ll figure out how to continue tweeting.
The quality of our 2021 will, in actuality, be a reflection of our attitudes and perspectives.
We are self-reflective creatures. We see through a lens that we’ve developed through a combination of our particular neurology coupled with years of conditioning by our psychosocial environment and personal experiences. None of us will see the same thing when we’re looking at an object because our glasses are tinted. Each shade will offer a slightly different world view.
We can meet 2021 ready to fight anyone or anything that doesn’t see what we’re seeing, or we can put our attention where it will get us the most satisfaction, maybe even joy, despite what new insanity rears its head in 2021.
We can clean up our act by turning the pointing fingers back at ourselves, but without contempt or blame or shame. We take a look at ourselves with a determination to weed our own garden before we go back to telling everyone else how they should live or what they should plant.
Here are some ideas to get you thinking about caring for yourself in healthy, productive, growth-producing ways as you move into 2021.
In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron gives us a tool called The Morning Pages. Morning Pages have helped many of my clients clear out the sludge that has distorted their vision. They end up with greater clarity and a sense of purpose they had all but forgotten.
It’s pretty simple — first thing each morning, hand-write every thought that pops into your head until you get three pages. It doesn’t matter how inane the thoughts are. Don’t worry about grammar, or whether or not someone will read your pages, or if they make sense.
You’ll probably start on page one with something like this. “This is an idiotic exercise. I don’t know what to say. The refrigerator is making so much noise. Is it breaking down? I can’t afford to fix it, or god forbid, buy a new one. I haven’t liked my hair lately. Why did my sister say she was thinking about me. Is something wrong? I hate my job. Well, I don’t exactly hate my job, just my boss. I don’t think I could get hired anywhere else. Why didn’t I get a degree? What a moron.”
But here’s the thing. By page three, you’ve gotten most of the crap that has been making you feel horrible out of your head and onto paper. And maybe you’ll have arrived at the realization that you hate your boss because he or she hasn’t read your mind about the fact that you feel like you’re drowning and need some help. Or maybe not, but you’ll see something that you hadn’t seen before.
Brain-dumping is uplifting. By shoveling out the sludge, you create a space for the things that are keeping you stuck to show their hairy faces. You won’t get the key to never-ending-bliss every time. What you will get is greater clarity, less fear, and more confidence than you had before.
A F.E.W. BASICS
The basics are Fuel, Exercise, and Water.
Try not to over-complicate the simple stuff.
Food is fuel. Eat clean.
We don’t all have access to expensive, organic food. But most of us can pull together a basic breakfast, lunch, and dinner that doesn’t involve white flour, white rice, or white sugar. Go for brown bread, brown rice, colorful vegetables, and natural sweeteners like honey and fruits.
Follow the 80/20 rule. Unless you’re on a restricted diet, 80% unprocessed and 20% questionable will probably keep you in good shape.
Want to reduce both depressive and anxiety symptoms?
Briskly move anywhere from fifteen to thirty minutes every day. It will also give your heart and lungs and every system in your body much-needed attention, without killing yourself.
A vigorous fifteen-minute walk, even if it’s only traveling the rim of your basement, going up and down the stairs, or back and forth the length of your hallway, will not only keep you alive a little longer, but you’ll be happier.
Here’s an article from The Harvard Health Letter that reinforces the benefits of at least fifteen minutes of brisk exercise a day. For some people who aren’t dealing with profound clinical depression, fifteen minutes a day can outdo Prozac.
Drink half your body weight in water every day. You’ve heard it a million times. Try it — you’ll have more energy from day one.
Here’s an article outlining why and how much to drink based on your body weight, climate, and exercise habits.
Uplifting Media, Music, and Mensching.
You’ll know you’re on the right track with media when you turn it off, sign off, or move on to something else, your mood is brighter, and you feel more confident and ready to contribute to the world in a helpful, meaningful way. You won’t be drowning in raw terror because you’ve surrounded yourself with either the worst of humanity or Facebook characters who make your life look like a dull, lifeless, brown rag when you start comparing your life to theirs.
Music can be a panacea for almost anything that ails you. And it’s a great exercise motivator. One of my favorite songs to fast walk with is The Fight Song by Rachel Platten. When I was still fast-walking on a track at a park district gym, that song kept me passing everybody.
And corny as it sounds, Gonna Fly Now, the theme song from Rocky 1, still gets me ready to conquer my world.
A mensch is a person of integrity and honor. Mensching is like volunteering. We get ourselves out of the way and do something for somebody else.
And mensching doesn’t have to be a never-ending commitment to one thing. Checking in on a neighbor, picking up a piece of paper on the sidewalk, and even waiting an extra moment to hold the door open for someone, especially when you’re in a hurry, is volunteering your time, energy, and attention to someone or something outside of yourself. Even the smallest act can be uplifting.
But whether life hands us more unexpected challenges or not, the quality of our next year will be determined by how intentional we are in keeping our attention on ourselves.
We can make the world a better place — we can help, and we can serve.
One of my clients has been doing morning pages, and she ends her writing each day with the mantra, “May I be helpful today.”
Simple. She nailed who I want to be. Someone who finds her way through the rubble of an unpredictable and at times sadly chaotic world, and can in some way, be helpful.