10 Ways to Help Us All Start the New Year Right

A few years ago, I published an article on 10 Ways to Help You Start the New Year Right. While it still provides great general ideas to start fresh in the New Year, 2020 was such a different year for all of us that 2021 poses some unique challenges of its own. So this list is for all of us who have survived 2020, in whatever form that looks like, and will be crawling, falling, rolling, or dragging ourselves into 2021 and beyond, forever changed.

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10 Ways to Help Us All Start the New Year Right


1. Ditch the Resolutions

Normally, I am a big fan of setting goals at the beginning of the year. I start a new journal for each year and at the end of December start thinking about possible short-term and long-term goals that I would like to work towards. Journaling in general is a great way to organize your thoughts, ideas, goals, plans, and inspirations, and also be able to look back and reflect on how far you've come. I don't use anything fancy, though there are certainly some great structured journal options available. I prefer to set mine up myself and have a more free-flowing style, {like this}, using a simple college-ruled composition notebook. Since life has been such an adjustment for all of us, and because we are still in the midst of a pandemic, it may be more prudent to relax on the goal setting for the time being. Or at the very least, focus on small, short-term goals, that can be adjusted as needed. It is perfectly fine to have long term goals kept in the back of our minds, but the key is to be flexible in this season, adaptable, and able to flex if we find ourselves in quickly changing situations again. Setting rigid resolutions in a season of uncertainty will most likely result in failure leading to feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and possible depression. Focusing on survival, flexibility, adaptability, and keeping our focus short-term will better preserve our emotional state and keep us in good mental health.


2. Find Your Tribe

As I wrote in a previous post, finding a group of people we can lean on is crucial, not just for times of crisis and world-wide pandemics, but for all seasons of life. Having that community of likeminded individuals that we can discuss struggles with, ask for support, and just enjoy each others company is so important in not just surviving in life, but thriving. Not sure where to start? While it may be a little more difficult to find a group in person right now, there are still plenty of groups meeting virtually.


Many churches have small groups meeting online, I recommend checking their websites, or reaching out via social media. There are social media groups for just about every topic and interest you can think of, easily found doing a search. Facebook and MeWe are especially group-friendly, and range from very specific niche groups to casual interest groups to serious support groups.


Discord is another platform that is a great way to connect with people, and though it was originally intended for the online video gaming community, has evolved to include a wide variety of interest groups that they call servers. There are a few advertising sites on Google that make it easy to find a server to connect with, and Discord offers the ability to easily host various activities together, like book discussions, online games, and Bible studies, via chat, video, or a combination of both.


Platforms like Meetup, Meetin, and Citysocializer are options for those who prefer in-person connections. And apps like Nextdoor and Neighbors allow you to connect with your neighbors and surrounding community. For those looking for a support group, area therapists and clinics often host group therapy sessions. And groups like AA, OA, GA, and Celebrate Recovery, have regular meetings in just about every US city.


Additionally, gyms, spas, and wellness centers are a good way to connect with likeminded individuals through group classes like yoga, step, tai-chi, and Zumba. Lastly, community centers like town halls and libraries often have e-newsletters or brochures available with community classes, trips, events, and other networking opportunities for low to no cost.

3. Acknowledge Our Emotions

For some fortunate individuals, 2020 has been a year of status quo. For others, absolute devastation. And the rest, somewhere in between. It is important to recognize this spectrum, and understand that each person we encounter may be at a very different place that we ourselves are. Those of us that were negatively impacted by the changes that happened in 2020 need to take a moment and acknowledge our feelings and emotions. Hold a space and a time to explore them, let them out, share them with your support group, and just sit in the uncomfortableness for a time. Journaling, or other creative outlets like drawing or painting offer another way to get these negative emotions out and help us heal and move forward. The losses that this year has brought to many of us are numerous, and not just in obvious ways like the loss of loved ones or loss of a job. Smaller ways that we may not even realize, like loss of connection with people, loss of control, of balance, security, freedom, safety. There has been a tremendous upheaval of our very way of life, worldwide, and this uncertainty brings fear, doubt, and distrust. We need to take time to grieve these losses. And like any grieving process, there will be waves of emotion; days that are better than others, especially in that we are still in the midst of changes.


4. Acknowledge Others' Emotions

When we take time to acknowledge our own emotions, it should naturally bring our awareness to others' similar struggles. And while many may not be fully aware of how these emotions are impacting them, it is important to acknowledge that others' are also struggling, and give them a space to be with these emotions - driven by their comfort level. I am a fixer by nature. I don't like to see people struggling, or hurting. My instinct is to make it better for them. But this is not the time for fixing. This is a time for listening. For showing someone that I see you. I see the struggle you are in. I'm walking beside you, and granting you space to safety be in your hurt and loss. We can only safely do this when we ourselves have taken the time to accept our own emotions and have a solid support network, otherwise our instincts kick in an we either make it about us (well, let me tell you what I'm feeling), cast judgment (there are people with way worse problems than you), or try to fix them (here's what I think you should do). And for those of us with a strongly empathetic nature, it is too easy to take on others' emotions when you yourself are not in a good headspace, resulting in a heaviness that will make you want to avoid people at all costs. 5. Extend Grace Upon Grace Upon Grace My Bible verse for 2021 is "Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love." from Ephesians 4:2. I love this verse because it is speaking of the concept of grace...getting what we don't deserve. In this case, patience and forgiveness. If each of us could change how we react towards just a single angry, rude, entitled, or obnoxious person each day, the change in just a few short days would be very noticeable. Have you ever been completely irate, ready to fight, and had someone offer you sympathy instead of a harsh word? How quickly does it diffuse our anger? And the change can start right at home with how we treat our family members. Or at school with our classmates, or at work with our coworkers. What if, instead of criticizing another person behind their back, we speak words of appreciation about them? It can be very challenging to say something nice about someone when we are frustrated or angry, or if we are feeling unloved, unwelcome, unappreciated, and don't have our own emotional needs being met. But we humans were make with this cool feature wherein speaking life over others, actually fills us up too. I know it sounds crazy, but there have been plenty of studies showing the effectiveness of this concept.

6. Be Kind

Have you ever been in line to get coffee and when you pull up to pay, the cashier tells you that the person that was ahead of you paid for you? It immediately softens your heart, no matter how rough of a morning you've been having. Random acts of kindness go a long way in making life just a little more bearable. And these don't have to be random acts that cost money. Complimenting a stranger on something you appreciate about them also works wonderfully to brighten both of your days.

7. Be Selfish and Selective

This sound counteractive to what I have been talking about but hear me out. Try as we might, there are people who just refuse to get out of their negative mental state and try very hard to spread it. And sometimes, for our own sanity and peace, we need to minimize our interactions with those individuals as best as possible. I recognize that sometimes those very people are family members that we live with, and it may be impossible to avoid them, in which case, bear through the interactions as best as possible, and don't take the bait. Consider it a personal challenge to kill the negativity in them with kindness. Even if you don't see an immediate effect, trust me, little by little, it will chip away at their hard exterior and soften their heart. As for others, if it would be awkward to completely unfriend them on social media, unfollowing is a brilliant option. Update your settings so that your feed is filled with uplifting people and pages. Ignore the rest. And in real life, be selective about what events you say yes to. Many years ago I realized that I don't owe anyone an explanation as to why I can't attend a particular event. My "no, thank you" should be, and is, good enough. It is a very freeing feeling to say no without guilt or trying to come up with an excuse that isn't a total lie because you don't want to hurt someone's feelings.


8. Mental/Emotional Self-Care

What is you absolutely favorite way to rest and recharge? Do you ever get to? One thing that 2020 has taught us is the importance of mental and emotional self-care. It is absolutely critical for our health and wellness to make time to recharge. Even if its taking 5 minutes to just breathe mindfully while sitting in your car before you go in the house, do it. If that means making this season about living more minimally, in terms of what obligations we sign on for, then do it! It's ok not to go go go all the time. In fact, that lifestyle is a recipe for total burnout. Set aside the big projects, the events, and the activities for a bit and use that time to regain your sanity.


9. You Are What You Eat

It's pretty common knowledge of the importance of diet, but I would be remiss if I didn't include it in this list. Especially with the emergence of research on the connection between gut health and mental health. We already knew that diet plays a key role in preventing other diseases of the body, but there is a very strong neural connection between our digestive system and the brain. What we eat and the status of the good bacteria that colonize our digestive tract, directly impact our mental state. Anxiety, depression, OCD, and other disorders of the brain are heavily influenced by what we eat. Invest in your mental health and choose real, unprocessed foods. Shop the exterior aisles of the grocery store. Hit up the farmers markets, and roadside farm stands. You don't need to be a gourmet chef, make simple meals with plenty of veggies, protein, good fats, and whole grain carbs. Keep the indulgences to a minimum and pay attention to how you feel after you eat junk vs. quality fuel. Take baby steps if you are used to eating lots of fast food or processed foods. Swap out one thing at a time for a healthy replacement. And if you think you may actually have an eating disorder, find a support group to connect with (from step 1) and get the help that you need.


10. Move Your Body

I don't know about you, but with all the negativity, stress, fear, and anxiety that 2020 brought, there were days that I just wanted to crawl under the covers in my bed and hide from the world forever. It would certainly be easier to hide out and not move, but the fact of the matter is, just like eating healthy, exercise has been show to have a dramatic effect on mental state. And it doesn't take much, nor does it require any fancy equipment. Do you have a favorite activity that will get you up and moving? For me, it's dancing. We have a lot of impromptu dance parties in our house, where no one is watching us let loose and get silly. I can stay in and be warm, wear whatever I have on, and move in what ever abstract way I feel inclined. A few times a week, and you will notice a marked difference in your mood and in how your body feels. And that's it! The steps in this list are in a deliberate order - each building on the one before, to help us cope through this season both as individuals and as part of society. When we take the time to work through them, we can, despite how dreadful things may still be in the world, learn to cope, survive, and eventually thrive in this new season. People are very resilient, but we still need to depend on each other, lift each other up, and work together, now more than ever. If we do so, we can overcome, rebuild, learn, and grow.



Bonus Ideas To Get Us Through This Season:


Ask For Help If you are struggling, seek help. Reach out to a friend, a coworker, a hotline. You are not alone, and many others have gone through what you are and made it out the other side.


Make a Plan Sometimes just having a plan is enough to spike some optimism and increase positive feelings. Start a journal or a list and make a plan to make the best of your situation and this season.

Try

Make an effort - no matter how exhausting. Brush your teeth daily, change your underwear, put on makeup, put your contacts in, shave, get dressed, etc. Even if you aren't going to go out for the day, get ready like you are. It puts you in a different state of mind, and your productivity will increase, as will your positive outlook on life.




Here's to not only surviving this season, but thriving.


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