by Lisa Maguire and Sasha Reddy
“Expect the unexpected”; I don’t know about you, but after the dumpster fire that has been 2020, that phrase just makes my blood boil. The coronavirus pandemic, the months of election anxiety, the most active storm season on record – if you feel like you’ve been repeatedly knocked on your butt the whole year through, you’re not alone. But hey, it’s 2021 now! The world has been reset, and all the heartache of 2020 will be magically compensated for! Calmer waters are ahead…right?
If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t expect the unexpected. The world is chock full of things we simply cannot control, and your best shot at getting through them is to learn to be resilient. You can build a strong foundation for mental and spiritual success in 2021 by setting goals that will have more inward results than outward. Here are just a few ideas for resolutions you can make heading into the new year for self-development and soul satisfaction.
Identify your best stress relief strategies and keep them handy
The first thing to do if you’re feeling stressed is to assess the cause(s). If nothing can be removed from your plate, the next best thing is stress management. There are tons of resources on the topic, but some of the best suggestions we know are things that are easily achieved, such as: exercise (of course!), talking to a friend, yoga, meditation, stretching, positive self-talk, hugs (from someone in your household!), taking a walk, breathing exercises, and focusing on positive things for a few moments.
Further, pay attention to the daily habits you do already. If you find having a cup of tea in the evening relaxing, make that your go-to, and be sure to always have some on stock. If it’s going for a walk, plan a quick route that’s easy to take even when you’re strapped for time. If you find a “quick pump” from exercise therapeutic, take a moment and do a few push-ups or sit-ups to release some endorphins. If doodling helps your mind let go of anxiety and forces you into the present, keep a pocket journal and a pencil in your purse or glove box. The important thing is to identify the unique thing that helps you get through a moment of stress and resolve to keeping that option close-by, especially when you know you’ll be facing stressful situations.
Start a journal, or start journaling consistently
This can be a gratitude journal, a mood journal, or just a place to put your thoughts to paper. Solidifying the things that you think and encounter by writing them down can really help you quell stress. Keeping a record of your fluctuations in mood and what causes them can help you identify the things in life that make you happy and the things in life that don’t. This can help prompt meaningful changes, small and large, that lead to a happier and healthier you.
Alternatively, creative writing can be a fun way to let off some steam or express yourself. Maybe you start a dream journal as a writing prompt. When you wake up in the morning, write down the details you can remember from your dreams the night before, and then later in the day or week, put together a story from your subconscious activities. There are also several writers’ resources that offer writing prompts to help you get creative with short stories.
Be more charitable
Maybe it’s as simple as leaving a tip when you can, even when you’re just picking up food, especially with the current world situation. Maybe you choose an organization that supports a cause that you care deeply about and find ways to either donate or help raise funds. If you have the means, supporting people and organizations financially can be very rewarding emotionally for you, and beneficial to your community.
That being said, charity doesn’t have to refer to money! You can be charitable with your time, skills, or goods as well. If you’re a pet person, maybe you volunteer to interact with the animals at a nearby shelter, or if you’ve got a large social network, maybe you can help organize a food or a coat drive for the homeless or less fortunate. If you’re crafty, maybe you can help an organization by creating items that can be auctioned off to raise money. No matter how you’re able to help, most organizations welcome the assistance with open arms!
Charity doesn’t always have to be in association with organizations or people in need. Often overlooked is charity in your interactions with others. If you have a bad interaction with someone, don’t assume bad intentions. Committing to giving others the benefit of the doubt can improve your optimism. More often than not, a bad interaction can be a result of things that have nothing to do with you, or maybe they didn’t even realize how they came off! Giving people a second chance to clarify a stance or recognize their actions helps you build relationships and rapport and pays the gesture forward. Recipients of charitable experiences like these are more inclined to be nicer to others as well.
Let your artistic side run loose
We mentioned creative writing and doodling for stress relief, but how about just for fun? You could start with an art form you already love or try something completely new! Painting, sculpting, knitting, crafting – you don’t have to be good out of the gate to get enjoyment out of creating things, and the more you practice, the better you’ll get!
A great way to get inventive and find a starting point is to pull up Pinterest and start searching. Try “types of art” or “learn to” and let their autofill help you get started. (Fellas –we know Pinterest has a reputation for being “girly”, but let your masculinity not keep you from the macho side of art – there’s plenty of wood crafting and power tools on Pinterest to entertain even the largest of lumberjacks!)
Pay compliments to those around you (and to yourself!)
Building on the pay-it-forward premise, it’s a great idea to speak up when you have something nice to say about others. Have a teammate that went above and beyond? Let them know! Did a stranger do something nice for you? Say thanks! Giving recognition can increase your positive outlook on life, and it helps them increase their positivity as well. Everyone has the desire to be acknowledged, and spreading positivity is likely to garner it in return.
Don’t wait for others to be kind to you though – it’s really important to be kind to yourself! If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about your own actions or body, take a moment to really think about how you’re treating yourself. Reframe the situation – pretend someone else has just shared the same negative thought about themselves with you. Would you talk to a co-worker the same way as you thought about yourself? Your best friend? Your child or spouse? Positive self-talk has the power to improve self-esteem, performance, and stress levels, as well as manifest in several physical benefits.
Before you roll your eyes or skip to the next, hear us out. Meditating doesn’t always look like sitting on the ground, legs crossed, chanting “ohm” repeatedly and having some transient experience. It’s hailed by plenty of successful people as a critical component to their successes. There are plenty of ways to get started, including online resources and workshops, as well as smartphone apps. Even just taking ten minutes a day to consciously focus on yourself, how your body and mind feel can be extremely constructive.
It may be difficult to find in-person community at this time, but maybe you’re in need of something spiritual. Reach out to local organizations that share your beliefs and see what types of services they are offering. If you’re spiritually solid, but in need of more social interaction, try reaching out to old friends and starting a virtual book club (or other hobby!) and check in once a month via zoom (or in person once it’s safe to do so). Clubs and classes are another great way to find your “community.” Running clubs, art clubs, walking clubs, martial arts classes, dance classes – all of these niche groups are great ways to expand your network and become a part of something. Oftentimes, local organizations are looking for support, and your HOA or community associations may need additional members and skillsets as well.
You could also combine a few of these soul-nourishing resolutions by starting a pen pal relationship. Maybe you can befriend a deployed service member or a senior in assisted living and give them something to look forward to each week.
No matter what you decide, when it comes to community, you’re sure to feel some fulfillment from your efforts.