Thank goodness 2020 is over! The past twelve months have been like no other. After all we have been through, there is a real need to take a compassionate look at self-development and mental health in 2021. With the new year comes the temptation to seek change through self-criticism, unrealistic expectations, or comparison to others. My hope for you is to shift from these unhelpful ways of thinking to more vibrant, healthy, goal-seeking, and habit-breaking new thoughts. This year, when thinking of self-improvement, find things that work for you, regardless of what others are doing. I encourage you to ask for support or accountability if needed. Let’s look at some theme categories:
1. Accept who you are. Resist the urge to strive for an entirely new you in 2021. “Cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’” (Brene Brown). You will be rewarded if you take time to approach personal growth, habit change, and goals with kinder self-talk and positive affirmations. Maybe now is the time to evaluate the relationship you have with yourself. Your self-relationship is crucial to your overall wellbeing and to creating healthy relationships with others. Ways to improve your relationship with yourself include: Invest in yourself by spending 15-30 minutes a day doing something you enjoy. Write down positive things about yourself to use when your inner critic is shouting at you. Act as if you were your own best friend and be kind when you feel you have failed. Do something to wind down and relax at the end of each day. Take a few minutes each day to appreciate any small wins you achieve.
2. Nourish your body. Physical activity can have a positive impact on your mood. It can relieve stress and increase self-esteem. It can reduce anxiety and depression. Resist the urge to join the latest fitness gym or diet plan. A better idea would be to take a deep breath, pause, and choose to work out in ways that work best for you. You can get others involved in your goals. Social support can be a great motivator, and sharing your experiences, goals, and achievements can help keep focus and maintain enthusiasm. Before diving into a new fitness program, ask yourself what you want to get out of being active. Would you prefer to be indoors or outdoors, engage in individual or group activities, and/or integrate movement into your daily life (walking, gardening, housework, etc.)? Physical activity is available to all, has few costs attached, and can be tailored to your needs.
3. Intentional actions. After the holiday break, checking back in to reality can feel hectic or cause you to launch back in to autopilot. For 2021, try bringing intention into your actions by being present in the moment. This helps you to counter the urgency to sprint when January arrives. If you can pay attention to the now, you can become more aware of your thoughts and feelings so that, instead of being overwhelmed by them, you are better able to manage them. Take a minute each day to bring intent into your being. Try doing some breathing exercises or a body scan check-in, head to toe. Mindful walking brings awareness to the sensation of walking…how you feel when your feet touch the ground, how the muscles feel in your legs as you move, etc. Mindful listening brings awareness by tuning into your environment, listening to the sounds around you.
4. Me time. “Woke up this morning with my mind set on loving me,” Jamila Woods. Sometimes life can become overwhelming, especially when you’ve got expectations of the exciting opportunities that come with having a whole new year ahead of you. When you feel your balance isn’t quite right, pause to be your own best friend. Ask yourself what small changes you can make to your lifestyle and what ways you can treat yourself with more kindness. Suggestions include: watching funny movies, going hiking, setting aside some prayer or meditation time each day, painting or drawing, “unplugging” from your devices, and spending time with positive people.
Now it’s back over to you. What is your theme for 2021?
By: Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor