The year started with cheers and well-meant intentions. For many, the most pressing concerns in our lives may have been the planning of vacations and cocktail parties. But along came more important issues than stemware or airline reservations, and those new issues stuck around and changed our lives.
Looking forward now, how do you bring a sense of calm and safety back into your life? The jury may still be out, but the tried and true methods may be the best methods. Let's take a look.
1. Got Mindfulness?
If you're not engaged in some type of daily mindfulness practice, now is a great time to start. Hop over onto your smartphone's app store and look at the options: Ten Percent Happier (also known as "Meditation for Skeptics"), Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer, Sattva, buddhify, and MyLife Meditation--and that's just the tip of the iceberg. The common misconception that prevents beginners from starting is that "I'd be no good at meditating. I can't concentrate." But you see, that's the point of meditation. No one is any good at it! It is the practice that brings you an overall sense of calm and presence.
2. Talk to a Professional
Never underestimate the power of talking to a therapist to help you regain a sense of control in your life. And what is therapy, you might ask? What we're talking about when we talk about therapy is usually psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. Psychology Today writes: "(Therapy) involves examining and gaining insight into life choices and difficulties faced by individuals, couples, or families." Talking to a therapist may help you put your life into perspective and cope with the massive global changes we've gone through over the past year.
3. Learn to Play an Instrument
A lot of us are really missing live music this year. The shows we have been able to go to just haven't been the same. Learning to play an instrument can help bring music back into your life in a way that does more than satiate a craving. The benefits of learning to play a musical instrument are said to include stress reduction, improved patience, increased musical appreciation, a more realized sense of creativity, a strengthened immune system, increased memory, decreased age-related hearing loss, and a supercharged brain. Don't worry if you're going to be any good at playing an instrument or not. No one is ready for Carnegie Hall when they start out--that's where practice comes in.
4. Set a Fitness Goal
The past year has been a little too passive for many of us. Gyms closed, organized sports stopped, the news was depressing, and restaurant takeout food stepped up its game. Oh, and to-go cocktails became a thing! When the world feels like it's falling around you, it's easier to be cozy and lazy than to go for a run or show up for your Zoom yoga class. One of the best ways out of a fitness funk is to set a goal for yourself and do everything in your power to stick to it. Apps can help you with fitness goals, whether it's a couch-to-5K jogging app or an app that helps you keep accountability with friends.
5. Get out into Nature
Finally, there's something to be said for what the Japanese call forest bathing. Taking a forest bath isn't a physical fitness exercise like hiking or trail running. Instead, forest-bathing is when you go outside to experience nature with all of your senses. The idea is that you leave your cell phone in the car and go for a stroll, letting your body be your guide. Take in nature through your senses of hearing, seeing, smelling, touching, and even tasting; the traditional wisdom is that the tasting part is for the freshness of the air as you breathe deeply. Connect with nature, and benefit from it.