Cary, NC — The way I see it, the last thing anyone needs from me is any sort of recap of 2021. We’re all aware of the headlines that came and went and the ups and downs that the last 365 days brought.
What I do find useful though, is sharing a few things I learned more about and found useful this year that I will certainly take into the next — setting intentions, digging deeper into the self-care business, and actively practicing gratitude.
Setting Intentions, Not Resolutions
In a year of rampant disagreements, I hope it is universally agreeable that it is hard to move toward something if you don’t know where you are headed. Fair enough?
I remember many days this year where I feel like my wheels were spinning all day and yet I felt like I had gotten nowhere. To break up this pattern, (and I truly don’t remember where I picked this up… maybe one of the dozens of podcast episodes I absorbed this year) I started to ask a new question that helped me to feel like I had achieved multiple purposes in a day.
It started with an absolutely hectic morning and my wife and I were at a breakfast cafe. She had car troubles first thing that morning, both of us had a full day of work ahead of us and I could tell we were not in a good space. We were quiet, on our phones off and on and I eventually set down my phone after we had ordered and said, “What do you want to get out of this time here?”
At first, she looked stunned and probably thought of saying, “uh.. breakfast?” But she asked what I meant.
I explained that it had already been a bad day, but we get this hour or so together before the rest of our workdays go on. So, during this time, what do you want to get out of it?
Now this has become a more common question for us and we typically each say a thing or two like, “to recharge and catch up with you” or “to have this be the turnaround moment of my day.”
In an instant, we go from rushed, stressed and disconnected to present and purposeful. All it took was answering the simple question — what do you want to get out of this particular time, event, exchange, etc?
In a word, this concept is simple, but it’s not always easy. We’re creatures that by habit or design, tend to rush through our days and forget to consider the people closest to us, myself included. It’s simple to answer the question, but it’s not always easy to remember to ask it. It’s not easy to stop in our tracks, even when we know it’s a break we would certainly benefit from.
So, I encourage you to take the break, even if just to yourself, to ask what you would like to get out of this day or moment. Is it to find some enjoyment in what you’re doing next? To seek out more connection with family or a spouse? Or is it to just have a moment to yourself just ahead of what may be a busy, high-energy or even painful few days in the absence of someone special to you? If it’s the latter, you may want to consider taking that moment to yourself by doing an activity that improves your wellbeing, aka self-care.
Digging Deeper into Self-Care
The concept that I had of self-care growing up and into the beginnings of adulthood was that it means to just take a break, do something nice for yourself like a soothing bath, then move on. While that could certainly count as one act of self-care, the concept goes far beyond the confines of a bubble bath.
For reasons I won’t tap into in this particular journal, I have been visiting a therapist for about a year. One of the many aspects of this time that’s had a profound impact on me is the shift in thought I have experienced around self-care. Turns out, there are actually five categories that self-care can be broken up into — Physical, Psychological/Emotional, Social, Spiritual and Professional.
I was tasked in one session to take what’s called a self-care assessment that I highly encourage all to take a look into online. It’s a free resource that breaks each category into acts of that type of self-care and it helps you to see what areas you are already practicing care for yourself in and what areas you might need to pay more attention to.
By taking this, it was like taking an inventory of how full of a life I was living. When I began creating time for things on the list I wish I did more often, it’s hard to describe the shift I could feel in my day-to-day sense of fulfillment and genuine happiness.
I think about it through the lens of myself as a bucket trying to hold water but there are a few holes on the bottom that continually try to empty my bucket. To me, self-care is the faucet that helps me refill and over time, in continuing these actions, those holes in the bottom keep on shrinking.
You’ve likely heard the phrase, “You can’t love someone until you love yourself.” Now, that is admittedly cheesy, but I find there’s truth to it. If I feel like a shell of a human being, what could I possibly offer to anyone else or any aspect of my life that I’m responsible for? Not a whole lot. In 2022, I think we could all benefit from a deeper dive into our own self-care practices.
Being Actively Grateful
The concept I got heavily reminded of in recent months is gratitude. Unfortunately, what reminded me of its importance is the severe lack of it I have observed. It’s a pet peeve of mine that came roaring to the surface this year when I hear complaints.
Don’t get me wrong, I complain quite a bit too—but I believe there is a particular sort that seems to almost enjoy taking it too far when it comes to comments that are whiny, condescending in tone and are colored in a holier-than-thou attitude.
If I had the powers to eliminate two things from the world, it would be COVID and perpetually sour attitudes.
The best way I can think of to combat this sort of negativity that seems to be more and more normalized is to take an active role in creating moments to the contrary. When someone says something hurtful or rude, don’t be afraid to point out the good going on. It’s not naive to show some optimism. But, above all, I think the most powerful tool in changing a narrative of negativity is showing active gratitude.
Say thank you to people. No really — pick up your phone or start up an email to thank a person who improved your life in some way this year. It’s highly likely they haven’t heard one in a while. You never know, you might get a thank you back and start up a chain of positive interactions. What’s the worst that could happen here? The point is, don’t be passive. Be active in your desire to experience and share what you are grateful for.
Reflect and find the things in life you are lucky to enjoy. If you are not ill, if you live in a permanent residence, if you have a job, if you have no issue accessing food and water, if you have a savings account, if you have a spouse, if you have a child, if you have a good relationship with your family, please take a moment to realize it and find joy in it. Be grateful! Many, many people around this planet don’t enjoy even half of this list.
Everyone’s story and life are different. We all have trials, we all falter, we all are in a different place at this moment. My sincerest hope for 2022 is that we, as a community, will take time to be more intentional, to take a little better care of ourselves and seize opportunities to actively be grateful.
Story by Ashley Kairis.
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