The high degree of uncertainty that still hangs over us in relation to 2021, combined with the tough challenges that were thrown at us in 2020 is no doubt making many of us feel like our lives are totally out of our control. But that isn’t entirely true, there are certain things that we can control and should control to thrive in 2021.
2020 was packed to the hilt with disasters on a global scale. It is no wonder that early studies of mental health during the pandemic showed increasing levels of anxiety and depression among the general population. As we move into the beginning of a new year, we approach the time where we often begin to reflect on the past year’s events and how we will move forward. It is a time for us to wrench ourselves out of exhaustion and figure out how to deal with what’s next. So as we begin to confront the fear, the stress, and the sorrow of the last year, as well as the uncontrollable things that have unfolded around us, it is important for us to draw upon and focus on what we can control.
While the things we can control may seem in short supply at the moment, these few things have the power to fill and sustain our emotional and physical reserves. Managing the things that we can control helps us to continue to find joy, beauty, and a reason to keep going, despite what happens around us. So as we enter the new year, let us take stock of what is always within our grasp, and how that can help us thrive.
1. Your breath
Our breath – an absolute essential, and yet so often we leave it to the whims of what’s around us. We get agitated, stressed, nervous, and angry – and all the while we let the emotions of that moment tighten our chests, shorten our breaths, and exacerbate our stress response to the point where it can actually make us sick.
Getting our stress under control starts immediately with taking conscious control of our breath. Haul a deep breath in, all the way up your nose, into your throat, and down into your belly, and then slowly let it out. Do it again. Try making your exhales even longer than your inhales, and think about what you actually want to expel on that breath out. When you breathe in, think about if you’re doing it for relaxation, for calm, or to build strength and clarity for your next move. A conscious breath can do wonders for your stress levels.
2. What you eat
If you have been out there eating your feelings in 2020, you were definitely not alone. Food is a massive source of comfort for many people, and stress tends to make us crave carbs and sugars in epic proportions. Unfortunately, it’s these quick-fix foods that tend to have negative impacts on our overall health. Our bodies and brains run better when they are nourished with a diverse, balanced diet. Fresh, healthy foods are proven to have significant and lasting positive impacts on our physical and mental health. When you choose to incorporate more of these into your diet, you’ll be amazed at how different you will feel.
3. Awareness of the things you appreciate
It is so easy to be keenly aware of everything that we could do without, that sometimes we forget the benefits of being conscious of what we are grateful for. When you start to feel yourself rattling off a mental laundry list of everything that is going sideways, take a second to get grounded in the things you are thankful for. Connecting with the things we appreciate not only helps us remember the love and bonds we share with people, but helps us break out of a pattern of thinking where we tell ourselves nothing is going our way. It is a simple way to begin to reorient your outlook for the better and change what might otherwise be an increasingly negative self-narrative about your life.
4. How you sleep
We consistently cheat ourselves on this fundamental need, and then wonder why we feel so off. Though we can’t always completely control how well we sleep – as 2020 has proven over and over again for many of us – we can absolutely control our “sleep hygiene.”
Sleep hygiene means creating a sleep environment and daily routines that promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep. This includes things like building in time for winding down with stretching or reading, shutting off screens at least 30 minutes before lights out, avoiding afternoon caffeine and limiting alcohol intake. Prioritize sleep as an essential element of your physical and mental health, and you will reap the benefits.
5. The way you exercise
Physical exercise is on every possible health and wellness list because it works. It boosts your mood, makes your body function better, and builds both physical strength and mental tenacity. Physical exercise is very much connected to mental health not only due to the release of endorphins that makes us feel more positive and energetic, but also because of the break it gives our brains as we focus on the physical task at hand.
Mental exercises are just as important – challenging the mind keeps it sharp, agile and curious. Whether it is picking up a Sudoku puzzle, learning a new language, or reading a good book, occupying your brain with something that is stimulating helps combat anxiety and depression, and has lasting positive impacts on brain function.
6. Your posture
Our body language can both reflect and drive what we are feeling internally. For example, when we are frustrated we often unconsciously furrow our brow and tighten our jaw. But if we decide to smile instead, or even try to laugh, our brain releases endorphins that immediately start to relax us. In another good example, studies have found a possible link between “power poses,” like standing with your hands on your hips and legs apart, and feeling more confident. And if you’ve ever tried yoga, you have likely heard the benefits of your body’s posture on your breath, as well as your ability to relax. Being conscious of what our body is doing and making small adjustments to balance or relax it can make a massive difference in our mood.
7. Your involvement
Yes, the world seems completely off-kilter, and in many ways it is. You might be asking yourself, “What can I do about this?” This is an excellent question, and if you take it seriously you will not only end up getting rid of that pesky and exhausting feeling of ennui, but also make real change.
All social movements for positive change are rooted in collective efforts of like-minded individuals. They often start out with people deciding to make changes in their life to better reflect their values, and gain momentum when these same people begin sharing these ideas with others. Think about what matters to you, or what disturbs you about what is going on in the world, and decide to do something about it. Connect with what you believe in, educate yourself, and work towards a solution.
Consciously making changes in your own life that reflect what you want to see on a broader scale not only helps you fulfill your sense of purpose, it also adds one more heart and mind to the movement you are a part of.
Fully Embracing the New Year at The Dawn
Are you feeling like you need to start your year off with a new outlook? The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab in Thailand is a specially designed rehabilitation and wellness facility that has been created to foster an environment of personal growth and healing for people who want to change their lives and overcome addiction or mental health issues.
Licensed by the Thai Ministry of Health and staffed by an international team of compassionate professionals, The Dawn offers customised programmes that cater to each individual’s needs by using a comprehensive, holistic treatment method and modern techniques with proven results.
Last year was a tough year, but there are better days ahead. Call The Dawn today and learn more about how we can help you move forward.