Do you ever feel guilty because you are not feeling down the dumps and full of anger and disdain like everyone else ??
Let me explain, in a world where everyone is giving out about 2020, for me it was a good year.
Now 2021, may be more challenging as to me it feels already as long as the whole of last year.
As luckily the new lunar year just started I am declaring that I get a rewind and restart and it fits with my decision to skip last year in my age count as I feel I am truly due a refund.
I admit that I am lucky, because 2020, for me, was not as horrendous as it felt for so many people.
My immediate family stayed safe through Covid-19 so far and we only suffered few losses in our extended family and circle of acquaintances. Given that I am Italian, and everyone my parents included lives there, it is as good as it gets.
A few younger friends that ended up in ICU thankfully recovered and that is another blessing.
I still found many moments of happiness despite really missing 3D life, the hugs , the 2700 kisses when meeting friends, the spontaneity of last minute plans, the impromptu trips, spending time with my best friends , my favourite restaurants, airports, my hairdresser whenever I needed her.
In the midst of the madness I started a new business with a friend( I know .. I know not the best year to do that).
I went back to college and got a diploma in coaching with neuroscience and one in strategic change management.
I managed to spent time with friends even if it was via zoom or FaceTime.
I did not have to worry about food or a roof over my head, I enjoyed my own company, I read, I wrote, I dusted off my tribal drums and played in my office.
I even managed to spend a week off the grid in a wooden cabin in the west of ireland without water and electricity and SURVIVE right before COVID hit Ireland!
I did what the whole world did:
walked with my dog
shouted hellos in the direction of any stranger I meet on the way
made bread weekly successfuly
failed at making KEFIR
cooked a lot
occasionally shared what I cooked with my neighbours ( we became great at the "let-me-pass-it-over-the-fence-so-we-won't-breath-near-each-other" game)
sometimes I sat in my pjs all day
taught my parents and aunt to zoom
celebrated birthdays and holidays despite everything
I am grateful because beyond surviving I thrived.
On my pre Covid boot camp, as I will always call my retreat in the west till I die, I really learned how to meditate, listen more to my body and my feelings.
No,I did not become an accomplished yogi nor I have forsaken meat, dairy and gluten but I found a new way to connect with myself in silence. I remembered that technology, tv, incessant inputs from others are a distraction from ourselves. I discovered I love chanting. Really Really love it, because focusing on those few words you are repeating is a great way to silence everything else that is jousting in your brain.
I learned to write again, not to be read. I learned to write for the sake of emptying out everything I was feeling and thinking on a piece of paper. It is a great way to let it go.
I started to acquaint my self with the simple fact that we think what we feed our brain. I have been getting better at reading books that leave me with something to ponder about or incorporate in life( although sometimes a good trash novel is what the doctor orders), staying away from the "feed-fear-to-masses" news cycles, taking pauses from negative people on social media, watching less trash tv and now less tv overall.
Getting involved in on-line learning gave me the chance to make new connections and reacquainted me with the wonderful thing that is curiosity.
But the biggest gift has been realising that I am not what I think, thoughts are transient as much as feelings are temporary. Giving my self the permission to observe my thoughts or acknowledge my feelings has given me the freedom to let them go and not feel compelled to hold on obsessively to them.
So if you are finding yourself wanting to change the energy of this year , let me share 5 things that you could incorporate in your daily routine that have benefitted me over the last year:
Include 10 minutes of mindfulness in your day. Download a free mindfulness app or sit in silence and focus on your breath going in and out or take up chanting . Don't get discouraged by your brain's sudden urge to compile the shopping list, use your breath as an anchor and stay with it. I promise it will get easier and you will want to do more.
Give your self the space to acknowledge how you feel, that will allow you to let go. When we keep going back to the same thoughts or feelings they start to gain volume and take over all the space. Start a journal, blog , record yourself voice messages , draw, paint, but really anything that works for you to express your feelings is good.
Embrace curiosity, learning something new helps you build you new path ways in your brain, which makes easier getting into new habits too and let go of old ones.
Pick up the phone, grab a cup of tea/coffe/water/green tea and call a friend you trust. Choose someone who you know is a reliable listener, who will let you have your moment and hold the space for you. Having a great support system is so important.
End every day recognising what you can be grateful for that day.
Don't worry if it is small or trivial, like any other muscles gratitude is a practice that you build on. I know people that fill a jar with little notes of what they are grateful for , others keep a list on their diary or simply make sure that gratitude is their last thought of the day. Personally I keep a tiny copy book and I find 3 to 5 things every day to write.
The wonderful news is that all of these things will contribute to lower your cortisol levels and increase your oxytocin and serotonin hormonal levels.
When oxytocin levels are high you experience less anxiety and feel more confident and connected to others. Physically we often experience it as warm and relaxing.
These are some of my go to tool but in reality there are so many things you can build in your routine to change your experience of life, anything from movement and time in nature that are a must anyway, to cold exposure (sea swimming / ice baths / cold showers) . Explore what works for you and what spikes your curiosity, give it a bit of time to work because there is no such thing as a magic wand unfortunately and have fun with it.