Something occurred to me as I sat down to write what is to be my final column for 2021.
By sheer coincidence, after an impromptu holiday decision, I’m writing this from the exact location I happened to pen the very first instalment for the year.
I’m coming to you live from Moree hot springs, folks. And it’s feeling spectacularly indulgent after the year we’ve just endured.
Funnily enough, my intention was to loosely circle back to that first topic as well. It had been a piece on the importance of feeling good, as a worthwhile health practice in its own right.
I’d wanted to remind myself (and naturally, you’re coming along for the ride) not to overlook the seemingly inconsequential stuff that has the potential to impact our wellbeing.
Afterall, we know the big ones. Sleep, diet, exercise and so forth.
If we nail those – we’re most of the way there, from a health perspective.
But when life is busy (hello, Christmas holidays!) or we’ve had setbacks and have fallen off the wagon, there’s even lower hanging fruit – the benefits of which tend to be underestimated.
What lights you up?
I’ve spoken to countless people who’ve agreed that in the absence of many of the quintessential activities that usually enrich our lives, whether it’s travel, gatherings with friends and family or perhaps access to our regular hobbies, this year has revealed perfectly just how crucial they are for mental health and overall wellbeing.
Perhaps more than ever before, we’ve been able to glimpse the very essence of what truly makes us feel good.
And whilst it was a rocky year for many, I noticed that those who forged an alternative path there – finding moments of fun in unexpected places, taking up new hobbies or even simply changing their mindset to help them move past the year’s challenges – thrived, despite the upheaval.
In times of despair and adversity, there is invariably a return to things that light up the human spirit and foster connection, community and camaraderie.
What have so many of us craved this year?
- The arts.
- Live performance.
- Communal dining.
This stuff is vital for our health, folks.
Even something as simple as sharing a relaxed meal with friends and family releases the feel-good hormone, oxytocin.
Don’t lose touch with what really lights you up.
Carpe diem – it’s all we really have
Another reality that we’ve been firmly reminded of over the past two years is that we can only truly live in the present moment.
The restrictions and inability to plan have allowed the illusion that we could ever really control our lives (at least to the extent that we thought we could) to well and truly dissolve.
I see this as a blessing.
As someone who has indulged in obsessive planning, dreaming and goal-setting as a convenient means to escape the relatively uninspiring present, it was refreshing to be somewhat forced to set that aside and channel my energy into making the most of each day.
As all the enlightened teachers keep assuring us, this where the rubber hits the road.
Life can be quite magic when we live, fully conscious and embodied in the present moment.
Follow your bliss
The sentiment of my first column this year was that when it comes to health, feeling good is really the crux of it.
Well, do you know what makes you feel good? Did lockdown make it clearer for you? Are you reconnecting with what you love to do or with new things that spark joy?
Giving back to your community
Altruism itself is a guaranteed feel-good strategy, if you’re stuck for ideas to get your mental health back on track.
There is abundant research highlighting the fact that engaging in altruistic acts is more rewarding for the giver than the receiver.
And what better time of year – it is literally the season.
How can we support the people who have kept our community going throughout this tumultuous year? Can we do something for those local businesses – the coaches, the takeaway joints, the local volunteers that kept this community ticking? Without them, where would we have been?
Make next year a year of new, inspired action
So, when you’re setting your intention for next year and considering what we’ve just endured, remember what’s really important and the potential ramifications of delaying the things you genuinely desire.
Now is the time to go out and do the thing you’ve always wanted to do.
- Take that trip.
- Try salsa.
- Discover new hiking trails.
- Sign up for art classes.
How can you enrich your life further, filling your cup so that it can flow over, to those around you? What needs to change: is it mindset or tangible action – or both?
Ponder this as you enjoy the festive period and I’ll be back in 2022, with new ideas and fresh perspectives on staying healthy in these unusual times.