So, how do we cope with all that is swirling about us? Let's establish 5 basic guiding principles for managing 2017:
1. Lean on one another more. Research is boundless about the positive outcomes that come with healthy and meaningful social relationships. If we don't have them, now is the time to find them. And, what we have must be nurtured more than ever. Calling a friend and agreeing to meet in person (Yes, face to face!) for coffee, tea, lunch or dinner is not optional - do it.
2. Power down more often. The internet, computers, and social media are fantastic tools for sharing information and connecting people. They can also be a terrible drain on our evolutionary psyches that haven't had the necessary time to adequately adapt. Put simply, our minds and bodies have trouble coping with the omnipresent deluge of information spewing from our phones and tablets. We need breaks and often.
3. Move more. Speaking of evolution, our bodies were made for movement, not stationary living hours on end. Set a timer and get up every 45 minutes. A short walk down the hallway or outdoors can work wonders. In a given 8-hour workday, we should be up and moving at least 30-45 minutes of that time. Walking. Stretching. Breathing. Disconnecting. Zoning out.
4. Watch less news. It's not that the news is depressing, it's that what the news has become is depressing. Journalists jockeying to become internet superstars and celebrities has lowered the bar so far on "truth in news" that the very idea that people have to question, "Is this fake news?" is what has become so depressing. Limit our intake. More importantly, we must become aware and critical consumers of everything the media, and all its offshoots, would have us believe. Ratings matter. Turn it off.
5. Become more hopeful. The arc of human history is a fascinating and often painful stretch into the fantastical. We have been through worse and surely even worse is yet to come. But, that doesn't mean we give up on hope. Seeing the beauty in the mundane, acknowledging the simplest form of kindness and committing to loving one another more fully is a step toward a more meaningful and whole existence. Finally, reach out to those who see the world from a different perspective. Embrace them, learn from them and be open to the idea that empathy is a two-way street.
There is no panacea to greater mental health. It does not come in the form of a pill, terrific therapist or detailed lifestyle change. The power each of us possesses in terms of creating the kind of world we want to inhabit, the kind of bodies we wish to have and the type of mental wellness we seek is limitless, not fully understood or quantifiable. But, that doesn't mean it is beyond our grasp, or out of the realm of possibilities. Let's commit to 2017 - it's only going to pass by once in a lifetime.
Be kind to yourselves and to each other.
© Copyright 2017 Douglas Layer, M.A., LPCC