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Thriving in the New Year

February 2, 2021

We made it through the depressing mess that was 2020. While there’s no doubt the pandemic and all its devastation has followed us into 2021, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The peak has passed, vaccines are being distributed, and experts say we’ll return to some level of normalcy by summer’s end. It’s time to take a step back and set some optimistic goals for ourselves. If you want to thrive in the new year, you’re in the right place.

Time For Change (or Maintenance)

As we jump into some goal-setting, it’s important to emotionally prepare ourselves for the next six months. Quarantine life for many of us will carry on — and so will virtual schooling for kids. If you’re an exhausted parent, just remember: You’ve done this before. You did it for 10 months last year, and you can do it again — only this time, you’ll have a plan on how to stay out of the emotional gutter.

It’s much more difficult to succeed in our lives when we’re faced with uncertainty.

For those of us in recovery, maintenance is incredibly important at the moment. Never in our country’s history have people in recovery had to face the crippling isolation and anxiety a global pandemic brings. Yes, there was the 1918 flu pandemic, but AA didn’t even exist then. Recovery meetings weren’t a concept at the beginning of the 20th century. In order to survive this era, we need to be prepared. That means using any or all of the various tools at our disposal: Zoom meetings, calling our sponsors, online therapy, anxiety tapes, seminars, outdoor fellowship (if it’s safe) — whatever we can do.

A few months ago, a series of studies published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology proved what we already knew — that it’s much more difficult to succeed in our lives when we’re faced with uncertainty. And yet, human beings are also adaptable and resilient. Our species has been through tougher times, and we know it’s important to keep changing ourselves as much as we can. We must learn to focus on the moment instead of the future, control what we can control, be flexible when we can, and reward ourselves for even the smallest steps forward.

Change Your Mindset

The team at Northwestern Medicine Feinberg School of Medicine has recommended these eight skills to add to your daily activities throughout the year:

1. Set and work toward attainable goals

Make sure your goals are measurable, relevant, and time-based. It’s all about baby steps instead of giant leaps forward.

2. Reframe events

Believe it or not, you can decide what your emotional response is going to be as an event is happening. See things in a different light through positive reappraisal (or meaning-based coping) and find meaning in every experience.

3. Express gratitude

Gratitude journaling is a fantastic way to reevaluate your day at the end of it. Even listing three things you’re grateful for is a positive habit you can form in just two weeks. That’s how long it takes to form a neural pathway.

4. Practice mindfulness

Start off small with a five-minute meditation every day and then add on as you see fit. There are already fantastic free apps for this, like “Calm” and “Insight Timer.” There are also hundreds of options for guided classes on Zoom.

5. Engage in acts of kindness

Speaking of developing new neural pathways, getting in the habit of just three acts of kindness a day is a great way to help turn a negative mindset around. Ask yourself each morning what you can do for loved ones.

6. Notice positive events

One of the hardest things in a negative mindset is becoming aware of the wins and miracles happening all around us. Write out your top five moments from 2020 to start noticing the good in your world.

7. Savor positive events

Hold these events in your mind. Remember what you saw, felt, and heard. Focus on them during rough times.

8. Notice personal strengths

It helps on our bad days to lean on our strengths. Make a list of your strengths and have it ready to go when you start feeling defeated or frustrated.

THRIVE at Rio Retreat Center

thrive workshopFor those in recovery looking for a serious investment in positive change for the new year, Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows is hosting THRIVE: Living an Actualized Life, a 5-day personal growth workshop designed by Senior Fellow Tian Dayton. A leading expert in psychodrama, Dr. Dayton is the director of the New York Psychodrama Training Institute and a fellow of the American Society of Psychodrama, Sociometry, and Group Psychotherapy.

Join us for this workshop as we learn how to utilize psychodrama to explore the past, let go of our dysfunctional roles, and welcome new ones. Through forgiveness and resilience, we’ll learn to discover our healthiest selves in the present. Cost includes meals, live music, yoga, Tai Chi, acupuncture, gym time, and a 12-Step group. Click here to register now!

Workshop info