I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to 2021 being a better year – because I choose to focus on self-care and to live in hope. Let me be clear: hope is not optimism or the belief that everything will turn out well, and hope doesn’t mean denying our realities. Hope means facing them with a different attitude – one that promotes well-being rather than destroying it. 

After 10 uncertain months of scrambled daily life, weariness and frustration can be just as dangerous as the virus itself. Stress is also our enemy. It’s been well documented that stress lowers your immune system. The deeper your stress and the longer you indulge it, the less able your body is to fight off disease. It’s there in the name: dis-ease. Fear is the epitome of stress, and hope is the antidote.

Sometimes we lose hope, and that’s okay. It’s a normal response to misery. But we can choose to actively create space for hope to dominate our lives. 

As human rights activist Desmond Tutu said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” He doesn’t deny the dark times we’re in but encourages us to see beyond them to any light – be it strong rays pushing down to the forest floor or tiny specks reflected on a hummingbird wing.

Nor is hope abandonment of personal responsibility. Simply hoping for something does not make it happen. Nor does turning your back on problems. Genuine hope is based on achievable, realistic expectations, and it requires action. Since hope is essential for our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, let’s welcome more of it into our lives.  

The action I recommend is radical self-care, a collection of intentional actions for your total well-being. Just as planting a seed in your garden is an act of hope, self-care is a deliberate activity you can do every day to foster overall health and wellness.

The possibilities for self-care are limitless. Beyond the conventional advice to eat well, sleep well and exercise, here are some other ideas to stimulate your thinking.

Genuine hope is based on achievable, realistic expectations and requires action.

For physical well-being

Do whatever makes you feel the best. Don’t be a slave to what you think you ought to be doing. Learn some new dances on YouTube; get a dog and take your new friend walking to explore places you’ve never been; expend some energy helping others. What skill do you have that others need? Can you repair bikes? Bake bread? Run errands for neighbors? Anything that gets you moving will improve your health.

For mental well-being and peace of mind 

Dump the screens full of gloom and doom. Choose comforting media to consume: old movies, classic novels, vintage sitcoms, Zoom some enduring children’s stories with your grandkids. Cherish the good memories and hold them dear. Revive an old hobby or start a new one, maybe even with your spouse. Keep a Joy List of at least five things you see, hear, smell, taste or feel each day that brought you pleasure. Reread often.

For emotional well-being

Smile at five or more strangers every time you go out – you have to make an effort to smile with your eyes, but it can be done. Sometimes it helps to add a friendly wave. Call a family member or friend and express your love, then tell them what you most appreciate about them. Start a Gratitude Journal and note several things each day for which you’re thankful. This reflection is one of the highest forms of self-care, and if you’ve never tried it, now is the perfect time. Look into your own eyes and assure any worried parts of yourself that you can take good care of them.

For spiritual well-being

Pray, meditate, watch a sunset or walk in the sunshine – whatever form of inner stillness works for you. In our changing world, rethink what matters to you and clarify your purpose in life. Spiritual wellness is connecting to something greater than yourself and having a set of values, principles, morals and beliefs to guide your actions. See what new activities this might inspire.

Schedule your daily self-care practices and honor these appointments with yourself as you would any commitment. If you have the privilege to feel hope, ponder how to share it. Keep a journal of your daily self-care activities and challenge family and friends to join you in a year of self-care. 

Together, we can make 2021 a hope-filled year.

Roger Moore is a certified counselor and registered hypnotherapist with Palm Desert Hypnosis and can be reached at [email protected] or (760) 219.8079. For more information, visit www.hypnosishealthinfo.com/medical-hypnosis. All sessions are online telehealth.

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