New Year – New You?

I find the Christmas and New Year period to be quite an “empowering” time. Maybe it’s from the excitement of the festive period and the looking forward to the new year. The end of 2020 was little different for me compared to previous years in this regard, but I found there to be something strangely energetic and more so around the Winter Solstice this time around (something I haven’t really ‘experienced’ before), that and the coinciding Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. I also watched an astrological/tarot reading (in Spanish* no less) for my star sign that aligned with my thoughts pretty well and gave me quite a buzz. (*Admittedly I had subtitles on for that).

The general mood for many though, seemed to be to say “good riddance” to 2020 and “roll on 2021”, and how we can supposedly now get back to normal or develop “a new normal” – a phrase which had been thrown about throughout the year. (I always thought it was “riddens”, but the spell-checker and Google say otherwise). I was not of this General camp, but perhaps I was in a more fortunate position than most, and I should sound more grateful for this.

It’s not that I am ungrateful, but I’m reluctant to attribute “good fortune” to circumstances which are largely my doing (because I believe it’s better to think it is). And this is where I think “looking forward to 2021” and “a new normal” needs to be met with, not only optimism, but positive action.

I’m trying to avoid getting into the whole “Covid thing” topic but (and it’s incredibly hard not to trail off into that) I believe 2020 was generally a disempowering year for most. Granted, some people may have felt empowered, and connected, by following rules and guidelines and doing what everyone else was doing and what was expected of them, but being an avoider of the News and things like “social media”, or whatever other channels people receive these messages through, I didn’t get this vibe.

I largely had a fun year though, and here are some highlights (sorry, I can’t avoid some sarcasm):

  • My mood picked up following a period of Winter Blues.
  • I caught “the bug” and battled my way through it.
  • I did that whole camping in my garden thing for months, along with creating corresponding videos (that seems like a lifetime ago now!)
  • I wore a mask, reluctantly more than once, and had my hands slathered in “hand sanitizer”, once.
  • I got shouted at to follow arrows by one shop worker in one shop, and hollered at about my lack of mask in another. Someone else, on another occasion, muttered “well done”, but I think they were being sarcastic.
  • I followed arrows, generally, and got refused the sale of a box of eggs.
  • I continued to provide my services as a “computer technician”, receiving a generous tip from one client, but falling out with another who proceeded to hassle for me for 2+months.
  • I inadvertently spoke in less agreeable tones of topics of the day, (amusingly) getting myself labelled with various laughable and nonsensical labels, such as a “spreader of false facts” or a “stealth covid truther”.
  • I got told to “stay safe” and I proceeded to stay indoors for the rest of the year whilst I awaited a vaccine.
  • I joined the Neocities community and created a website there.
  • I reared numerous Tamagotchis.
  • I hiked up Snowdon a few times (with said Tamagotchis).
  • I cycled less miles than the preceding years, but still covered 4,000+ miles, sometimes riding over rainbows, and picking up the pace a bit towards the end and feeling all the better for it.
  • I continued to do some running, various exercises, and yoga too.
  • I read 20+ books, and various stories and other things, some of which I recorded when I did so out loud.

Returning now to the whole passive optimism vs. positive action thing, I seem to pride myself on being independent and figuring things out for myself, and seeking to better myself; I rarely ask anyone for help (although I do seek answers from a variety of sources). For example, I haven’t been to the doctors or opticians for years because for anything I might have felt the need to see them about I think there are generally things I could be doing myself, like improving my diet, exercising, not staring at a computer screen so much, or adjusting my lifestyle in some way. It’s not that I’m “fortunate” to have perfect health, because actually I’m not. I have learned over the years what things are good for my health and immune system, and staying in, avoiding contact with anyone (or pollen), or bottling up my thoughts and feelings certainly aren’t of those things, and I don’t think they’re good for anyone else either.

Yesterday I was watching a three hour video on Youtube by Jimmy of Bright Insight. His channel is largely about things like ancient Egypt and lost civilisations. He’s a charismatic fellow and therefore has gained over a million subscribers. Last year he followed his “life-long dream” and visited Egypt and the pyramids and other ancient sites there. This particular video was originally a live-stream he did after returning from that trip, in fact I had watched one just before, a shorter one announcing his arrival in Giza – I could see and feel his enthusiasm for being there.

He is extremely passionate about his interests and the topics he delves into, and in his 3hr video he shares an Insight which I believe provides an important message for many of us, and that is one of depression. 2020 had been a year of this – even for those of us that strive to not let things bother us. My experience with depression is that it is hard for me to acknowledge when I’m in the midst of it, but “fortunately” I don’t think I’ve had to suffer an entire lifetime of it as some seemingly do. I’ve had down-times where I feel low and un-motivated, and I’ve actively wondered why I’m feeling that way when things are no different to, say “yesterday” when I was “perfectly fine”. I still don’t like to consider that I’m ever “depressed” because I know there are people who have it much worse, or experience things differently, and it’s almost like I have to admit I’m somehow not looking after myself right in order to have got this way.

Here is what Jimmy learned, and shares, about defeating depression (28:50):

  • You have to physically fight your way out of depression
  • Set up routines (run, gym…)
  • Create goals (and actively pursue them)
  • Be around [the right] people; “people who are depressed stay in – they go off their friends and family – they don’t do anything – that only makes it worse”
  • Get off the couch; exercise
  • You need sunlight [more than one hour per day]
  • A dry sauna [I’ve never tried this one]
  • Eat right; “don’t eat that fast food, you’re addicted to it… and stay away from sugar” [cut out refined carbohydrates too and limit your caffeine intake]

Jimmy says that “when you’re depressed you can’t focus” which is perhaps why it’s hard for some to acknowledge the depression itself; I find it creeps in and becomes all consuming before I know it. Other people dwell on it, and share it, as if to avoid taking personal action, or to drag others down to their level. When I’m in the midst of my low points I notice my thoughts just go round in circles and I can’t find a way out of that loop. Jimmy warns, and I feel it too, that “the whole world is feeling depressed”. We need to do things to actively pull ourselves out of such ruts; it shouldn’t be accepted that “this is the way it is” and just put up with it being that way.

2021 therefore, should not be about simply “hoping for” a year that is somehow automatically or magically better than 2020, because we somehow “deserve it” after “a bad year”, but we each need to actively pursue those ingredients above. Do each and every day the things that make you better and stronger. Cut out the things that are counter to this (it might take some time focusing on this problem to realise what these things are). The approach works best for me is chipping away bit-by-bit. Trying to tackle everything at once takes too much effort and leads to one being overwhelmed or exhausted and then leaves you without the energy to stay on your intended path. Build on your routines, block by block. As Jimmy might say “be the pyramid that you are building”.

Throughout 2020 I focused on my daily routine, beginning with what things I do immediately after waking up (but importantly this begins with when I go to bed). This is something I will be pursuing in 2021. I start my day with a cup of tea and a read of a book. I then (ideally at least, because it doesn’t always happen) I go for a run. I try and avoid the things that get me into a rut, or limit them, like sitting all day at my desk, or even drinking too much coffee. I work my way through a “To Do” list that I keep prepared from the evening before. I go out on my bike for that all important fresh air and Vitamin D. I pursue topics of interest through online research and the reading of books, and I keep a track of my progress. I look back on the day passed and consider where things went well and where improvement or a different approach can be employed. I try to be gentle on myself when my efforts slip (because they do), asking myself why things went wrong, and seek to get myself back on track when my energy and drive returns.

All of these things are a work in progress for me and what works for me might not specifically work for others, but I think the list above is a helpful guide.

I wish you all a happy and healthy new year, but it’s up to you to go get it!

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