How To Find Light in a World Filled With Negativity

I was going through the notes on my phone when I found one from October that had the title of this post, followed by a list:

Gratefulness.

Give back.

Don’t waste time on jobs, people, etc. who steal your happiness.

Plan trips.

Find your community.

I’m not sure what was going on the day or week that I wrote this down, but I’m happy I did. And I’m happy I came across it today. Do you ever find notes to yourself at just the right moment? It’s pretty fun, actually. Just leave random notes in your phone (or around the house — that’s even MORE fun), something obscure and ideally lacking context, and I bet when you find it, it’ll bring you at least a teeny bit of joy.

Anyway, for me, there’s always a period shortly after a new year, maybe a week or two in, when the shine of its novelty begins to wear off. The magic of a fresh start for New Years is so palpable, and it’s heartening and powerful to be entering a new phase with the entire world. There’s really no other time of year like January 1st, where everyone comes together to turn a page at once (or, you know, in their respective time zones).

But, after a while, that optimism of the new year slips back into the routine roll of things, and the new year doesn’t feel all that different than the previous year — except when you write the date, and, for the first four months of the year, you have to artistically morph “2017” into “2018.”

I’m not big into resolutions, but I think intentions for a new year are a healthy way for me, ever the obsessor, to approach goals. Rather than being so strict, aka “resolute,” with your goals, intentions allow some more flexibility with accomplishing them. So, it’s not like I go into the year hoping to quit watching TV, travel the world, and lose 20 pounds, and then get frustrated when none of those are achieved by January 10. (But sheesh, can you imagine the blog posts I’d need to write if that were the case?!)

It’s more that everything starts to go back to normal, and as a whole, we lose that excitement of starting anew once we’re a week or two into things. I know, I know… All the smart books and all the wise people say to find the warmth and good stuff in normalcy. If you can’t enjoy the mundane, then you probably won’t enjoy very much of life, since most of us aren’t constantly traveling, adventuring, and adrenaline-chasing. And honestly, I don’t even want all that! (I mean, yes, travel is nice, but I love my home, and sometimes the best part of travel is going home. You with me, homebodies/introverts/hermits?)

With my reckoning of embracing regular old life as we stride deeper into 2017 2018, finding a list I wrote to myself about ways to find levity — especially in a time of turmoil in politics, Hollywood (and regular) sexism, and abuse of power coming to light — was such a simple reminder to keep perspective, curate my own little joys, and find beauty in the everyday, even on days that seem less than thrilling.

Gratitude and graciousness aren’t an easy discipline to practice, at least for me, but are so life-changing once they become habitual. It’s the shift from, “My life is so predictable,” to, “How lucky am I to have a consistent jobs where I can write, be creative, get outside everyday, afford my lifestyle, and have major flexibility? I’m blessed to have a healthy body, the choice to workout and provide nourishing food for myself, and a lifestyle that keeps me active and moving. And thank God I have supportive family and friends all over the country who inspire and challenge me. And chips and queso.”

Even writing that out brings bliss to my heart. Both statements are true — sure, my life can be predictable, AND it provides me with everything I dreamed of five years ago, plus the opportunities to accomplish even more.

Gratitude prepares your mind and soul for the rest of the list, too. It provides perspective and faith in giving back, whether that’s with money or time. It helps you realize if you need to remove yourself from a situation that isn’t adding anything to your life. It allows you to look forward to treats, like vacation, with eagerness and thankfulness instead of guilt. It opens you up to new people and friends to build up the community surrounding you.

It’s everything. And the very, very, very best part is that it’s a mental choice that reaps incredible, tangible, real-life results. Note to self: That is a rad enough reminder to get me out of my post-New Years funk, and any others I encounter throughout the year.

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