January is often the time we make resolutions. For many of us, this includes eating healthier and exercising more—and hopefully shedding the extra pounds we’ve put on during our prolonged COVID lockdown :-). But this year, along with improving your physical health, why not strive to improve your spiritual health as well?
Spiritual health is achieved when you feel at peace with life. That doesn’t mean you won’t face difficult situations or even experience hard times, but you have a way to cope when these situations arise. You can fall back on a set of values, relationships and a connection with a higher power to find meaning and purpose in your life.
That said, one way to prepare for a healthier and happier future is to look at your past and determine just what worked for you and what didn’t. You might follow the lead of author Chris Guillebau who asks us to stop for a moment and think about 2020. Then, ask yourself two simple questions:
1. What went well in 2020?
2. What did not go well in 2020?
Guillebeau recommends you write down your thoughts as you audit the year that just passed. While it can be easy to highlight the negatives of 2020, Guillebeau says you may be surprised. He’s observed that “even in years that have been difficult for whatever reason, I’m almost always pleasantly surprised by recalling several positive highlights.” You may find the same thing.
When developing your list, consider that some things were just out of your control. For instance, there was little we could do about the coronavirus and the restrictions and inconveniences that came with it. But you may be able to find some sunshine amongst the clouds. Consider the blessings that the pandemic provided, like the ability to spend more time with your family or even catch up on your reading—things you may want to continue into the new year.
Looking back at last year getting you down? Look at the day that just passed.
Similar introspective advice comes from the pastor Steve Wiens of Minnesota, author of the recent book Shining Like the Sun—but in this approach, you focus your attention not on the past year, but on the past day. Wiens tells us about a centuries-old ritual called examen that involves “noticing God’s presence and discerning God’s direction.” He advises us to reflect on the day’s events each evening and ask two questions:
1. When was I most alive today?
2. When was I most drained today?
You can write your answers down in a journal or simply contemplate them. Wiens recommends “praying through them.” Whichever way you choose, the point is to find out what in your life is bringing you closer to God (a happy place) and which actions take you further from God (a negative place). As the days go by, look for patterns—and make the necessary adjustments to help ensure your good days outnumber the bad.
A third approach to improving your outlook: the nightly recap.
There’s one more practice you can use to boost your spiritual health—a short evening ritual you can engage in at the close of each day. It’s a simple, 5-minute practice that comes from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. You can do each night at bedtime to cap off the day and put your head in a good place before you go to sleep.
Sandberg, while recovering from the sudden death of her husband, began a simple practice to get back into the swing of life. Before she went to bed at night she would take out a pad and performed a simple task that you can do as well:
Write down three things you did well today.
When Sandberg began the practice she started the list with small acts like making a cup of tea. She found that by focusing on things she had done well, even if they were small, she was able to record something positive each day and rebuild her confidence.
Sandberg has since moved on to a new step to her routine: According to USA Today, instead of recording three things she did well, Sandberg said her resolution was write down three joyful moments. Three moments that put a smile on her face or in her heart. In her words, to quote Bono, “joy is the ultimate act of defiance.”
Wishing you a happy and healthy 2021!