10 Positive Things I’m Bringing Into 2021—And What I’m Leaving Behind

All the feelings.

By Riley Reed

Though I don’t usually like to categorize my life in years, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about 2021. I recently read a book called Burnout, The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, and was struck by the author’s approach to emotions: how we often consider ourselves thinkers who feel.

It’s been scientifically proven that we are actually emotional beings who think, and it got me thinking about the positive intentions I have for the year ahead; both the things I want to carry with me, and the things I want to leave behind!

I don’t know about you, but I feel pretty proud that I made it through this year. As I analyze the ups and downs, I recognize how momentous life truly is, no matter how chaotic. It’s easy to get stuck in the tunnels of our minds; to ruminate, fret, pick and prod. As you reflect and project, I highly encourage you to remember a simple guiding force that you already know: you have no control over the past and very little over the future. Make your resolutions, sure. And then… let your body lead the way—feel!

When considering the New Year, the only certain question you can ask yourself at this moment is: what do you intend? To get you started, I’m sharing 10 things I want to take with me into the new year. Knowing the intimidating nature of lists, however, I do want to preface by saying that if I could take only one lesson with me, it would be this: let your emotions wash over you completely.

My life is my experience.

Last week, I had multiple speaking engagements in a row—my younger self would be proud. However, in preparation, I was reeling. Imposter syndrome totally took over: I didn’t belong in the role and who was I to educate, inform, or share? I felt as if I needed to go to the library and pull an all-nighter to study topics I already knew by heart (and I don’t mean by memory). My dad was the obvious person to call for advice. I asked him what he would want to hear as an audience member in these various spaces. He briefly answered my question before spending the remainder of our call reminding me of my value. He told me: “You need not worry. You have the answers. They live inside you. Your life is your experience.”

Emotions have a beginning, middle, and end.

Oftentimes, we don’t complete the stress cycle because we live within a social construct that keeps us quiet. Dr. Emily Nagoski and Dr. Amelia Nagoski say, “Think of emotions as tunnels. If you go all the way through them you get to the light at the end. Exhaustion happens when we get stuck in an emotion.”

The burnout I experienced this year was a result of not allowing myself to feel fatigued, frustrated, or sad. I grit my teeth and hit the pavement by responding with a work ethic. Ultimately, I conquered my struggle by leaning in other directions. Most notably: I engaged my support system, incorporated more fun into my life, and decluttered our home.

It’s ok to be ok with not being ok.

Have you ever been anxious about your anxiety? Same. Stop doing that!

Instead of analyzing every single event of my life or the ways those events make me feel, I’m ready to no longer exert so much effort into caring. We are all on an eroded mountain oscillating between various heights. Sometimes we’ll find ourselves dangling from a ledge and other times we’ll discover a brand new peak. Our place in the journey doesn’t determine how worthy we are. 

Clutter is like the junk food of my home.

My husband and I got an Elfa Closet as a wedding gift and it has changed our lives. It’s beautiful, minimal, and exposed (we had those old, rickety sliding doors on our closet and I was like… be gone). Therefore, it has to stay tidy for peace of mind. The space, albeit small, incentivized me to reorganize our entire home which in turn encouraged me to get rid of a ton of stuff. The house literally felt lighter and I plan on keeping it that way.

My nighttime routine is as important as my morning routine.

This could be a separate blog post entirely. Your night sets up your morning. It is the prelude to your sleep which will contribute to how you feel when you wake up. Finding a rhythm that prepares you for success is so important. My favorite ways to feel good at night:

  • Quality time with my husband and dogs
  • Herbal tea 
  • My diffuser on or candle burning
  • Movement; ideally a night walk but only if it’s early enough (take your phone and a headlamp)
  • A light read
  • Free writing and priority setting

Boundaries are a form of protection.

“I don’t think we talk enough about the sadness and the grief that can come when we set boundaries with those we love.”

-Silve Khoaucasian

This is an intention I’ve set before. It’s a hard one to learn. I’ve practiced this meditation and it works quite well: I think of the space around me as an eggshell, delicate yet defined. I imagine that just before information flows through me, it’s tested and studied, through my very own filter. I see and feel protection in my mind’s eye, my thinking, which has a direct impact on my heart, my being. Basically, I hit pause before I respond. I bask in time. 

Eat the colors of the rainbow.

I love how simple this is. There doesn’t have to be a specific diet in place or a bunch of restrictions, so long as you don’t have intolerances or allergies of course. Food is meant to nourish your body. It’s as simple as that. Intense color in vegetables signifies loads of phytonutrients, biologically active substances that protect plants from viruses and bacteria and offer similar benefits to humans. Skittles was on to something when they said to ‘taste the rainbow’.

Look up.

This year for my 30th, instead of reflecting on the last decade or setting new goals, I stayed present. I thought of all the things and people I love in this time of my life and it filled me with so much joy. There is meaning in your surroundings, the ones you inhabit right now. Look up at the sky, make eye contact with your grocer, massage your face, and love on your life. Immerse yourself in your environment.

Snail mail is still important.

Growing up, thank you cards were non-negotiable. Even if a friend invited me over for a sleep-over, I had to write a thank you card for her family’s hospitality. Snail mail is often lost on us and that is a shame. There is nothing quite as timeless as writing a handwritten letter. It is a physical act of kindness, acknowledgment, and gratitude; and it only takes a few moments.

I must make time to do nothing.

My brain is an organ. It needs care and restoration too. If you haven’t noticed, as I lay out intentions for the new year, I’m a driven, goal-oriented person. I have no patience for unproductive days. And thus, what I really need is an unproductive day. It’s like giving my muscles a break from exercising. They can’t strengthen without a rest day. Sometimes a full day isn’t attainable but even just a few hours to lie around, whether in some grass or on a couch, can work wonders.