*This post first appeared in January 2019, and was updated and reposted in January 2021.*
Greetings, blog readers! From all of us at Lindsey Hoskins & Associates, Happy New Year! I think many of us are thrilled to see the end of 2020, and I hope that you are finding ways to be hopeful about the new year and all it brings.
As is our tradition every year, it falls to me to write the first blog post of 2021. With a few ideas percolating in my head, I sat down to write this Wednesday afternoon… and then found myself hopelessly distracted by the breaking news of the protests happening at the US Capitol. Luckily, I remembered this post from January 2019, and find it newly appropriate. So, I present to you “Be a Little More in 2021.”
Even though this is my 38th (ahem, now 40th!) New Year, I somehow never came across this beautiful quote from Judy Garland until it started popping up on my social media feed this year:
We have a whole new year ahead of us–and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all be a little more gentle with each other – and a little more loving – having a little more empathy – and maybe next year at this time we’d like each other a little bit more.
I LOVE this.
Judy Garland passed away in 1969, so she certainly didn’t utter these powerful words with any awareness of our modern day political tribalism or the insults and vitriol that seem to characterize so much of our societal discourse (maybe I’m a bit jaded being in the DC area). But her statement is timely, and I love the challenge she invites us to take on. I believe that, unfortunately, negativity and criticism can be contagious, but so too can kindness, openness, and the desire to lift others up as we make our way through each day. Imagine the impact we could have if we all went out in the world this year with the intention of spreading gentleness, love, and empathy wherever we can?
So with that intention, here are six powerful ways to do just that:
- Speak your good feelings out loud. If you believe in someone, tell them. If you notice something beautiful, share a thought about it with someone nearby. If you appreciate what someone else has done for you, let them know. Don’t keep it to yourself.
- Keep your unkind words to yourself. Most of us have flashes of negativity and criticism about others from time to time, and this is normal–the world is a crowded place and we often bump into each other in ways that can be frustrating. For example, I sometimes find myself calling other drivers “dummies” when they cut me off, won’t let me merge, or drive too fast (e.g., “nice move, dummy”). But since I usually have a little person or two in the backseat, I almost always feel an immediate rush of guilt for having infused that negative energy into the minivan. I encourage you to join me in working to keep these negative comments quiet, and see what an impact that change can have on the energy around you.
- Be present. One of the greatest kindnesses we can extend is our attention — to our partners, our children, our friends and co-workers… giving others your full, focused attention is the best pathway to true closeness and facilitates empathy better than any other avenue. Be kind by putting aside all of the other things competing for your attention and really tuning in to what you’re doing.
- Reach out to others who are different from you — with genuine interest. It’s easy to get caught up in our relatively small bubbles of those we know and interact with on a regular basis, and sort of shut out the rest to a large extent. But a multitude of opportunities await us each day if we can push to extend ourselves just a bit and reach out, even in small ways, to those who are different from us. Striking up a friendly conversation with a stranger can have a major boosting effect, and you never know what kind of cool connections you might create. Getting to know people of different cultures, beliefs, worldviews, etc. can open windows and foster acceptance in powerful, life-changing ways.
- Look for kinder narratives. Sometimes when we get caught up in negativity, we start developing harsher, less forgiving narratives about the world around us and everyone in it. For example, when another shopper steps on your foot in the grocery aisle, you can either think something like “what a self-absorbed jerk! Why can’t people watch where they’re going?” or you can think something like, “gosh, s/he must have a lot going on. Maybe they had a rough day.” Guess which one of those thoughts is going to leave you with a better feeling?
- Extend kindness to yourself. Getting caught up in negative and critical thinking puts us at high risk for thinking that way about ourselves, too. To truly move through the world with kindness, you must also be gracious and forgiving with yourself. That means accepting your imperfections, celebrating your uniqueness, and believing in your value.
“…and maybe next year at this time [we’ll] like each other a little bit more.” Here’s hoping.
Lindsey Hoskins, PhD, LCMFT/LMFT provides couple, family, and individual therapy in both the downtown Bethesda, MD and Sterling, VA offices and online to those in both Maryland and Virginia. Call or email today to set up your first appointment or a complimentary telephone consultation with Lindsey.