I know we’ve all said this a dozen times, but this year has looked nothing like we expected. There has been a lot of uncertainty — but I think this has helped us all build the muscle of resilience. With today being my birthday, I want to pause to take note of the lessons I’ve learned over this past year. I think it’s so important to notice and honor the ways we’re growing and shifting — so that we can continue to transform. A lot has happened this year and I’m feeling so grateful for all the people, places, and experiences that have shaped my last trip around the sun!

Here are three lessons I’m taking with me into this next year of life:

1. People come and go — and that’s a good thing.

I’ve gained and lost relationships this year — that sort of change used to really gut me. I’d question myself and feel really shaken whenever I experienced any shifts in close relationships. This year, I’ve deepened my relationship to myself and realized that my identity doesn’t rely on my bond to any other person. I got clear on my worth, and let what wasn’t working flow out of my life without shaking my foundation or grasping at what was. This is still a work in progress but I understand that friendships ebb and flow and there is no need to attach to them if it does not feel right.

2. Things always work out as they should.

I entered into 2020 having goals and expectations just like anyone else — and every single one of them has had to be rethought and reframed to fit this new reality we’re experiencing. Everything from work to weddings, to travel plans and family gatherings had to transform into something else — and although different than what was originally envisioned, in a sense it was better. More intimate time with family, more thought out time with friends and more intentional time spent in general. There isn’t metamorphosis without a whole lot of discomfort and when you let go just enough, everything falls into place.

3. It truly does keep getting better

35 - I remember when I was younger and I thought of being this age and what that meant. I thought I would have it ALLL figured out - well guess what, I don’t but I don’t think you ever really do. I have more compassion for my parents, more understanding of my friends and more kindness to myself. I feel like I have the support of incredible people in my life and for that I am extremely grateful. Bring on the new year!

With the launch of a new coaching program, starting up a new event series, and dealing with the normal things that come up day-to-day, this month for me has been go-go-go. Getting back into normal rhythms and routines has felt like jumping off of a fast-moving treadmill and (AKA the contrast is super disorienting).

Maybe you can relate! Maybe these past few months of "stay at home" haven't turned into the bread-baking break so many have made it out to be. Maybe you've been running on empty and all the things you've been doing have taken their toll.

Here are three techniques to help you pause, re-focus and keep calm in the chaos.

1. Set a daily intention.

Incorporate intention-setting into your morning routine— it could be while enjoying your morning coffee or even while brushing your teeth. Just set a time each morning to regularly ask yourself: “What’s my intention for today?” You can reflect on how you want to show up in the world, how you want to take care of yourself, what you’d like to achieve. It can be as simple as, “Today, I will practice breathing deeply and being gentle with myself.” Rather than rushing through your day, making this part of your morning will give you the opportunity to pause, check in with yourself and revisit your intention throughout the day. The more aware you are of your intentions, the greater chance you have of shifting the quality of your day (and mindset!).

2. Give yourself buffer room.

When you’re planning your weeks, commitments and requests on your time can start to pile up — until your activities are all back-to-back. Before you add anything (and I mean ANYTHING) to your calendar, be mindful of giving yourself some buffer time between each task. Even if it’s 15-20 minutes. Rather than entering a new task (while mentally somewhere else due to how exhausted and stressed you are), buffer time can give you a minute to pause and say to yourself: “I finished that. Now I’m doing _____.” Not only will you feel less rushed, you’ll also be able to be more present and productive.

3. Use your senses.

Sometimes simply observing and taking note of what we’re experiencing can bring us back to the here-and-now during a season of overwhelm. Whether you’re in your fifth Zoom meeting of the day or making a quick lunch in between commitments, note what each of your five senses is taking in and name it to yourself? What do you see, smell, taste, feel and hear? This practice has been shown to decrease anxiety and re-ground us in our environment when our minds get over-stimulated.

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I am often impressed when someone says they’re a “self-made ______.” But I am more impressed when someone I look up to says “I am nothing without my team/friends/family”. Being able to ask for support and lean on others when needed is brave and a coveted skill in all areas of life.

The people you look up to didn’t get to where they are by themselves, and although we may not see the favors, late-night convos, and encouragement that made that person who they are, we know a strong community is essential for success and overall happiness.

Being an entrepreneur and moving to different cities throughout my life, I have always put extreme emphasis on finding my people. Like-minded humans who help me grow and learn and become the best version of myself. This has not always been easy but nothing worth it ever is, right?

There are lots of powerful neuroscience-backed benefits to community (including the fact that it’s WAY more fun to do things together than apart).

Here are a few reasons why your brain (and life!) need the power of positive community:

  • Community helps your brain function. Studies have shown that positive community can improve our cognitive vitality -- in other words, community keeps our brain active and engaged and decreases our stress. Spending time with others can help our concentration, memory, and decision making — as well as causing lots of activity in the reward circuit parts of our brains that make us feel good!

  • Community helps you learn better. Learning is just different on your own, but there’s something about learning with others that motivates us to do better and helps show us our blind spots. Our friends can be our greatest teachers and our minds tend to absorb information better when processed with others.

  • Community helps you face challenges with optimism. A professor at the University of Virginia had his students stand at the base of a hill and assess how steep it was. The people who stood beside their friends have low estimates, while those who stood alone gave high estimates. The hill didn’t change; the perception did. Community support can shift our mindset and make mountains look like molehills.

  • Community improves your happiness. Leading happiness researchers found that the happiest people had strong relationships — and that those relationships were fundamental for happiness. And happiness is contagious! A Harvard Medical school study showed that having a happy friend improves your chances of happiness by 15% -- and the effect can last as long as a year!

If you are looking for a community of like-minded people to help you learn and grow, we are launching something soon for you! More details to come on how to become a part of the Mindfulness Matters community right here in upcoming weeks.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” - Helen Keller

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