In this VETgirl online veterinary continuing education blog, VETgirl’s Chief Happiness Officer, Jeannine Moga, MA, MSW, LCSW, clinical veterinary social worker, reviews some New Year’s Resolutions worth making in the year ahead. Because 2021 has got to be better than 2020, right?

December 2020
I look back at this past year – mostly March through this very moment – and am astounded that most of us are pressing forward each day, not curled in a fetal position with a fistful of sheet cake. It’s been a long and tough haul. While we might not have wholesale agreement on lockdowns, politics, or any host of other hot-button issues, I am fairly certain that most hands would swiftly raise in favor of terminating this crabby and contentious year in favor of hiring a shiny and hopeful new candidate.

I suspect, though, that 2021 will be positive and exciting for 72 hours or less (New Year’s Day falls on a Friday, so some of you may have a little bit of breathing space). Whether you’re a Reliable Resolver, a Never Resolver, or somewhere in between, new year’s resolutions are all about a hefty helping of good intentions with a side dish of hopeful optimism. Here are some thoughts on how to carry both of those into the fresh year:

Smile more often. Masks aren’t going away any time soon. Eyes and eyebrows, though, convey so much good information, so let’s try to send good energy to our colleagues, our clients, and our neighbors. The muscles around our eyes – particularly those activated through smiling – also send calming and grounding signals through our own bodies, making smizing just as good for us as for those around us.

Laugh more often. This is related to the first bullet point, and it’s important to note that laughter can help us bridge the gap between the outer environment and our inner experience. I have found dark humor to be incredibly important in 2020 (how else to cope with the insanity of this turbulence?). Let’s actively look for something to laugh at (our pets, our kids, ourselves), especially when things get rocky.

Focus on today. 2020 has been the poster child for lack of control and predictability. While those qualities usually trigger any manner of anxious responses, particularly in those of us who like a lot, they are also potent reminders that the only thing we can control is our response to what is happening under our noses RIGHT NOW. I call this the ‘small universe,’ and focusing on managing myself and the task immediately in front of me restores a sense of manageability. It also prevents me from fast-forwarding, which often contributes to worry and fractured attention instead of alleviating them.

Prioritize voice to voice connection with those you love. In this age of endless Zoom meetings, telehealth, and phone consults, it’s easy to become tech-depleted. And yet, so many of us have gone months and months without the luxury of visiting with loved ones face to face. Let’s remember that connecting voice to voice with the people who know us best – and want nothing but the best for us – is a powerful balm for our weary selves. Make it a point to call – or Facetime – a long lost friend, a family member, or even a mentor every week.

Listen fully (the way you wish to be listened to). There’s a big difference between hearing and listening. It’s easy to tune in to the BLAH BLAH BLAH of someone’s speech without truly listening to the words – and underlying emotions – of what someone is trying to get you to understand. This requires pausing our inner dialogue and resisting judgment. This is also #SUPERHARD. Bridging differences in experience and perspective absolutely requires that we listen for understanding instead of listening to foment our own argument. As we navigate daily interactions in a hyper-stressed and hyper-partisan world, I challenge every one to lean in to the act of listening the hard way.

Rest more. Because rested people serve their patients, clients, and communities from a qualitatively different place than do exhausted people. And our life’s work deserves the best of us, which is fed not by a wellspring of energy but instead by diligent, conscious and regular effort to restore our energy. We all deserve more rest, more love, more comfort, more vitality, and more peace. And these are these things I hope for all of you in 2021.

  1. This is great! “Eyes and eyebrows convey a lot”. So true! Definitely have to “smile” with your eyes more these days.

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