Like many people I really went into 2021 with the hope that things were going to be better than 2020, they had to be, in what nightmare turn of events could things possibly be worse, and then it was like the universe set out to school us all in the startling variety in ways things could be worsened.

Now that we’re about to collectively put 2021: THE WORSENING in the calendar rearview, I am for sure not jinxing a single goddamned thing by announcing any big self-improvement plans for the new year. If you even see me twist my mouth to start to say the words “manifest” or “vision board” or “wellness journey” I’m giving you full permission to slap me across the face with a printed-out and spiral-bound copy of every single media mention about Will Smith and Jada Pinkett’s marriage.

I’m not sure I’m ready to look back on 2021 in any sort of meaningful self-reflective way, at least not yet. This was mostly a year of getting through it, not getting on top of it. On the personal good news front, I quit a toxic habit in mid-December of 2020 and I have stayed clear since. I found a new counselor who I adore and trust. I believe I’ve been nicer to myself this year than I have in years past, but I also have the sense I’ve been mostly frozen in place. Trapped in the amber of things that no longer are.

Well. Life continues, if we’re lucky, and things keep changing. Christ, do they ever.

One of my most cherished coping mechanisms is devouring both streaming TV content and a steady influx of highly processed carbohydrates, but aside from that I can also recommend the following:

Reading The Work. I love what she says about there being three kinds of business: mine, yours, and God’s (God can mean outside events or nature or the universe or whatever resonates), and the grounding effect of bringing yourself back to your own business. There’s a whole (worksheet-based, I have not graduated to this and probably won’t) system she advocates for working through your shit but the simple act of stopping to question certain thoughts (“Can you absolutely know it’s true?”) has been enormously beneficial to me, because my brain is always trying to sabotage me with my own custom blend of fake news. (e.g. “This just in from the You’re A Piece of Shit Gazette: WHY EVEN TRY YOU’RE JUST GOING TO FAIL!!!”)

Of course my website editor is currently borked and I can’t add links or format worth a damn: https://thework.com/instruction-the-work-byron-katie/

Re-reading Untamed. I’ve read the other Glennon Doyle books but this is the one I think every woman should read. Her personal life anecdotes in this don’t always land perfectly for me (I view them more as … well-crafted vehicles for messaging, rather than accurate portrayals of things that happened exactly as described) but overall I find this to be a great source of female-centric inspiration.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52129515-untamed

Yoga. I started doing yoga as a 30-day challenge last January and I never stopped. I can’t say I legitimately got in a full yoga session every single day in 2021 but it was pretty damn close, and I cannot possibly recommend this enough. Not the every day part, exactly, but any kind of regular yoga routine is almost certainly going to improve your lif—okay I realize I have gone skidding right by “This is what works for ME” and into “…And therefore YOU should do it TOO,” but I have Very Strong Yoga Feelings now and I cannot help myself. In short, yoga has helped me:

• Feel better physically, and
• Feel better emotionally

I could go on and on about how good it feels to have full mobility and increased strength and flexibility and how dedicating that time to myself feels so important and how breathing is kind of fucking magical and how my tricky lower back is no longer a lurking enemy waiting to strike when I bend over to pick up someone’s motherfucking sock, but enough already. Yoga is awesome, Yoga with Adriene is particularly awesome, and she has a brand-new 30 day series (free, on YouTube) starting on January 1st.

Maybe this is calling you? You never know, I sure wasn’t a yoga person before, but something changed in those 30 days and now I can’t imagine my life without it.

https://do.yogawithadriene.com/move

Joyful Movement. I don’t know how else to categorize this, but I get it nearly every day and I know it makes a difference. For me it’s via the Oculus Quest 2 — excuse me, the Meta Quest — headset, I play a lot of Beat Saber and Synth Riders. These are VR games that involve music and rhythm, and a whole lot of moving around trying to strike/avoid things.

Basically playing these games is like dancing, because of how you’re moving with the music. I dance all the time now, and I realize from the outside it looks like a middle-aged lady in a clunky helmet swatting wildly at a cloud of gnats, but who fucking cares, it feels like dancing. It is so fun and exhilarating and as a person who never had natural rhythm or was a born athlete, it’s honestly the first time I’ve felt the physical intuitiveness and reflexes I always assumed were outside of my capacities.

Anyway, I guess just really recommend moving to music, in any way you can, as often as you can. It feels like a love letter to being alive.

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Sonja M Rutherford
Sonja M Rutherford
7 months ago

I’ve never ever ever done yoga (or even watched it), but have been intrigued and I know I have zero core and no flexibility and turned 45 this year. Is Adrienne good for beginners that truly don’t know what we’re doing? And until I can prove to myself that this is something I will do, can you do this without a yoga mat or is there something that works well until I get one?

Cara
Cara
7 months ago

Sonja, another option is to look for an “all levels” yoga class at your local Y or community center. Yoga teachers who regularly teach those classes generally offer a lot of support and modification. In that setting, you have the lithe college student next to the elderly woman determined to keep her mobility behind the guy recovering from a car accident etc. I love them.

Yoga has always been a huge part of my exercise routine, but as Covid has kept me out of class I slowly queued up YouTube sessions less and less. I saw my doctor this week and he could tell. My community is one of huge spread and corresponding disbelief, so I’m going to have to get commit to Adrienne.

Courtney
Courtney
7 months ago

Always food to see you in my blog reader feed, Linda!

Shawna
Shawna
7 months ago

Sadly I believe that 2022 will be worse than 2021 on a personal level for the same reasons I thought 2021 would be worse than 2020: fatal illness diagnoses in my family, friends, and even for my pet. BUT, featuring heavily on my own “things that didn’t suck in 2021”, everyone ended up surviving 2021, so maybe I can be pleasantly surprised again this year?

Chloe
7 months ago

I am starting up a month of yoga with Adriene based on your recommendations here, serendipity and getting old(er), stiffer, and developing osteoarthritis. I’ve started back my strength training routine since I was vaccinated, and I will not give that up again willingly (it’s too important to my mental and physical health). But I also need flexibility and it doesn’t come easy anymore. I’ll see if this works for me.

MCW
MCW
7 months ago

You’ve inspired me to get back to yoga! I need to leave behind the mindset that I should do cardio when I’m time-limited for exercise/yoga (read: most days). It IS great for strength. My shoulders are sore after a couple days of yoga.

ReneefromGA
ReneefromGA
7 months ago

You inspired me to so that I finally signed up for YWA after flirting with the idea for years. It tried but it was just too much for me – I’m too out of shape and inflexible to do 90% of what she does, and could not figure out possible accommodations, quickly enough, to follow along. I didn’t really feel it was for beginners.

I did find some Tai Chi videos though, and they are much more my speed, though I want to make many jokes about David Carradine whenever I talk about it 😆.