Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, 2017 is likely to be a year unlike any we’ve ever experienced. America has never been more divided, and many people are feeling alienated and anxious. We can’t deny that hatred, cynicism and misunderstanding are present, but we each have the power to transform them. The author and anthropologist Margaret Meade said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
Let’s make 2017 the year we commit to strengthen ourselves in five key areas, so that collectively, we can create a world where we can all thrive, not just survive, during the coming year.
Cultivate a Strong Body
We all need strong bodies because physical strength helps to ground us. It helps keep our immunity high in times of stress so we don’t get sick. Exercising regularly, getting good nutrition each day and making sure we get sound, restful sleep gives us the energy we need to thrive and successfully manage stress and fear.
The Practice: Move your body for a half hour or more at least four times each week and for a minimum of fifteen minutes every day. Walk the dog. Use a treadmill or an elliptical while you’re reading or watching TV. Run. Swim. Play basketball. Do Yoga. Just MOVE. Get good nutrition every day. Say good-bye to fast food. Make sure you’re consistently getting at least seven hours of sleep each night and be mindful of how much alcohol you ingest.
We all need strong bodies because physical strength helps to ground us.
Cultivate a Strong Spirit
The poet Rumi said, “Come out of the circle of time and into the circle of love.” That’s what building a strong spirit allows us to do.
The Practice: To cultivate a strong spirit, dedicate time each day to communing with your higher power, whatever form that takes for you. Some do this through a regular practice of prayer or meditation. For others, it’s being in community with fellow seekers, spending time with family or communing with nature. A strong spirit can also be cultivated through a regular gratitude practice. Create whatever ritual that enables you to come out of the circle of time and into the circle of love.
Then dedicate at least ten minutes each day to that practice. Think about ways that you can demonstrate compassion in the world and pay it forward, then take those actions. A strong spirit will help you keep your wings in the air and your feet on the ground, especially when you need it most.
Cultivate a Strong Mind
The mind is a powerful instrument and we have far more control over what we think than we credit ourselves with having. In this “post-truth” age we’re living in, we must be vigilant about what we choose to consume. The old saying, “garbage in, garbage out” couldn’t be truer.
The Practice: To cultivate a strong mind, take in things that feed you such as inspirational stories, great literature, blogs, or movies that inspire you or give you hope about the world. Calibrate how much news you listen to, how much time you spend on social media, how much media you consume. Stay informed, but don’t allow the media to dictate your life or your mood. Every day, set an intention to be good to your mind by being careful what you feed it. Fill it with things that help expand what’s possible, rather than things that cause you to contract or live in fear. Start your day with an inspirational book, a TED talk or a blogger you follow that gives you hope. Know when it’s time to say “no” to more news, especially when you’re trying to go to sleep.
Cultivate a Strong Community
We are all connected, and especially when times are challenging, we need people we can rely on for support. People are reaching out to one another and are willing to be allies for groups of people they may have never considered before. If we’re ever going to come together again as a country, we need to learn how to reach out, engage in dialogue, listen and seek to understand those with different opinions and experiences. Building a strong web of community and support is crucial, because at the end of the day, we are all in this together.
The Practice: Reach out to two or three friends and plan to get together at least once a month and be available by phone as needed. You can also volunteer to host a circle through groups like Dream Corp’s #lovearmy, which are designed to help us support one another and work across differences. If you have skills to volunteer, find a place to give back and pay it forward in your community. If you have kids, take them with you to volunteer at a local food bank or charity nearby where they can also make a difference.
Cultivate a Strong Character
Our moral courage reflects our character. These times call for us to be both brave and resolute. We need to know what we stand for and what we’re unwilling to sacrifice, regardless of the cost
The Practice: Spend an hour this coming weekend reflecting on your most deeply held values. Write them down. Then spend time thinking about how you can put those values into action every day, at home and at work. Also, give thought to what ethical lines you are unwilling to cross, no matter the cost. Then each day upon waking, set an intention about how you’d like to show up in the world in a way that is aligned with your values and ethics.
Then do your best to fulfill it.
Dr. Victoria Bateman, an esteemed economist best known for her nude protests for gender equality, uses her body as a form of art that serves to challenge the stigma around women's bodies and women's rights, in the world of economics. In March 2018, Bateman attended the annual conference of the Royal Economic Society in Brighton stark naked with the word "respect" written across her chest and stomach. Unbashful in delivering her message, Bateman was determined to start a conversation.