As 2019 draws to a close, it is safe to say there have been a lot of ups and downs. For me, I leave this year in a different fashion to last – I leave with a different body, a different sense of self and a different perspective on the world. I have will leave some people behind, take others along for the next journey and wait to meet the people who are due to come into my life. So, without making resolutions like ‘lose weight’ or ‘exercise more’, how can we make 2020 not only a better year, but a better decade?
Use your power
Our most recent general election saw a substantial raise in voter turnout from previous years, but nearly 40% of the UK’s population still did not use their democratic power. For many, the phrase ‘I like to stay out of politics’ or even ‘I don’t know where I stand’ comes to mind. This is an action of privilege. By not using your democratic power, your friends, family and neighbours who do not have the same level of social standing as you, through different race, sexual orientation, disability or affluence, are left vulnerable. They need your vote to sustain them, the laws that protect them and the services that they require. When we have the next vote is quite unknown – it might be in January, it might be in five years time. When that time comes, use your power. Vote as if your life depends on it; for many, it does.
Technology is inevitable. No one is expecting you to live a Walden-esque life (think: woods, self-sustaining, little interaction) but all the same, this technological influence upon our lives can have majorly negative outcomes. Since the start of the decade, depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide has risen by a terrifying 31%. The pressures of being constantly available alongside the confidence that many gain when they don’t have to say something to someone’s face has contributed to a negative online culture, where anyone, from the average nine-year-old to any high profile celebrity will receive harmful comments or onslaughts of abuse. This inevitably chips away at self esteem, self image and positivity until little else remains. Therefore, this decade, let’s make a conscious decision to be kinder, online and in real life. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, if it’s not constructive and if it doesn’t contribute anything positive, it doesn’t need to be typed, tweeted, hashtagged or posted. An app to consider for help is the BBC ‘Own It’ app, which offers real-time advice on what you’re posting as you type. It has features for young people, reminding them of possible dangers if they begin typing personal information, lets you know if something might be hurtful or harmful to send, and even has a diary log that allows the user to record how they’re feeling, when and why. The BBC states that this is to give everyone a ‘ happier, healthier, more positive life online‘, which I think we can all get behind!
Do something nice
While the negative energy dissipates online, try something new! Doing something nice might mean something for you or someone else. You are absolutely, definitely never too old to learn something new. Local colleges and adult learning zones offer short term courses in anything from pottery to beginners Spanish, Italian cooking classes to salsa dancing. Whatever you’re interested in, there is bound to be a class or course near you or to take online. Maybe for you, doing something nice means a career change or taking up some volunteer work. It could be buying yourself a bunch of flowers once a week, or taking a bunch of flowers to someone else. Projects to start could involve knitting, reading Good Read’s ‘100 Books to Read Before You Die’, learning sign language or getting a qualification that you might need. Do something nice, because you deserve it!
Go to see the sea
Research has found that being near the ocean allows the brain to go into a meditative state, vastly improving your mental health. It reduces stress and anxiety levels, lifts your mood and gives you times to gain perspective on things (this last one isn’t science, but something that I have found). Plus, there’s the benefit that you can walk alongside the sea, either on the sand or on an accessible coastal path, blowing away the cobwebs (as my family like to say). This website (https://disabilityhorizons.com/2015/10/10-accessible-coastal-walks/) lists some of the UK’s best known accessible coastal paths, but there are definitely more available. Why not make it an all round good trip with a flask of coffee, an ice cream (or sorbet if there’s no vegan option!) and maybe even a cheeky bag of chips!
It would be naive to say to ‘leave your negativity in 2019’ because a lot of negative thoughts come from poor mental health, trauma, or difficult situations in your day to day life. What I will say though is to keep going. You have very almost made it to a new decade. Every day brings the chance to have at least thirty seconds to laugh, two minutes where you do something for you, five minutes to feel okay, twenty minutes to enjoy some calm. There are increasing resources to help us feel better, from sleep apps such as Calm (I cannot stress how much I love this), to big things like retreats. There is time to work through the things that have a hold on you, to remove some people from your life or reconnect with those you miss. There is time to make everything better, and if not everything, there is time to make some things better. Keep going and we’ll revisit this in the late stages of 2029.
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