Whenever a new year starts, it’s impossible to avoid all the people who talk about their New Year’s resolutions ad nauseam. But here at The Temper, we’re not really fans of New Year’s resolutions (especially not ones based on tired old notions of dieting). While 2020 felt like a year of change and the start of a new decade, we can *all* admit that the year didn’t go as planned for anyone. The COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm and we will continue to deal with the tragedy, sickness, and loss for many months (or even years) to come. But even as we continue to deal with the trauma of 2020, I am optimistic about what 2021 may bring — including a vaccine and the possible return to normal life-ish for many of us.
With that in mind, we wanted to talk about how to invest in yourself in the new year — a practice that’s based on improving your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual self.
Basically, instead of promising yourself that you won’t do something (a typical “resolution”), you’re promising yourself to do something this year that involves making your life a little better each day. After all, there’s no point in making resolutions that you won’t end up keeping once February 1st rolls around. You can set goals (and we definitely encourage that) but what we love about investing in yourself is that you are actually doing something that betters you mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
There are many things that you can do to better yourself, of course, but our list of 21 ways to invest in yourself is a great place to start. And don’t worry: Even if you’re reading this well beyond January or well beyond 2021, it’s NEVER too late to invest in your future. Start today with some of our ideas below!
1. Get better sleep.
You’ve probably heard over and over that you should get a full night’s sleep… but I am here to tell you, once more, how important it is. If you don’t believe me, then I suggest you read Matthew Walker’s excellent Why We Sleep. He’s a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley, the Director of its Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab, and a former professor of psychiatry at Harvard University — meaning he knows what he’s talking about. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night because this is probably THE best form of self-care you can do.
2. Learn something new.
There is always time to learn something new, and the new year is exactly the perfect time to tackle those goals. It doesn’t have to be something for your career, either (though that’s nice, too). If you’re sober, perhaps you can take a refresher course or sign up to work with a recovery coach. The point of learning something new is to invest in your skill set but also in your mental and emotional health. There is no wrong or right way to do this one, as long as you actually DO it.
3. Compliment someone.
It’s a little thing but the truth is that compliments make us ALL feel good, psychologically speaking. You can probably remember a time or two when someone said something positive about your hair or the fact that you turned in that assignment early. Well, pass along the love! Passing along compliments to others can also make YOU feel good in turn, too. So try it today… just make sure it’s a genuine compliment in order to reap the mental health benefits for yourself.
4. Improve a bad habit.
You might notice that I am saying you have to quit your bad habit. I mean, sure, that might be nice but it can also be a lot of pressure for some of us. If you just want to work on doing your bad habit less or simply cutting back slowly until you feel good enough to quit, that’s okay too. Personally, I am going to work on not relying on candy as emotional support on days that I have high anxiety. I’m not going to totally quit eating candy and probably not even quit eating candy when I have anxiety, but cutting back will make me feel better and is a good way to invest in my overall health.
5. Start saving.
Look, I get it: Saving money is HARD. But it’s also one of the best things I did for my mental health in the past year. I did it by hustling on a side gig all year and putting 100% of the money from my side gig into my savings, which has been monumentally helpful as I had a baby in 2020 and thankfully had a legit emergency fund when I needed it this year (and the next). Recently, my home had an issue with wasps and I had to pay extra to sign up for a pest control service. And guess what? Having that savings account really helped! You don’t have to start big, though. Even if it’s just $100 a month or $5 a week… Saving little by little can really add up.
6. Go to your library.
I often see “read more” on people’s goals lists. But you know what’s even better than that? Supporting your local library… which, coincidentally, allows you to read more. I love going to my local library to browse through books I love, discover new ones, or even use their app to download audio or digital versions of books. This allows you to actually read more, anyway, and is a great way to support your local organization.
7. Connect with your community.
Speaking of local: Have you thought about getting more involved with your community? A great way to invest in yourself is by investing in others. You can invest in your social circle by attending Tempest’s Bridge Club events or other local sober group meetups. But it doesn’t have to be specific to your recovery, either. You can engage with your local church, food bank, or other volunteer-like activity. You can also network more in your field or attend conferences. The “community” aspect here applies in any way you want. Basically, it’s just about connecting with others — something that always makes you more in tune with yourself and is a great investment in your future.
8. Organize your home.
We’re big fans of Jocellyn Harvey here (as you can probably tell). She recently wrote the ultimate guide to decluttering your home in recovery called Recovering the Home. But you don’t have to start with a lengthy project. It can be something as simple as a little bit of decluttering around the house in the new year. A great place to start is with your closet. I’ve always been a fan of Tim Gunn’s rules when going through the closet: Make a pile for things you keep, make a pile for things you can mend, and a pile for things you donate. My only rule is that the things you “keep” have to make you feel like a million bucks. Like, literally. If I try something on and I am looking in the mirror and thinking “hmmmm, maybe,” then it ultimately goes in the donate pile. Unless something I wear gives me confidence or makes me feel super comfy, I don’t keep it. And yes, that even goes for that one dress you bought that you thought was SO CUTE at the time and then didn’t wear all summer long. (What, that was jus me?)
9. Eat something good-for-you.
We’re not talking about dieting here. Diets don’t work and, most of all, they can be triggering for those that are in recovery from an eating disorder. However, what you CAN do is add in more good-for-you foods. You don’t have to take away your much-beloved indulgences (like sugar) but it’s totally okay and even recommended if you eat the occasional green once in a while. Don’t make it a big, stressful goal, though. My general rule is to do the best you can, such as asking for mixed greens instead of roasted potatoes as your side at brunch, but not worry too much if you can’t manage to do that with every meal. Enjoy your food and remember that it’s what fuels you.
10. Get on the budget train.
One of the ways I was able to save up to have a pretty decent emergency fund in the past year is because I got serious about budgeting. I tried a bunch of apps, including the highly-regarded You Need a Budget, and ultimately settled on my own Google spreadsheet which incorporated some of the lessons I had learned about how to budget. My favorite tip from YNAB, in particular, is about how you should calculate all of your expected big expenses throughout the year (think twice-a-year car insurance payments, holiday/birthday presents, vet bills if you have a pet, etc.) and start putting money into a separate savings account for all of that stuff. This helped me to see that, by saving little-by-little, I didn’t have to freak out when I needed to take my cat to the emergency vet this past July since I already had some money saved in my “vet budget” for the year. Doing something simple like this, along with keeping track of my regular monthly expenses, is a great way to start the new decade.
11. Move your body.
Whenever someone tells me that I need to exercise, I resist. I know that it’s something I should do but the truth is that I just don’t love going to the gym and being surrounded by my fellow humans who are sweating and grunting away. It’s just not appealing. But you know what I do love? I love dancing and I love taking long walks with friends. That’s why, when I say “move your body,” I mean find ways to exercise without actually exercising. Of course, if you love CrossFit or yoga, that’s okay too. But for many of us, exercising means getting back to the gym on January 1st and it just doesn’t have to be that stressful.
12. Go outside.
Vitamin D is extremely important to our health and happiness, including helping to ward off depression. Guess what most of us don’t get during these cold winter months? Yup, Vitamin D! No wonder seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can affect so many this time of year. Just as I am recommending that you engage in some movement, I’m also recommending that you get yourself outside a little bit every week. Perhaps you can even pair the two by inviting your friend to go on a small hike or even just explore the local public park together.
13. Use social media smartly.
I’m not a big fan of people who say that we all need to put our phones down and stop our social media obsession. For one, this seems extremely negative. Secondly, it’s kind of shaming. And most of all, it’s just unrealistic. Many of us live part of our lives online and it’s a great place to connect with like-minded folks, like fellow sobriety enthusiasts. What I do recommend, though, is using social media smartly. This means unfollowing people that make you feel bad (whether it’s because you’re comparing yourself to their lives or because they post negative comments) and only engaging when you truly want to. If you need a break, then take a break. But, for me, nothing makes me feel better than when I narrow down my follow list to people I actually am happy to see in my feed daily.
14. Explore your creativity.
In sobriety, many of us get back in touch with our creative younger selves. For me, this meant that I was journaling non-stop as well as indulging in coloring books. It’s become a great activity for when my anxiety peaks (and I don’t want to rely on candy, as I mentioned previously) and allows me to do something fun and creative. Others I know began writing when they got sober, started podcasts, indulged in photography, and so much more. So, what was the creative thing you loved doing as a kid? Do that again!
15. Drink more water.
Just like sleep, this is something you already know you should be doing but I am here to remind you once more. It’s not as difficult as you think to drink more water and the health benefits are outstanding (they’re even backed by science!). All you really need to do is know where your nearest source of water is and make sure that you always have a device to drink it from nearby. I invested in a Tervis earlier this year and it’s been an absolute life-saver, which has helped to make me (as I often joke) “the most hydrated pregnant lady on the planet.” But you don’t need to buy a fancy new water bottle to do this one. Just make sure that, wherever you are, you are either carrying a water bottle or have a cup of water nearby.
16. Evaluate your friendships.
Just as I recommend that you go through your follow list on social media and unfollow anyone that no longer makes you happy, you should do the same thing in real life with your friends. And, well, if you have toxic family members as well… I often go through my phone at the end of the year and check-in on who I am still talking to regularly. Sometimes, I find that I am keeping someone’s number in my phone simply because of an extended history but don’t really see myself talking with them in the future. That’s why the end of the year period and early new year is a great time to see who you still feel connected to and who you still want in your life. Sometimes, friendships fade or become negative, and you need to let them go. That’s okay. It’s not easy, mind you, but it’s necessary.
17. Go to therapy.
This is not something you will see on any other “invest in yourself” list but you know what? Going to therapy is one of the best things you can do for yourself, wherever you are in the recovery journey. It’s huge to be able to invest in your own mental health and is something that will surely reap great rewards in the near and distant future. For me, going to therapy is an absolutely crucial part of my own recovery and not something that I would ever miss out on. I’m lucky that my therapist is covered by my insurance but, before I got on my current plan, I was seeing a therapist who had me paying on a sliding scale. This worked pretty well, too, and allowed me to deal with a lot of my early anxiety issues just after getting sober so that I didn’t have a relapse (again).
18. Take your PTO.
Another thing you won’t often find on lists that tell you how to invest your time or money is the advice to take all of your vacation time from your employer, but here we are anyway. The very sad truth is that 55% of Americans do not take all of their vacation time and that makes me really sad in a nation of people who are pretty much on the verge of burnout constantly. If you are lucky enough to have an employer who gives you Paid Time Off, do yourself a huge favor and actually take that time to yourself. Don’t just wait until you are sick to have a day off. Instead, invest in yourself and your happiness by planning a few vacations (or staycations, if money is tight) throughout the year. This is a long-term investment that will pay off by not only helping you come back to work refreshed but also will help keep your sanity in the long run.
19. Spend time on your list.
Now that we’ve got this handy dandy list, you know what you need to do? Actually spend TIME on it. This means that, whatever is on your 2021 goals list (and whether or not you take our advice), you should devote a little bit of time every single week to actually make sure that you are doing the things you want to be doing. Goals are really great to have but they’re not going to accomplish themselves. You need an action plan, even if your only action plan is to take 10 minutes every week to do one of these things.
20. Prioritize being present.
This is something that I am personally planning to work on next year. Not because I think I am using my phone too much (though that’s sometimes true, too) but because I often find my mind wandering to stressful things when I am trying to connect with my partner or with a friend. In order to accomplish this, I am going to start a mindfulness habit by using a meditation app. Another good way to do it is by simply practicing bringing yourself back to the moment. Basically, if you find yourself not present in the moment, start by focusing on your breath and re-engaging with whatever it is you are doing. It’s easier said than done, sure, but you have all year to get it right.
21. Set up a de-stressing corner.
2020 was a difficult year, and it’s true that the concept of self-care has become popularized and cheesy. But as we head into 2021 and a new year of hope and renewal (thank you, science, for making a COVID-19 vaccine happen in record time!), we still need to take care of ourselves. While all of the things on this ling count as self-care, I suggest you make a specific space for your house that’s just for you and has some of your favorite items for self-care and de-stressing. For me, that’s a cozy chair with a little table that contains my favorite books, a candle, and a cozy blanket. For others, it may be a meditation corner or a spot on their porch to drink a morning up of coffee. Whatever helps you de-stress, we will need even more of that in 2021. So, get some rest, and get ready for a new year!
At the end of the day, there are a LOT of ways that you can invest in yourself in the new year. But don’t let that hold you back. The truth is that you can invest in yourself anytime, anywhere. It doesn’t have to be a new year or even a new decade for you to take a step back and figure out what it is that you want, and do it. Our list is just a great place to start — now you just have to go out there and rock it!