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Barton Goldsmith: A brave new year

Barton Goldsmith
Tribune News Service

This past year was a very scary one, and we are still dealing with a lot of it – especially the pandemic. Figuring out how to live your life without getting sick makes doing almost anything more difficult—and worrying about it only makes things worse.

This year brought a surge in both addiction and mental health problems. If you are having issues, taking care of yourself shouldn’t be just a New Year’s resolution but your No. 1 priority. Making 2021 a year of health, physically and emotionally, will give you a lot of what you need to thrive in the coming months.

We are going to have to be brave in the new year, not in terms of taking risks but in how we move our lives forward, when there is so much trying to hold us back. Now, don’t get the wrong idea: 2021 is probably not going to be the year that your IPO will launch on NASDAQ. If you just stay stable and are able to work, you are doing very well. Trying to hit a home run under the current circumstances may just add to the frustration of pandemic burnout.

Barton Goldsmith: A brave new year (Dreamstime/TNS)

This may be the year to write your novel, grow vegetables in the garden, or organize the garage. Whatever you choose to do, keep one thing in mind: although life may not be ideal in the age of COVID, it’s good to be alive. This is a year to plan to be your best self, no matter what comes down the road. No one knows the future — everyone is just guessing about what life will be like — so the only control you have is over your own behaviors and attitude.

I expect that we will return to some form of normal (whatever that is to you) in the not-too-distant future. But right now our world is still a kind of dystopian journey. It’s hard to know how to pack for it because we just never know what we’re going to need. That doesn’t mean you can’t make plans, but you do need to be flexible. Looking ahead and imagining a different future is normal, but now you have to get even more creative.

Although there is a surge in addictions, there are also many people who are using this time to clean up their respective acts, getting sober, getting things done and getting more out of life than before the pandemic. This is because they are moving toward a positive goal, which brings happiness with it.

You see, it doesn’t matter how the year started out; what matters is how you make your way through it. Are you going to trip and fall? Are you going to try to trip up other people? Most of us are pretty angry about how the pandemic has changed our lives — not to mention how it has ruined some and even ended others — and that anger can make you an ugly person, so don’t go there.

Instead, work on your attitude. This is something I need to do almost every day — and sometimes every hour — right now. I’m going into 2021 knowing that I don’t expect to see Clapton and Mayer on stage or the Rams practice. I do have the opportunity to do the best work of my life right here and right now, and that’s where I’m putting my energy. I want to be better at everything I am able do, and that’s how I will fill my year.

Whatever your plans for 2021, make them positive — that simple attitude shift will make you feel better — and know that you are making this a brave new year, just by getting to 2022.

Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of "The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time." Follow his daily insights on Twitter at @BartonGoldsmith, or email him at Barton@bartongoldsmith.com.