Naomi Davis is the author of A Coat of Yellow Paint: Moving Through the Noise to Love the Life You Live. She is pictured above with her family.
During the moments that truly sucked over the last twelve months, I craved the normalcy of 2019 and all the years before. So much of this past year was filled with moments where my life felt so off track, with the world screeching louder and feeling more uncertain, that I selfishly wanted to be transported back to my life pre-pandemic… When wandering a bustling city shoulder-to-shoulder with people was as normal and natural as hugging loved ones and dear friends. When there was no such thing as trying to hype up my three elementary school-aged children for a day full of virtual lessons before school resumed, as my two-year-old twins crawled all over my lap demanding my attention. When you could call up a sitter because having a break from the kids for an hour sounded nice. I just wanted to sit properly at a desk and finish edits on the manuscript for my book instead of hiding in the back of my closet after enlisting my children’s most trusted pandemic-era sitter: the TV show Daniel Tiger.
Eventually I found myself daydreaming about life after the pandemic — the hopeful future we might all find ourselves awakening in one day as the world was miraculously vaccinated overnight. But in between daydreaming of my past life and my hopes for the future, I began to notice how often I would turn to my phone for some sort of escapism, hoping to find a bit of positive distraction in the day’s news updates, Instagram captions or funny memes of the internet.
But the problem with all of this – longing for an “easier” past or a “better” future, mindlessly scrolling in the hopes that maybe something on my screen could make me feel better – was that a positive attitude shift doesn’t come to fruition in this way. It requires action, change, and work on our part. And as the well-known saying goes about “putting on your own oxygen mask before assisting others,” it’s so much harder to better our families, communities and world when our own mindset is compromised.
So I took inventory of what I was consuming. I also took inventory of what I was putting out into the world for consumption. I challenged myself to reach for the good, to give thanks, to think positively, and embrace the twists and turns the year threw in my face with a more intentional heart — all while stopping the scroll. Because while my type-A personality has realized that so much is out of my control, I will always have control over my attitude. Repeat that with me, if you will: I will always have control over my attitude.
And when you begin to master that concept, I can tell you from experience how much better off everything around you becomes, especially when you stop scrolling. Because what matters most falls into place. And the things that don’t matter as much fall out of your life in a rather Marie Kondo-esque way. It all makes so much sense, and you feel more edified every day… And maybe a little bit frightened still, but that edification is worth its weight in gold.
And even though we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel with a worldwide vaccine rollout and businesses reopening, there’s still a lot of unknowns. But here’s the thing: Unknowns are a part of life. We have to shift our own attitudes, as individuals, in order to thrive both personally, and as a society.
Here are a few simple changes I’ve made to my daily life that have made all the difference for me. I hope you find some of them as helpful as I did.
- Use social media for good. Be mindful how you feel after consuming anything online. If you aren’t feeling encouraged, challenged in an approachable way, inspired, taught, or edified, edit your feed so it’s a better place for you to spend time.
- Compliment a stranger (even when they’re six feet away) and smile behind the mask. Even in this masked era, letting out a smile releases endorphins and the recipient can still catch the warm exchange through your eyes.
- Be kind. In a world that desperately needs it both on and offline, be kind.
- Set timers on your phone so you create healthy boundaries and time limits on your screen consumption. Stop the doom scrolling.
- Go outside, close your eyes and look up at the sun. I’m sure there are lots of scientific studies to back this up, but I swear I’m a changed woman after a few minutes of standing still with my sunshine.
- Send the snail mail or text you meant to send a month ago, or the voice memo that’s only 30 seconds long but will still mean everything.
- Keep dancing with the kids. Preferably at witching hour. Especially at witching hour.
We got this! And in the coming months as the world returns to normal, I’m going to be working on a new challenge for myself, one I hope you’ll join me in: I want to be able to look back on this pandemic and think about all the ways in which it made me stronger, all the things I learned about myself and this world, and all the efforts I can make in the years to come to make every day count. It didn’t all suck. And when we lean into our mindset, stop our scrolling and make the effort to build a genuine life, it makes all the difference — even on the days we never even leave the house.
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