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Step One's resolution for 2022: Joy

Step One's resolution for 2022:  Joy

Every year I try to make a New Year’s resolution for myself and I invite you to come along with me.  As I reflect upon the past year it seems fitting for me to focus on something we might have all been missing for a while – joy. 

I don’t know about you but I'm sooooo tired of COVID. Not the virus itself – which hopefully is starting to go the way of viruses before it, becoming less deadly with each mutation – but how the virus changed our lives.  Fear around gathering for weddings and funerals.  Forced isolation from family and friends.  Facial expressions covered by masks.  The home as respite becoming home as workplace and home as classroom.  The simple joys of life disappearing seemingly overnight.

So for 2022, my plan is to turn the page on joy...and try to get it all back.

Close to a year ago now, I experienced a life-threatening illness in a foreign country.  A tiny kidney stone that refused to pass and instead caused septic shock.  For a time, my kidneys shut down, my lungs filled with fluid, my platelets fell to nonexistent levels and my white blood cell count went through the roof.  I had to be transported by air ambulance in hypoxic delirium and ended up spending nearly a week in an ICU far away from home.  Given all the odds against me, it’s amazing that I survived. But I did.

And that experience has colored much of my outlook on life ever since.  But what’s interesting is that the outlook metamorphosis has not lessened in intensity over time. Rather it’s only accelerated. 

Each day I get up even more grateful to be alive.  And I’m in awe of the beauty and goodness that surrounds me.  The giant maple tree in my yard that becomes a vibrant orange during fall.  The sky going from black to light blue as I'm jogging in the wee hours of every morning.  My dog who showers me with unconditional love.  My children who have grown into happy, successful, interesting people – on their own terms and through their own efforts.  My husband who has stood by me as I started this company, even though everyone thought I was crazy to cut back on my cardiology practice and the predictable hours and income that afforded.

All the worries I used to have now seem either trivial or surmountable.  All the anxieties I used to harbor about my ability to grow Step One are gone.  I might have had zero business skills when I started, but I’ve learned a lot and have been so incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by really good people who share my determination to make a difference.

And for this coming year my plan is to celebrate being alive even more and to find even more things to be joyous about.

For me, the joy that was zapped by COVID in 2020 returned in 2021 after a brush with death.  But that’s certainly not a path I’d recommend!  The good news, according to psychologists, is that joy can actually be cultivated.  Scientific research shows that we all have the power to take control of our happiness by choosing our thoughts, behaviors, and actions.  In fact, positive emotional qualities, such as kindness and mindfulness can be learned and improved through training -- in the same way that practice improves our musical or athletic abilities. That means, over time, we can all build lasting habits that increase our emotional resilience and improve our happiness levels.

All well and good but how do we “practice” joy??

A couple of years ago, my resolution was to say something nice to a stranger...every day.  Although that became impossible during the height of COVID, I have tried to be more intentional about this action whenever possible.  And every time I’ve done it, I’ve experienced a little "happiness boost".  Turns out making someone else’s day a little brighter brightens mine too!  In 2022 I’m going to keep building on this practice.

And I’m going to also keep building on the gratitude that has been awoken within me.  My goal is to find something new to be grateful about every single day.  Because I know that focusing on what is good in my life will help put any problems I might have in better perspective. 

Finally, I’m going to focus on my relationships and try to make them closer.  A Harvard study has shown that “close relationships...protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.”

These might be the steps I plan to take in 2022, but you might decide to take a different path.  After all there are many ways to build joy.  Joy can come from the act of pursuing a hobby or passion.  It can come from experiencing nature. It can come from spending time with the people we love. And it can come from a sense of wellbeing earned through healthier habits.

But no matter how you decide to pursue and experience joy, I wholeheartedly wish you more of it in 2022!  Here's to many more smiles (hopefully fully unmasked) ahead.

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