By: Kara M. (’21)
Remember the beginning of 2020, when we said it was going to be our year? After a tumultuous 2019, with Trump’s impeachment, the Notre Dame fire, protests in Hong Kong, wildfires in the Amazon and more, we felt disillusioned, disappointed and discouraged, but ready for the new year. Once again, we face the end of a year with similar exhaustion. However, the mindset that the strike of a clock at midnight on December 31st will magically eliminate all the issues of 2020 should not be encouraged. In fact, it is emotionally and mentally dangerous to pin all your hopes on the start of a new year. If you set your expectations too high for all the goals you’ll accomplish, all the great events that will happen, all the ways you’ll be a new person, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Applying yourself is a more effective approach towards personal growth; this can be done at any time of the year, not only at the beginning. Having hope for the new year is not a bad thing in itself, but hope should By Kara Murri (‘21) be applied on a daily basis, rather than just waiting for an arbitrary future date for things to improve. Hope is not toxic positivity or unrealistic optimism. Alia E. Dastagir of USA Today referred to hope as being about “using personal agency to achieve a desired outcome,” and it is essential to your mental health, helping combat anxiety and depression and helping produce chemicals like endorphin in your mind. So, rather than feeling overly optimistic or overwhelmed about the future of 2021, apply your hope as a catalyst to fix what you can, and focus on the little things. Pandemics, academics, politics, travel restrictions and economic downturns are all stress-inducing matters. But there are a few things you can do to increase your wellness and happiness in the midst of stress. A study in positive psychology conducted by the American Psychological Association suggested some ideas: acknowledge your strengths and capitalize on them, complete random acts of kindness, take time to be grateful, savor your past and future positive experiences and allow positive emotions to influence you to be flexible to what life throws at you. By setting realistic goals for yourself, having hope and practicing positive psychology you have a real chance of finding actual happiness at any moment in the year. “It would be better to prepare for a difficult 2021 and be surprised by its being easier than to assume things will be easier and find life is still hard,” Aaron E. Carroll of the New York Times said. “This is a marathon, not a sprint. Both, though, require running.” The key to being hopeful and happy is not starting fresh on Jan. 1. The key is to start fresh every day, persisting and thriving through the tough times. Instead of being toxically optimistic about your expectations for 2021, be realistically positive and tirelessly hopeful. We may not know when this pandemic will end, or when things will get better, but we do have control over our happiness by controlling our attitude and actions. The power is in our hands to make it our moment, our day, our month, and, ultimately, our year.