21 Days of Renewal in ’21

by Barbara Gruener

Happy new year. It’s that time again, the perfect opportunity to start over, begin anew, to make those long-overdue changes. Or so it seems. So, we resolve to move forward with healthier habits, like eating less, exercising more, maybe even losing a little weight. And then, a few weeks in, we’re right back where we started only worse, because our inner critic is shaming us, berating us, and beating us up for letting ourselves down. Sound at all familiar?

What if, instead, we were to take a more compassionate, mind-body-soul approach to renewal this year? No lofty resolutions to break. No outrageous goals you have to hurt yourself to meet.

Originally, I chose 21 because that’s how many reps it takes to make a new habit, but just this week, I read this post about that possibly being a myth. Sigh. Regardless, I thought it’d be a fun to get back to the basics with a 21-day renewal challenge to kick off 2021. Who’s in?

Day 1: Set a sleep goal of 8-10 hours per night. Log your sleep and go to bed a bit earlier if you need to. Try a guided meditation if you need help.

Day 2: Invite someone out for a walk ‘n talk. Maybe you have a fun nature trail or a lake you can walk around. Or perhaps there’s a track at your local school.

Day 3: Bring calm to your mind by decluttering a bit. Author Gretchen Rubin suggests starting by clearing away at least one shelf. Then donate your surplus stuff.

Day 4: Watch a television show or movie that makes you laugh. Out loud. Then enjoy the myriad benefits of laughter.

Day 5: Try this self-compassion exercise, one of my favorites by Dr. Kristen Neff.

Day 6: Journal or draw a picture of five things that you are grateful for. Then try a gratitude meditation.

Day 7: Send a handwritten thank-you note to a family member or a friend. Then, just for fun, write one to yourself. What will you thank yourself for?

Day 8: Try a new breathing technique, like the 4-7-8. We take 17,000-35,000 breaths per day; what might change for the better if you could harness the power of your breath by making more of them intentional?

Day 9: Make time for your favorite hobby or try something new, like knitting or playing the ukulele. I learned to play with help from The Ukulele Teacher online.

Day 10: Do something fun for your inner child, like making a snowman, riding your bike, or playing a video game.

Day 11: Curate a playlist with uplifting, encouraging songs, then share it with someone who could use a booster shot of joy.

Day 12: Set aside thirty minutes to relax in a sauna, steam, or hot bath with essential oils.

Day 13: Carve out some time to put a jigsaw puzzle together with someone. It’ll be fun, and, as a bonus, it’ll help to improve your memory.

Day 14: Read your favorite picture book with or to someone special in person if possible or over Zoom if necessary.

Day 15: Invite a friend to your favorite serenity spot and enjoy the stillness of unwrapping the present together.

Day 16: Pick a mindfulness mantra (Be where your feet are.) to help you refocus when your mind gets distracted or starts to wander. Or try a Mantra Meditation.

Day 17: Set aside some playtime with your favorite fur-baby; check out these benefits to pet therapy.

Day 18: Complete a Body Scan to check in with yourself and see how you’re doing.

Day 19: Get off the couch, grab a partner, and dance. In his book Brain Rules, molecular biologist John Medina reminds us that aerobic exercise actually boosts brain power. That, and it feels amazing to get moving.

Day 20: Try a new recipe from another culture and enjoy the energy that creating in your kitchen can bring. German Pork Schitznel anyone?

Day 21: Write a letter sharing your WHY with someone and inviting them to share theirs. Dr. Jody Carrington tells us that Passion rides shotgun to purpose. What are you passionate about?

So, instead of out with the old and in with the new this year, here’s to a happy new YOU using these old-fashioned, tried-and-true ideas and quick, simple strategies to nourish your mind, nurture your body, and feed your soul.

And since repetition is the key to fluency, once you’ve made your way through the 21-day challenge, feel free to mix up the order as you get ready to do it all over again.

Better yet, grab a blank calendar and customize your next 21-day challenge.