I’m sitting on my sectional sofa, flooded with Black Friday emails, TV Advertisements, Live News Coverage on what’s happening at Target. My chest feels tight. My mind is racing. I’m thinking of all of the people I have to buy Christmas presents for. I check Facebook or Instagram instead. This is the vicious cycle that my routine often drifts to at some point throughout the day. I can’t help but wonder, what happened to the simpler days?

Technology has been both a blessing and curse to us all; while there have certainly been amazing things accomplished by these new additions and creations, the availability of information at our fingertips at all times has left us a little on edge. Social media has us seeing what friends, family members, cats and celebrities are doing at all times – in turn making us feel like maybe we should be doing something worthy of posting as well. We get CNN notifications of political warfare, shootings, and other tragic events – in live time. The only positive thing I have seen on the news (which I rarely watch because of the constant negativity) in what feels like months is a panda embarking back to China. We are flooded with these materialistic advertisements for all of the things that companies are trying to sell us, because OBVIOUSLY we NEED a Roku TV. We just need it.

As we approach 2020, I find myself reflecting on my childhood. I felt more present back then. The only time someone bothered me was when they called me on the landline and if I didn’t want to talk to them my mom was essentially the “end call” button. I remember being forced to play outside and spend time away from my GameBoy, even though I was extremely close to evolving Pikachu. I was oblivious and I was content.

We have become a culture of consumers. We want more, we need more. We are confused between what we want and what we need. We want to be better; we think that things will make us better. The newest iPhone, the most upgraded TV, the house worthy of our own version of MTV Cribs. We have lost sight of why we are all really existing; and no, I haven’t figured that out – but I imagine it’s more than to watch Netflix for 6 hours straight everyday.

I’ve recently been looking at some cultural practices with one goal in common: they work to re-center people by making lifestyle changes. I’ve discovered these three practices that sparked an interest because they make a lot of sense:

  • In German culture, Waldeinsamkeit is the feeling of solitude or peace when alone in the woods. The idea is, you spend time away from your material items and reconnect with nature. Breathe in that fresh air deep, open your eyes and take in your surroundings. The colors of the leaves, the sound that they make rustling in the wind. The smell of the earth underneath your feet. The feeling of the cool air on the uncovered parts of your skin. Although it’s hard for us to break away from our cubicles or desks, we can attempt to incorporate this in our off time more often to unplug from the hustle and bustle of everyday stressors.
  • South African Ubuntu is the practice of being kind to others. The belief is that when we show others kindness and graciousness, we elevate ourselves towards our higher beings. As a social worker, this is something I am grateful to practice daily. However, it does not end when I walk out of those doors. I’m sure to always smile at people I pass by, I buy the person’s coffee behind me in the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru. Little acts of kindness. And guess what, it feels good! Have you ever had a terrible day, and someone does a small gesture that makes all the difference? This is what Ubuntu means to me, and it’s something that we all need to practice more often.
  • Norwegian Koselig – COZINESS! This is one I can fully support incorporating into my life. Koselig focuses on warmth, self-care, relaxation, intimacy, comfort and indulgence (not over-indulgence, but just enough). It’s spending quality time with the people that you love – not having lunch while both texting other people or looking at your phones for whatever other reason. It’s being present in the moment with people, feeling the connection. It’s also showering yourself with those things that make your heart happy. Sitting next to your cat (if it let’s you), lighting candles, cuddling up under a furry blanket while you read a book. Getting back to those old school roots of comfort; not in watching TV, but in listening to music that touches your soul and having meaningful conversations face to face.

It’s said that these ancient practices can help to reduce the daily stress we feel and the pressures we encounter on a daily basis. They may even have you take a look at your life and bring clarity to what is truly important; and I promise you, it’s not the TV. Unplug from your social media more often, spend more time outdoors, ensure that your time to recharge is meaningful. 2020 is the time to open our eyes and re-focus on our visions; it is our year to break away from gaining things and work towards gaining moments. It’s our year to work towards being the best versions of ourselves and reignite the light inside of us. We are the light.