If making resolutions is a typical part of the New Year, people’s resolutions may be a little different this year, especially after everything that happened in 2020. While many will likely resolve to quit smoking, drink less, lose weight or be more active (or all those things), others might focus on things they felt were lacking in 2020 – personal relationships, spending time with loved ones and perhaps mental health.

There is an old saying that we never miss the water ‘till the well runs dry, and there are actually several lessons to be drawn from this. First, there are parts of our lives we consider so routine and normal that we might take them for granted – visiting relatives over the holidays, seeing coworkers on a regular basis, going to a restaurant, ball game or concert, even going to school. Up until 2020, those were things most of us would consider a given.

The second thought is a simple follow-on to the first — that we might actually miss some of the things we take for granted, or even complain about, if we are suddenly prevented from doing them, especially by circumstances outside our control. The pandemic is such a circumstance, and not only disrupted our normal life routines, but also work, school and enjoying a good meal out.

The final lesson in this saying isn’t stated but implied — and it’s perhaps the most important — which is to appreciate the things you have when you have them. If nothing else, 2020 showed us that life can change rapidly and in ways we cannot anticipate — and that, really, we can’t take anything for granted.

This brings us back to New Year’s resolutions — and even if you’re someone that doesn’t make resolutions (a kind nod to my husband here), keep reading. I believe there are some ideas here for everyone for 2021.

The conventional wisdom is that resolutions to get healthier are most effective if they are realistic and specific. Also, we know that physical and mental health are inexorably linked, and most things that improve physical health will also benefit our mental health. And if you want to include not taking for granted the people, places and activities you love, then practicing gratitude can be an important goal for 2021 as well.

When we look at these aspects of our lives all together and make sustaining or improving them a goal, we are practicing self-care, which I think is one of the important goals we can have this New Year.

Of course, many people have difficulty with the idea of self-care because we’ve been raised to value the idea of selflessness, to always be willing to help others, and to believe that caring for oneself is selfish. But self-care is not selfish, it simply means giving ourselves the same grace, compassion and care we give to others. It is really anything that we deliberately do (or refrain from doing) with our own well-being in mind.

Toward that end, self-care can mean making an effort to do those things you may have missed because of the pandemic. Certainly, connecting more frequently with people you care about may require some creativity. But being creative, deliberate and focused on those things that are important to you – physical, mental, spiritual and emotional – is the very essence of self-care.

Ultimately, self-care doesn’t mean you don’t value others, or aren’t willing to support them, only that you can be in the right frame of mind to help them when they need you. Perhaps even more important, self-care fosters resiliency – the ability to bounce-back from negative events – something we all need after 2020.

I wish you all a happy and health New Year, filled with good fortune, good times and good feelings.

Melanie Dallas is a licensed professional counselor and CEO of Highland Rivers Health, which provides treatment and recovery services for individuals with mental illness, substance use disorders, and intellectual and developmental disabilities in the 12-county region of Northwest Georgia.

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