22 Ways I’m Being Kinder to Myself and the Planet in 2022
For years, I celebrated the transition to a new year in absolute silence.
I was fresh out of yoga teacher training, and one of my favorite studios at the time—I was living in New York—was Jivamukti on the Lower East Side (before it moved to Union Square). The vegan yoga studio hosted a free, silent New Year’s Eve meditation. There were dairy-free chai and vegan cookies. How could I resist?
Admittedly, I’m not a regular meditator, despite my yoga training.
I prefer to lose myself in nature, hiking through the hills of Los Angeles that have been my home now for more than a decade (I saw two grey foxes just last weekend on a hike—a first for me).
Even though meditation wasn’t a daily practice for me, there was something magical about stillness on a night that’s so often filled with drunken boisterousness. This stillness seemed to cultivate an awareness about so much: the passage of time, the fragility of life, the personal growth opportunities, memories, hopes, and dreams.
Of course, you’re not supposed to focus on any of that—meditation is about clearing the mind. But lots of students at the center, myself included, would journal and contemplate before the midnight meditation led by Jivamukti founders Sharon Gannon and David Life.
Sometimes, after the night concluded, I’d balance that refreshing stillness with a crowded club if my friends were DJing. I loved the contrast between the two experiences. I’d stand in the club, the music pummeling me from every direction, still feeling that stillness within, that awareness.
These days, my New Year’s Eve celebrations usually end early; there’s bedtime for my daughter, and the exhaustion that comes with parenting and never seems to leave.
But even if I don’t make it to midnight, I often imagine being back in the Jivamukti studio, the air smokey with incense, spicy with warm chai. I imagine what I might focus on there now, as a parent, as a business owner, and as the world has changed so very much.
This year, I’m getting a jump on my journaling—doing it publicly here. Perhaps my 22 commitments for 2022 will offer something for you, too, however you celebrate.
Happy New Year.
1. Cultivate patience
The first thing on my list for 2022 is patience. The older I get, the more patient I’ve become. I think about how impulsive and reactive I was as a teenager. Parenting changed that, but these last two years have changed a lot, too.
The pandemic has forced us to be more patient—the lines, the spacing, the sitting at home. There’s a lot to learn from this. How can patience help us tackle other problems like climate change?
2. More self-care
Massages aren’t indulgent. Neither is a day spent at hot springs, the spa, or lazing around on the couch all day Sunday. It’s so easy to push our own needs aside. But if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t be expected to take care of others, or the world we all share.
3. More nature
I love those LA hikes I mentioned. They bring so much peace of mind. If I’m tired, sluggish, stuck creatively, nothing fixes me like a hike. We can all benefit from fresh air, even if it’s just yard work or a walk to the supermarket.
Nature is a healer, as woo-woo as that may sound. We are part of nature, not living amongst it. Connect with the world around you.
4. Prioritize sleep
Sleep changed dramatically after my daughter was born. That was eight years ago and it’s still not great. It’s easy to get distracted and work late into the night.
But it’s not healthy. Scores of research point to the importance of sleep, so 2022 will see me set a bedtime curfew window (a little flexibility is key!) and do my best to stick to it.
5. More exercise
The pandemic killed exercise for many of us. Gyms and yoga studios shut down, and even though many are now open, who wants to do that all masked up?
Exercise fosters mental and physical well-being, can loosen creative blocks, and so much more. I bought myself a road bike recently, and it’s already getting put to use.
6. More plants (to eat)
It’s been almost 30 years since I stopped eating animals.
Back then, I never could have imagined the vegan options we have today. But as good as the vegan burgers are, they can be loaded with sodium—not to mention all the plastic and packaging.
I’m going to stock my fridge with whole grains and beans, fresh fruits and veggies, and save the processed stuff for treat nights.
7. Eating with the season (macrobiotic)
When I first went vegan, macrobiotic was still all the rage in health food stores. It’s a diet that became popular in the U.S. in the 1960s and ‘70s. And after all these years, I still think it’s the optimal way to eat.
The focus is on eating with the seasons—kind of the diet equivalent of those nature hikes. I highly recommend The Self-Healing Cookbook by Kristina Turner for a primer on macrobiotics and some great recipes.
8. More plants (in the house)
I recently wrote about house plants teaching me some things during lockdown. They’re great companions to green up and oxygenate your living spaces. Read about them here.
9. More time gardening
We’ve got great yard space here in LA, and luckily we can plant year-round.
There are so many benefits to digging in the dirt. Even if you don’t have a yard, you can pot on balconies, porches, and patios. I’m going to plant some veggies in the spring.
I read and write all day. But not books. It used to be a core part of my bedtime routine—ten minutes or so with my nose in a book. But that slowed down immensely over the last year.
I miss that part of my routine, so it’s coming back. Reading, whether fiction or not, can stimulate creativity, calm the mind, and teach us something. Pick up a book!
There is so much stuff in this world. And my daughter owns about 90 percent of it.
This is the caveat emptor to parenting. The stuff accumulates. I subscribe to a clutter-free mantra as best I can. And because I know I can’t expect my daughter to ditch all of her toys, I am offsetting that by ensuring my clutter is in check. This gives me peace of mind and makes our home a more nurturing and supportive environment.
12. Make do
It’s so easy to justify buying new things. (I’m looking at you, baguettes.) This is the world we live in, right? We need lots of things, certainly. But can we make do with what we have? Can we extend the life out of things just a bit longer?
There’s a type of satisfaction here that’s unparalleled. It’s a goal of mine for 2022 to not purchase anything that isn’t necessary. We’ll see how it goes!
Are you a volunteer for any projects? I did a lot more of this pre-parenting. But in 2022, I’m aiming to get my daughter and I doing a few more community activities.
We’re planning on some beach cleanups, and some tree plantings with my favorite charity, The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. The group plants trees around the world to help provide food, shelter, shade, and even a revenue boost to communities in need. Check out the organization here.
14. Taking risks
It’s been a scary two years amid this pandemic. But that’s not the kind of scary I’m talking about.
I co-founded Ethos earlier this year. It’s exciting, but it’s also scary. What if we don’t succeed? What if people criticize the platform?
I love the saying about taking risks like getting fruit from trees—it’s out on the limbs, which are riskier to climb, but it’s the only way to get the fruit. And the rewards we reap from risk-taking can foster more self-reliance and self-awareness.
This changes how we interact with the world. This is important.
15. Less social media
While work keeps me connected to social media daily, I’ve already decreased my time on Facebook to work only. And it has been such a relief! I
love my friends and family. I love catching up with them and staying connected. But social media is draining. Too much screen time makes us irritable. Staring down at our phones is bad for our posture! If we want a kinder world, we’ll have to cultivate it in real life.
16. Laugh more
Corny jokes are my new go-to ice breakers. The pandemic, the climate crisis, the political dramas—they are taking tolls on everyone. We need levity. Silliness. This isn’t indulgent. This is spiritual wellness. Laugh more.
17. Paying more attention
I’ve been teaching my daughter to listen more to her friends, her family, her teachers. Not that she doesn’t listen, but is she really hearing everything they’re saying? Is she absorbing what’s going on?
Why is this important? Because when we truly listen, we understand. We can be more supportive if needed. We can connect with people on a more meaningful level. This matters now more than ever, doesn’t it?
18. More family time
This year, I’m planning all vacations around family visits. Family time can be difficult for many of us, but this is why it’s so important. Can we harness our inner peace and our kindness in places that are filled with triggers?
19. Being impeccable with my word
If you haven’t read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, I recommend it. I’m going to also list these four life rules now to close out this list.
First: Be impeccable with your word. This is the first agreement, and a difficult one for many of us. We overpromise. We say unkind things. We let our words misrepresent our true selves. This is unfortunate and avoidable. Remember to include yourself in this—be impeccable with your inner dialogue, too.
20. Don’t take anything personally
This is the second agreement and one I love for so many reasons.
It’s so easy to take things personally. An email you misread, a canceled appointment, an unreturned text or email.
Remember that everyone is on their own journey, going through their own stuff. It’s easy to forget and oh-so-important to remember. When we keep this top of mind, we respond to difficult situations in kinder ways.
21. Don’t make assumptions
The third agreement is very much an expansion of the second. We can so easily assume that unreturned calls, canceled plans, or short emails are somehow pointed at us in an unkind way. But assumptions are often wrong and they don’t show respect for yourself or the others involved.
22. Always do your best
This is the final agreement, and my favorite.
No one else knows what your best is. They’ll never know if you could do more in any situation. This is deeply personal and so important to our well being. If we’re not doing the best we can for ourselves, how can we expect the same from others? And, beyond that, how does that make us feel?
If we want a kinder world, it starts within. Doing our best doesn’t mean winning every time—it does not mean being the best. It means doing our best, which is to say, we’re honoring who we are at any given moment. And I can’t think of a better mantra for the new year and beyond.
Jill Ettinger is an LA-based writer and editor focused on vegan and cruelty-free living.