Reflecting upon those changes could allow for new epiphanies about ourselves. “Maybe we thought we knew who we were, but now we are more certain,” says Dr. Lyubomirsky.
“A lot of this coming new year is about what we are going to make of how we’ve changed in the last year,” says Father Sawyer. “What do we want to retain to form a greater sense of solidarity?”
Is there room for celebration?
In times of adversity, it becomes even more important to seek joy, says Dr. Lyubomirsky. “Research shows that when you’re happier, you have essentially stronger resources to manage adversity.”
One of the simplest ways to welcome a bit of happiness into your own life is to help others, she says.
“Even when we’re not doing so well, helping someone else can help us feel better about ourselves,” says Dr. Lyubomirsky. “Helping others makes people happier – it redirects attention from our own problems.”
Such efforts need not be monumental. Even simple kindnesses such as helping older neighbors with groceries or tutoring children without access to technology can prove beneficial for both recipient and giver.
Father Sawyer also emphasizes the importance of grounding ourselves in gratitude.
“Whatever moments during the pandemic and 2020 where we really have found things to be grateful for, hold on to those and remind ourselves of them with frequency as we go into the new year,” he says. “That’s what we want to build on.”
How might we think about our lives differently for the future?
Makoto Fujimura, a contemporary artist, speaker, and writer who was in downtown Manhattan on 9/11, has seen friends continue to deal with the aftermath of that attack 19 years later. He uses kintsugi – the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by using gold to mend the cracks – as a metaphor for healing.
“I’m discovering that when I teach kintsugi that you have to not only pay attention to the cracks, but [also] hairline fractures that you can’t even see,” he says. “I think part of our journey in 2021 and 2022 is not ignoring those microscopic fractures.”
The world has certainly been changed in incalculable ways. As in kintsugi, Mr. Fujimura says, we can choose to respond creatively and in generative ways to create a new – if not better – world from the cracks. “If we can see that as a gift, 2020 is one of the greatest moments in history where we have this year of Sabbath and we can grow from that,” he says.
Hindsight, it’s often said, is 20/20. And like eye vision, Mr. Fujimura says 2020 has given us clarity. And that’s a good thing, he says. “I want to be able to see clearly and understand what’s happening even if it’s hard.”