It’s an understatement to say that the last year caught most of us off guard. Between homeschooling, working from home, and cobbling together home gyms, we spent most of our lives, well, in our homes. City-dwellers with limited outside space felt like their walls were closing in on them, while those in more rural areas felt isolated and cut off from other humans. It was hard to win in 2020, and no place seemed perfect.
The angst we collectively experienced wasn’t about external geography so much as it was about our internal landscapes. Regardless of where we live or what amenities we had access to, 2020 took a toll on us. Most people were unprepared to live through a pandemic, and anxiety piqued as the pandemic evolved and our lives felt increasingly uncertain. As a result, our physical and emotional health suffered.
As a massage therapist with almost two decades of experience treating clients’ minds and bodies, I know a few things about self-care, but many of those tools were no longer available. With limited access to our previous ways of living, we all had to find alternative ways to take care of ourselves inside and out.
Despite the vaccine rollout that started mid-December, there’s no guarantee that 2021 will be easier, but we know it will be different. If there’s anything 2020 prepared us for, it’s unpredictability.
2020 was full of lessons, and one of them was to develop resilience and a willingness to embrace the unknown and accept what is. We’re entering 2021 with profound potential for understanding ourselves and more resources than ever to help us live healthy, productive lives despite the ever-changing circumstances. There’s never been a better time to take control of our health, and these tech-based health companies are a great place to begin.
Ten Percent Happier—Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics
Ten Percent Happier was born out of ABC News anchor Dan Harris’ nationally televised panic attack. Harris knew he needed to make changes after that, so he set out on a journey with a cast of characters that included a pastor, a self-help guru, and a flock of neuroscientists. Harris started the process as a skeptic and wrote about it in his 2014 memoir, 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works.
Harris’ goal was to rein in the voice in his head, but he found the idea of meditation “repellant,” though further research led him to a long list of science-backed health benefits. The keyword—that’s tossed around lightly, but often misunderstood—is mindfulness, which Harris defines as “the ability to see what’s going on in your mind at any given moment without getting carried away by it.”
In 2016, Harris connected with CEO Ben Rubin, and they launched Ten Percent Happier the company. “The ways we seek happiness as a society isn’t effective,” Rubin says, “and Ten Percent Happier has a larger message that while having our basic needs met are prerequisites to building a happy foundation for a life, happiness isn’t going to come to us via material needs such as, “a wife and two kids, a dog, a house in the suburbs, and financial security.”
Many people realize that they do all the things and get all the stuff, but they’re still not happy. “Trying to relax more, trying to give ourselves time for self-care, and trying to make our bodies appear a certain way will quickly lead us to the conclusion that something is missing,” Rubin says. So what is it? What are we missing?
Rubin says that the secret isn’t well kept. “For thousands of years, religious and spiritual traditions have looked at the human mind and helped us understand how to orient ourselves in ways that lead to sustainable happiness.” Buddhism calls it mindfulness, but most spiritual traditions have a similar aspect that encourages leaning into the present moment and accepting it with self-compassion.