Your guide to a sweeter new year

The new year has just arrived and it's time for a clean slate. We Jews are lucky to get a chance to start over every fall as the shofar sounds a wakeup call in each of our lives. Back by popular demand--at least according to my grandma and mom--is my third annual guide to a sweeter year. Hope this year is sweet for you and your loved ones!

  1. Record your blessings. Two of my friends and I did this for one month every day this past summer. Each night before we went to sleep, we each wrote one thing down from the day that we were thankful for, from big stuff like "family" to less basic needs like, ahem, "Nutella." Then, we discussed our lists with each other. After all, gratitude, say positive psychologists, leads to greater happiness.
  2. Stand with Israel. Educate people you know about the Jewish State and debunk misconceptions. Buy Israeli products. Go visit. And, if you can't hop on a plane tomorrow, call or email your friends and family in Israel and let them know you're thinking of them. Show our extended Jewish family an ocean away that we're with them so they don't feel so isolated.
  3. Go to your happy place--literally. Find a peaceful spot, like the park or the lakefront, and steal a few minutes every so often (sans phone) to escape the chaos of our lives and the world, to take in the beauty of our surroundings, and to feel Zen.
  4. Follow your kishkes. Thank God our friends and family are there to advise us when we need them. But, when it comes right down to it, for decisions big and small, go with your gut.
  5. Do something a little scary. Fear can be a good thing. Don't let fear stop you from doing the things you want to do. They rarely seem as scary after you do them.
  6. Invite someone outside your circle to be a guest at your Shabbat or holiday table. Maybe you've heard of someone whose family lives out of town or who has had a tough year. Invite her into your sukkah or over for Shabbat dinner. You'll make her day a little sweeter-and maybe even yours too.
  7. Stop worrying what other people think of you-seriously. You heard it back in the fifth grade, again in college, and many times since. And now I'm telling you again: Those people that you think are following your every move, thought, and outfit? They're not. They're probably devoting way more energy wondering what you think of them.
  8. Take up space in the room. I learned this concept at a Jewish women's empowerment seminar, but it applies to women and men alike. Who you are and what you have to say matter. Own it.
  9. To quote some 2010 slang--Chillax! So many people try to make everyone around them happy all the time whether that means making the honor roll, saying yes to a work project you know you don't have time for, or going out on a JDate that you'd rather not go out on. But you know what? Sometimes it's okay to just curl up, binge on "The Mindy Project" and "Orange is the New Black" episodes, and eat some Ben & Jerry's Banana Peanut Butter Greek frozen yogurt.
  10. Get inspired. By a rabbi, an ELI or TED talk, the Torah, a John Green novel, volunteer work, or even a conversation with a friend.
  11. Keep in mind that most people are just good people trying to navigate life. It's easy to be discouraged, especially in the last few months, when we're inundated with 24/7 rhetoric and images of violence and hatred poisoning our world, but remember that most of us are just decent people trying to live in peace, discover our purpose in life, and maybe find our beshert along the way.
  12. Help repair our very broken world. Mentor a kid who needs a friend, volunteer at a senior home, or wait tables for a night at the JUF Uptown Cafe. 
  13. Dance like nobody's watching. Okay so you're not exactly Mikhail Barayshnikov or Justin Timberlake. Chances are neither is that guy at the club or dancing the hora next to you.
  14. Be and do Jewish in whatever way speak to you. Whether it's davening, honoring Shabbat, traveling to Israel, reading an Anita Diamant book, watching a Zach Braff flick, taking Hebrew at your local JCC, baking your family's kugel recipe, or maybe all of the above, find your own Jewish path.  
  15. Be present. Stop texting, tweeting, looking back in hindsight, and planning your future every once in a while--and just be.



Reflections from your editor, Cindy Sher, on people living their Jewish lives each day.... Read More

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