A kinder, gentler New Year via a 10-day ‘reset plan’


Sonny Coloma

Sometime in my past life as a business newspaper columnist, I paused to reflect. What is it that prods me to write in a way that was critical, or even cynical? I realized that I was swimming with the tide and riding the wave of criticism against the powers-that-be and how they seemed to be clueless that their actions were inimical to the public interest.

A long-time friend and fellow columnist shared sensible advice that I’m truly glad I heeded. He suggested that instead of focusing on political criticism, I could choose to write on topics that edify the human spirit. In other words, why not write on what would make people more cheerful and hopeful?

For my last column in 2022, I am taking a page from The Optimist, a daily Good Morning read in my email inbox. Writer Maureen is credited with the piece on “Here is a neurologist-approved 10 day reset plan to reclaim your life,” a light-and-breezy New Year’s resolution plan. I am paraphrasing her pointers liberally while pitching in some of my own. Here goes.

Day 1: Digital detox: Detach your mobile phone from yourself. For starters, don’t bring it to the dining table, or don’t use it during family dinner outings.

Day 2: Practicing empathy through gratitude: Take time to thank others for L.A.K.E. or little acts of kindness everyday, including kasambahay, gym locker attendants, security guards, supermarket baggers, parking attendants, and the like.

Day 3: Nature therapy: Spend at least 30 minutes in nature. Seek out open space, or even just a local park to take in the smells, sights, and sounds of nature.

Day 4: Figuring out food: Take a good hard look at your kitchen and refrigerator. Decide what items are really good for your health. Consider tossing refined foods, processed sugars, alcohol, and chemically rich foods. Embrace whole sources of protein, healthy fats, probiotics, and delicious fruits and veggies.

Day 5: Successful shut-eye: Try to get as many as eight hours of good sleep. Make your bedroom a quiet, dark, sanctuary, cut out caffeine after mid-afternoon, and relax before sleep with a warm bath or a great book.

Day 6: Embracing exercise: It’s never too late to set an attainable starting point for fitness goals and make time to follow through with them. Find a suitable walking path if there’s one near your home or office. Or get a workout buddy.

Day 7: Medicate with meditation: Practicing meditation enables calmness and clear thinking. It lessens impulsiveness, and makes one more tolerant of others’ excesses. Most of all it centers and focuses one’s attention on what’s truly important.

Day 8: Strong bonds: Spending 10 minutes a day having a meaningful, unbroken conversation with a close friend, co-worker, or family member will help you feel more connected to those around you and in touch with yourself.

Day 9: Taking stock: It’s good to pause to ask yourself what changes have been most meaningful for you and what aspects have been most challenging.

Day 10: Time to move forward: It’s never too late to initiate positive life changes that could be beneficial beyond 10 days. Choose two or three practices that you’d like to carry on doing for the ensuing says and months.

Among the foregoing pointers, I’d like to be able to do numbers 4, 5 and 6 more regularly. This means eating healthier, exercising regularly and getting better sleep. My regular online exercise with an online trainer held via Zoom three times a week was disrupted when both of us got infected with Covid during the rapid transmission phase of Omicron early this year.

Learning how to meditate is one vital life lesson I am happy to have acquired – and recommend – for my fellow seniors to learn and adopt.

I decided to take a five half-day course in Transcendental Meditation sometime in 2009. This helped me a lot in completing the writing of my doctoral dissertation. I carved out two hours of writing every morning and carried this on for about a month. Meditation enabled me to become calmer and focused. Ideas and thoughts flowed more freely, and I was able to write out big chunks – or chapters – of my study.

Allow me to end by sharing an anecdote.

While undergoing physical therapy in a hospital rehab clinic for a swollen left leg caused by a bad ankle sprain, an elderly woman being wheeled out of a wheelchair approached me and started a rant. She had a thorn to pick with President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino for whom I was then working as Press Secretary. She said, “You are both liars. What you’re telling the press about the PH-US bilateral relations are all lies. One day when you’re both out of office, I will expose your lies.” She then left in a huff.

Throughout the episode, I remained calm and restrained myself from reacting. I recalled what I had learned from my meditation guru: “When you’re assailed and attacked, just ‘view’ the situation as if you’re watching an action movie. Don’t be agitated. Keep your calm.”

Calmness springs from being at peace with oneself.

Joy and Peace to all through the New Year!