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January 18

Ways to Recover from 2017 That Don't Involve Exercise

By Sister Wolf

2017 was a bitter pill for many of us, thanks to world events that made 2016 look a picnic, and 2016 was terrible! We lost beloved music pioneers, one after another, and we (not me) elected Donald Trump for US President.

Now it's time to pull ourselves together as the new year begins, because we'll need stamina going forward. We need to recover our optimism. We need to be kinder to ourselves and each other. We need to get back to actually living life instead of just documenting it on Instagram.

Personally, I hate to be told what foods to give up or what work-out will blast my abs. I don't want to hear stuff about radical self-love or steaming my vag or anything Gwyneth Paltrow might suggest. But I'm open to strategies for calming my brain and elevating my soul. So here are a few ideas, and I'd love to hear yours.

First, there are books to read, and what better guide to books than David Bowie? His website includes a list of his top 100 books, and his son, Duncan Jones, is starting a book club to honor him. Jones hasn't worked out the details but he has named Peter Ackroyd's "Harksmoor" as the first assignment. I see that I've read 23 of the books on the list, pathetic when you consider that I haven't had a demanding recording and performing schedule for fifty years. I had all that time to spare, and yet I'm no match for Bowie's literary capacity.

Second, there are ways to redirect our thoughts and feelings that could actually heal our poor ragged psyches. One method is Tonglen, a form of meditation where you breathe in the suffering of others and breathe out compassion. When I first read about Tonglen, I tried it by focusing on my ex-husband, who indeed suffers but I hate too much for the purpose of learning Tongele. I did better with Hitler. However, there is scientific proof that compassion and kindness can be taught and developed, literally changing the brain in the process.

Third, there is art. Just as bad art is debasing to the soul (e.g. slasher movies and Imagine Dragons come to mind) good art is elevating. Whatever you find beautiful, pursue it! When you go to a concert, there's a good chance you'll experience a religious high, even for just a moment. That ecstasy comes from feeling we are connected by a common thread. Being moved by art in any form is a great antidote to the dailyness of our lives and the crap on our smartphones. You don't have to go to a museum. Just surround yourself with art.

Fourth, there is reaching out to someone in need. Whether it's a friend or acquaintance or family member, someone you know is having a rough time of it. Maybe they need a good listener or some reassurance or an invitation to lunch. Lending an ear without judgement, or merely expressing empathy, is like a gift to yourself. When you support someone, you get a better sense of your own worth. It's as simple as that. If it's not a reflexive instinct, that's okay. Practice until it comes naturally.

Does all this sound too bossy? I'm only hoping to inspire or be inspired. I know you're a seeker, or you wouldn't be reading this. I know you love shoes, too. We already have a strong affinity! So here's some random ideas for sparking creativity and forcing your brain out of its rut:

When you're out walking or driving with a friend, or you're stuck in long line or waiting room, take turns naming colors, cities, bands or animals alphabetically from A to Z. You can do it alone but it's more fun with a partner. It's stimulating, it's fun, and you learn how stubborn your husband is when he won't accept "unsalted butter" as a food that begins with U.

Shopping your closet is also a good way to boost your spirits. You're bound to find something you forgot about, something wonderful or that you were waiting for a special occasion to wear. Take it out and wear it, or if not that, just give it a kiss. An old friend used to advise me to kiss my clothes and I chalked it up to his mental problems. Now I see his wisdom.

Okay, that's all I have for now. I hope it is useful. One thing I've come to know is that we're all in this together. Let's help each other out. If things go bad though, and I mean really bad, I have an alternate message to Michelle Obama's stirring injunction: If they go low, we'll come after them. If we need a revolution, we'll be fit and ready.

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