We’ve ushered out 2020. (What a challenging year it was!) Welcome, 2021! Let’s put our focus and energy on our healing. Let’s put our health first this year.

If we focus on the four cornerstones of well-being— eat right (whole-food plant-based), move enough, stress less, and love well, we stack the cards in our favor to heal with less suffering, and dare I to say, more quickly? We might! At any rate, we’ll be doing all we can to ensure that our mind, body, and spirit are nourished properly.

We start with the first cornerstone, eat right, by slowly crowding out the animal products on our plates with more complex carbohydrates (whole grains, corn, potatoes, peas, beans, lentils, winter squashes) and non-starchy vegetables. (Adding seeds, nuts, and avocados can help if we are losing weight in withdrawal.) In time, we will be eating a whole-food, plant-based diet. To help us get there, we can explore Dr. Greger’s website, nutritionfacts.org for more information about the benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet. Visiting thishealthykitchen.com can inspire us to prepare easy, healthy meals. Eating right is important to anyone’s health, but it’s very important to nourish our brain and body properly when we need to heal. (I’m not a licensed dietician, but I can share with you the research I’ve done over the last year and a half and the amazing benefits of a plant-based lifestyle that I’ve experienced.)

The second cornerstone, move enough, is an easy one to embrace. We aim for our own unique “Goldilocks” zone of exercise; not too much, not too little. Too much, and we run the risk of flaring our symptoms. Too little, and we run the risk of feeling stagnant, or more depressed or hopeless. Moving the body empowers us to feel we are more in control. Getting outdoors to walk when the weather is agreeable, is a wonderful way to move enough. Swimming, yoga, and gardening are also good ways to exercise. Dancing is another one. If you are bed or couch-bound, you can move your arms and legs. (When I was bed-bound, I often swayed my arms above my head to the beat of my favorite tunes, pretending I was on the dance floor having fun.)

The third cornerstone, stress less, is a bit more complicated than following a recipe or moving our body. It requires that we think of ourselves as mind, body, and spirit, and we make adjustments in our lives to reduce stress in all of these areas. For our minds, we become a neutral observer of our thoughts, not buying into the negative or scary ones. We remind ourselves that “State Drives Story” and the state of our nervous system is most often in a “protect” mode of fight, flight, or freeze, which means our adrenals glands are influencing our thoughts to be negative. Our negative thoughts are simply a body function and do not reflect the truth about ourselves or the world around us. (I often remind myself that my thoughts are no more significant than my farts, as both are simply body functions.) For our body, we can listen to it more and take better care of it. We can also appreciate it more, giving thanks for its miraculous functioning. We can create a soothing area in our homes where we can curl up to rest and relax. (I play “spa” music all-day to help keep my nervous system calm.) For our spirit, we can focus on our faith or our relationship with nature. I meditate and pray, and I feed the birds and squirrels, inviting them into my yard so that I can enjoy watching them. I also take long walks in the woods and contemplate the beauty around me, and give thanks. Cultivating more gratitude in our lives helps us reduce stress in mind, body, and spirit!

The fourth cornerstone, love well, may take some thought and intention, but it is worth the effort. Loving well is one of the best ways to encourage our nervous systems to calm down into a state called “connect,” a parasympathetic, ventral vagus response. It is here that our body does all it needs to do to heal and to operate optimally. When we love well, we let go of past hurts and past resentments. We practice forgiveness. We extend kindness and compassion to all living beings, including ourselves. Kindness, patience, and acceptance are all an integral part of loving well. My daily practice is to ask myself, “What is the most loving thing to think, feel, and do?” And I try my best to do those things. It isn’t always easy to be loving, is it? Our egos get in the way. We want the world and everyone and in it to behave as we want them to. But alas, they do not, and so we judge, putting our nervous system into a state of “protect”, which isn’t optimal for health and healing. When we right-size our egos, we are more able to love. Remember, love isn’t only romantic, sexual, or the feelings we have for family and friends. Love is also, and most importantly, the knowledge and actions that reflect that we are all one, all united, all bound together in this great creation. Making eye contact with a stranger, even with masks on, can send a cascade of goodness through every cell in our body and help us to heal.

That is what this year is all about: healing! Let’s put our attention on the four cornerstones of well-being. Let’s eat foods that promote health and healing. Let’s move enough, reduce stress for our minds, bodies, and spirits, and let’s learn how to love, deeply and fully, forgiving others and ourselves, and encouraging our egos to move out of the spotlight and allow the divine to shine in us and through us.

May 2021 be your year to shine bright, even in benzo withdrawal. I know you can.