A happier, healthier 2021 sounds great… but how do I make it happen?

Mental Health

Q: A happier, healthier 2021 sounds great… but how do I make it happen? I’m not really feeling up for New Year’s Resolutions this year.

A: Get yourself ship-shape for 2021 with an anchors, sails and rudders exercise that honors the lessons we’ve learned in 2020 while also prioritizing forward movement for 2021.

Psychologists (and country music singers) often use the sailing metaphor to help explain the journey of life. You’re the boat, sailing until the river runs dry, and there’s bound to be some rough waters (looking at you, 2020). To honor the lessons learned in 2020 while prioritizing self-care, values and forward movement for 2021, we sailors need anchors, sails and a rudder.

➡️ OUR ANCHORS keep us safe and upright when the storms hit. They can be daily practices like meditation, exercise, prayer or family routines that reinforce the values that matter most to us.

➡️ OUR SAILS capture opportunities and move us forward. They are goals to use our gifts to make a positive impact on the lives of others.

➡️ OUR RUDDER is our purpose, the big-picture idea that points us in the direction we want to go.

Last year anchors became much more important. Many of us learned we had a strength we didn’t know was possible. We grieved with a hurt we didn’t know was in us, we deepened relationships, we faced inner demons, we recognized painful disparities, we stood up against systemic injustice, we restructured our lives and we embraced creative solutions all in ways we never expected. The new year is a time to honor those experiences and build on them.

So, instead of New Year’s Resolutions, take a few minutes to consider what your anchors and sails are for 2021, and where your rudder is pointing you for the year ahead. Because writing things down and telling others about our goals helps us follow through, share your anchors, sails and rudder ideas in the comments below.

Not sure where to start on hoisting a sail and pointing your rudder? Just focus on your anchor right now, and we’ll get there in the next post. Each week we plan to bring you a research-based, practical post to help you thrive in 2021. No diets. No quick-fixes. No one-size-fits-all answers. Just actionable translations of research from “the happy professor” at @UWMadison.

What lessons did you learn in 2020 that you’d like to carry forward to 2021? What daily practice might keep you safe and upright this year? What are the core values that are keeping you above water for the year ahead?

If you’re really feeling at sea, now might be the time to reach out for professional support (see below for link to resources). Drowning your thoughts in drink, food or prescription medication? The holidays can capsize many of us. Life preservers are here (again, link below).

With love,
Dr. Whelan and Your Nerdy Girls


Psychologists using sailing metaphor:

Dr. Russ Harris’s Acceptance and Commitment Therapy exercises using the anchoring concept

Earlier DP post on “anchors”

Forbes article on Harvard Business study on the power of writing out and sharing your goals

Earlier DP post on how to reach out for professional support

Earlier DP post on “life preservers”

Dr. Whelan’s FB Page

Link to original FB post