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As we adapt to a world in which we will be living with COVID-19 well into 2022 and beyond, it is important to develop a mental survival strategy. We must create a personal world in which we not only survive but prosper. The first step is to believe that this possible. And then build programs for success. Small actions can make a big difference.

Healthy habits to follow

In a recent article, New York Times health columnist Tara Parker-Pope summarizes “Our Favorite Healthy Habits of 2021.” This roundup of some the best and easiest advice can help us all live a little better as we move into 2022. I will try to capture the essence of the top eight suggestions

  • BEST HOURS: Set aside your best hours to focus on personal goals. For many, this is early in the day. But for night owls it may be much later. Make this your time to recharge.
     
  • EXERCISE SNACKS: Instead of getting an extra cup of coffee or tea, get up and pace or climb the stairs or do jumping jacks. Short bursts of exercise are really healthy.
     
  • TAKE A PHOTO: Capture something special each day. This may be your dog or a flower that has just started to bloom or the pattern of clouds in the sky. Share the photo with family and/or friends. This is known to increase happiness.
     
  • CHECK HOW YOU FEEL: Ask yourself honestly if you feel energetic or frazzled or really unsettled – whatever it may be. By acknowledging this reality, you can set the stage for the day to get the most accomplished or get back on track if possible. This reality check is calming in itself.
     
  • FIVE-FINGER MEDITATION: Take time to breathe in and out as you move from finger to finger to create a sense of calm: a really simple meditation.
     
  • MAKE THINGS EASIER: Often, accomplishing planned goals is difficult. For example, writes Tara Parker-Pope, if your goal is to eat more home-cooked meals, a meal-kit delivery service can remove a lot of the stress involved in making that happen.
     
  • TAKE A MINDFULNESS BREAK: During the day, take a break. Some people find that watching the jellyfish from the Monterey Bay Aquarium live-cam feed induces a meditative state. You may recall a similar recommendation I made to watch the “Penguin Walks” from the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Seeing these hilarious penguins visit Chicago’s modern art museum baseball park, among other locations, will lighten your day—something we all need.
     
  • AND FINALLY, FIND A BUDDY: Find someone to spend time with once or twice a week to walk, hike or get some exercise. Getting out and about is a great tonic, both mentally and physically.

Take a “Forest Bath”

If the healthy habits outlined above are not enough, an amazing way to de-stress is a Japanese concept called “Forest Bathing.” Dr. Qing Li, author of a book with this title, says the process can work well without a complete forest: a cluster of trees in the park is enough. Simply being in nature, literally bathing in the atmosphere of the trees, can certainly restore our mood and increase our vitality. Plants are a source of oxygen and the sounds of nature pull you away from the city. This is definitely better than rushing to the supermarket at the end of the day.

If a trip to the park isn’t in the cards, you can visit the Mind and Body section of the IMF website. Here, myeloma patients can find wellness resources like breathing, relaxation, mindfulness meditation, and yoga exercises.

Staying safe

Staying safe continues to be important for all myeloma patients, especially if you are undergoing new treatment. So please:

  • Make sure you are fully vaccinated and get your booster shot.
  • Always wear a mask in all risk situations.
  • Avoid or really, really limit travel with the new COVID-19 Omicron variant spreading more widely.
  • Continue to organize safe get-togethers with family and friends who are also fully vaccinated and have had a negative COVID test if they’ve engaged in any significant travel.

Let’s move into 2022 with a positive attitude: our personal sanity will improve, and success will come our way. Although we need to track the negatives in the news, a focus on positive updates will help us all. Let’s enjoy and be grateful for, as my mother would always say, “small mercies” – the unexpected, good things that happen – and help the less fortunate whenever we can.

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Image of Dr. Brian G.M. DurieDr. Brian G.M. Durie is the Chief Scientific Officer of the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF), serves as Chairman of the Board, and serves on its Scientific Advisory Board. Additionally, he is Chairman of the IMF's International Myeloma Working Group, a consortium of nearly 200 myeloma experts from around the world. Dr. Durie also leads the IMF’s Black Swan Research Initiative®.


 

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