It’s Not Too Late to Save 2020

There is no time more apt to transform our mindset than Hannukah.
December 15, 2020
Photo by Kseniya Ovchinnikova/Getty Images

The year 2020 has brought an unprecedented need for emotional support, whether it be from family, friends or a mental health professional, therapist or psychiatrist. Dealing with emotional difficulties and mental illnesses, ranging from coping with the challenges of daily life to the impact of trauma to specific mental disorders can be a long and difficult journey. For that reason, many of us have joked that 2020 is a “write off.”

As humans, we have a deep-rooted desire to live an extraordinary life of meaning and joy. If there was ever a year that challenged this desire, 2020 was it. Will you look back at 2020 and remember the quality time with family and friends and new experiences, or will you remember the fear, anxiety and isolation?

Ultimately, what makes the difference between experiencing life in a beautiful state versus experiencing life in a state of suffering is focus and meaning. Where we place our focus and the meaning that we assign to our experiences dictate the quality of our lives. Although we cannot control the events in our lives, we can control the meaning we assign to how we experience those events — with sadness and loss or joy and celebration of life.

The human brain is wired to operate in survival mode, to look for loss so that it can protect us. But the very thing that sets out to protect us can ultimately imprison us. We must consciously override the programming and change the stories we (subconsciously) tell ourselves. When we assign meaning, we change our story and change the quality of our lives in an instant.

Consciously working to shift our perspective from the negative to the positive opens the door to creating that extraordinary life that we deeply desire. When we let go of focusing on what we lack and instead find the meaning in the challenges we face, we free ourselves from a life of pain and suffering.

Appreciation is extraordinarily powerful. It is the key to transforming our emotional state from suffering to joy. It is no coincidence that we start our day with the modeh ani prayer. Many daily morning meditations are based on gratitude for this very reason. Beginning the day with gratitude sets us up to experience the day as it unfolds in a beautiful state — it enables us to look for the good and realize we have everything we need.

Reconfiguring our mindset is a daunting task, leading many to wonder if our thoughts really can control our emotions — or if our emotions govern our thoughts. But we can choose our emotional state. After all, the happiest people don’t have the best of everything  — they make the best of everything. We may find ourselves getting stuck in sadness, pain, anxiety, fear, disappointment or loneliness and wonder why that is. We are subconsciously addicted to these negative emotions, and we use moments in our lives to return to them. Thankfully, we can control how we feel by thinking one better feeling at a time. We can harness the power of thought to shift out of our suffering state into a beautiful one. Therapy is an immensely helpful tool in guiding us in this transformation.

We can control how we feel by thinking one better feeling at a time.

There is no time more apt to transform our mindset than Hannukah, the holiday of miracles. In particular, the essence of the holiday is that it specifically takes place during the darkest time, because the light of Hannukah is the antidote to the darkness we face both collectively as a nation in exile, in our darkest times and as individuals. The Gemara states, “Mitzvat Chanukah Ner Ish U’Vaito” and the mehadrin level, “ner l’chol echad v’echad” — for each individual in the home to light their own menorah.

The Nesivos Shalom explains that although we experience suffering related to our homes, family relationships and within ourselves, we have the mitzvah of ner chanuka, to light up the darkness in our homes. With the light of the menorah, G-d reveals to us that He is with each of us in our suffering and in our darkest circumstances. It is for this very reason that the Rambamstates that lighting the menorah is a mitzvah “chaviva hi ad meod” (loved very much) — language not used to describe any other mitzvah.

May the light of the menorah remind us that G-d is always with us, and may it spark a path to joy and healing for the rest of 2020.

Wishing you a Frielichin Chanuka.

Alanna Apfel is a Patient Advocate at AA Insurance Advocacy, which helps therapy patients, individuals, couples and children negotiate with their insurance plans to collect reimbursement, almost in full, for out of network therapy, anywhere from $150-$350 per session. In the months that AA Insurance Advocacy has been advocating on behalf of patients, our clients have received anywhere from $5,000 to $45,000 a year in reimbursements, depending on the cost and frequency of therapy. For further information, please contact aainsuranceadvocate@gmail.com. A special credit goes to Tony Robbins’ conference, “Unleash the Power Within,” which provided many of the concepts in this article.

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