20 Tips for a Sweeter New Year in 5777

honey apple challah

Ready for a fresh start? We Jews are lucky to get a chance to start over every fall as the shofar sounds a wakeup call in each of our lives.

Back by popular demand -- at least according to my mom -- is my (sometimes) annual guide to a sweeter new year.

L'shana tovah umetuka! Have a sweet new year!

1. Give thanks. Take a moment every single day to appreciate how lucky you are to be alive -- that you have food in your belly, a warm bed to sleep in, freedom to be who you want, and loved ones who surround you.

2. Remember that most people are good. Even though we're bombarded in our newsfeeds with some of the worst of humanity, most of us are kind people trying to leave the world better than we found it and have a little fun along the way.

3. Vote! Only 55 percent of the voting-age population voted in the last presidential election. Wherever you stand in this unprecedented and wacky election cycle, who we pick for our next president-as well as the names down the ticket-could have huge ramifications for the future of this country and the world at large. Exercise your rights as American Jews. Do NOT sit this one out!

4. Be Jewish in whatever way speaks to you. Whether that's by going to Torah study class, shopping on Ben Yehuda Street, or reading Jewish children's books to your little ones, define your Jewish identity however makes you proud to be Jewish.

5. Make Shabbat special. Whether you keep Shabbat or not, it's a nice time to be in the present with a good meal, good people -- and a good nap.

6. Let it go. In the spirit of the High Holidays, forgive someone for something from the past. You'll feel lighter when you do.

7. Explore your roots. Ask your older family members to tell you stories about the people in your family tree-so you can pass those stories on to your own children one day.

8. Bless your loved ones. In a beautiful Jewish tradition where a parent lays his or her hands on their children's heads at Shabbat dinner, bless your children.

9. Put down your phone! Whether on Shabbat or at other times, stop texting, taking selfies, and Pokemon Go-ing every once in a while, and just be.

10. Talk about the deep stuff. We get bogged down in the details of life, logistics, and work, but take some time to really talk to the people in your lives about the big stuff that matters.

11. Dance. In one of her most famous songs, Lee Ann Womack sings about taking chances, rather than living life on the sidelines. "When you get the choice," she sings, "to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance."

12. Elevate. Politics, online comment sections, and school bullies all have one thing in common -- they can be downright mean. Try to take the high road and cut down on the hating.

13. Find joy in every season -- even winter. Sure, Chicago's weather is infamous for much of the year, but think how much we appreciate the times when we do have good weather. We're lucky to have four seasons: Jump in a pile of leaves in the fall, make a snow angel in the wintertime, and meander through the rain sans umbrella next spring.

14.Take FDR's words to heart. Fear can be a good thing. Don't let fear paralyze you from doing the things you long to do. They never seem as scary after you do them.

15. Find some muses. Wander the halls of the Chicago Art Institute, get inspired by a great TED or ELI Talk, read (for fun!), and go hear your favorite band play live.

16. Commit gemilut hasadim -- deeds of loving kindness. Mentor a kid who needs a friend, volunteer at a senior home, or buy a homeless person a hot meal. To find volunteer opportunities, visit www.juf.org/TOV.

17. Make new friends. Strike up a conversation with someone that you wouldn't typically talk to, someone who looks different from you with a different perspective.

18. Take up space in the room. Who you are and what you have to say matter. Own it.

19. Tell people what they mean to you. Jewish author Bruce Feiler explains that it took being stricken with cancer (he's now in remission) for him to tell his loved ones how important they are to him. Why must it take a near-death experience or dramatic roadblock for us to take stock of our friends and family? Drop a note or have lunch with the people you care about and tell them what they mean to you.

20. Chill. Give yourself a break and freak out (a little less) about the things beyond your control.


Cindy Sher photo 375
Cindy Sher started her career at JUF 16 years ago. She is the Executive Editor of ... Read More



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