High Holidays

Your guide to a sweeter new year in 5773

CHICAGO (JUF News) — Ready for a clean slate? We Jews are lucky to get a chance to start over every fall as the shofar sounds a wake-up call in each of our lives. With the changing leaves, the crispness in the air and new Justin Bieber Trapper Keepers in the back-to-school aisle comes a promise for a fresh start in 5773.

Since the sum of 5, 7, 7 and 3 equals 22, I offer you 22 tips for a sweeter new year. L’shana tovah tikatevu!

1. Give thanks. No matter what you’re doing, take at least a moment every day to stop and say thank you to God, to your parents, to the love of your life, to your kids, and to that barista at your local coffee joint who greets you with a smile and a “half-caff-skim-latte-easy whip” every morning. We get so wrapped up in the chaos of our days that we forget to give thanks for all the blessings, big and small, in our lives.

2. 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.

3. Get inspired. Go online and click on one of those TED talks, listen to an uplifting sermon by your rabbi, take in a sunset, watch a Spielberg flick — whatever moves you.

4. Learn about your roots. Ask an older member of your family to tell you a story stemming from your family tree. My grandparents just recently told me how they met. Long story short, I might not be here if it weren’t for my grandma’s canasta game with my great aunts, Faye and Gertie, who put the shidduch together. How’d your grandparents meet?

5. Spend time with people who you really like and love. And spend less time with people you don’t. Life’s short. ‘Nuf said.

6. Raise your heart rate. They say sitting at your desk all day can shave years off your life. It’s a pity I write these words as I sit at my desk. So whenever you can, get up and move. Walk, don’t drive, the mile to the store. Take the stairs, not the elevator. Do yoga. Shoot hoops. Just move.

7. Never text and drive — capiche? And while we’re on the subject, texting and walking is dangerous, too.

8. Laugh more. In the book “The Happiness Project,” author Gretchen Rubin says that a small child typically laughs more than 400 times each day, while an adult laughs only 17 times. Raise that average.

9. Look up at the sky and down at the earth. Pay attention to the sun, the moon and the stars, and plant something in the ground.

10. Take up space in the room. Last year, I attended a Jewish women’s empowerment seminar, where we talked about this concept, but it applies to both men and women: Who you are and what you have to say matter. Own it.

11. Commit gemilut hasadim, deeds of loving kindness. Mentor a kid who needs a friend or volunteer at a senior home, for a project to feed the hungry or elsewhere.

12. Devour a book — for fun. Read it on your Kindle or the real kind made of actual paper.

13. Give yourself a break. So many people, especially among MOTs, are taught to excel and to make everyone around them happy all the time, whether by making the honor roll, getting that promotion or saying yes to a project you know you don’t have time for. But you know what? Sometimes it’s OK to take a day off from perfection. I give you permission.

14. Eat broccoli, beans and blueberries. Incorporate superfoods like these into your diet to improve your overall health.

15. … But eat ice cream, too. I know these last two tips sound contradictory, but it’s not like you’re training for the Olympics. Yes, eat your vegetables, but every once in a while, go for those two scoops of peanut butter and chocolate ice cream.

16. Visit somewhere you’ve never been. That may be Israel, India or Indiana, or it could be your local gym or a botanic garden. Visit uncharted territory next year.

17. Talk about real stuff. Again, 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 what really matters.

18. Dance more. So you’re not exactly Mikhail Baryshnikov or J. Lo. Well, chances are neither is the guy next to you on the dance floor at the club or dancing the hora alongside you.

19. Find joy in every season — even winter. Revel in the varied seasons — whether you’re 7 years old or 7 at heart. In the fall, jump in a pile of leaves. When it’s cold, make a snow angel. Meander through the rain without an umbrella in the spring. And next July, jump into the lake when the E. coli levels are low.

20. Be more Zen. I’m a work in progress on this one. Your friend is 11 minutes late for your coffee date. The forecast calls for storms on your wedding day. Your daughter just drew a picture of the dog with a brown Sharpie on the coffee table rather than on her plentiful construction paper. Don’t freak out about things beyond your control. OK, maybe freak out a little about the Sharpie stain.

21. Do something a little scary. No, not necessarily bungee jumping. My mom would kill me  and she’d probably kill you, too. But get out of your comfort zone and do something new that seems easier not to do.

22. Turn off your phone every once in a while. Wouldn’t it be nice every so often — maybe on Shabbat — to not text, not email, not status update and not tweet — to just be?

(Cindy Sher is editor of the JUF News in Chicago.)