Happy 2021! Free online programs for resilience and wellbeing

Near the end of December, I tuned into an Instagram Live from Sarah Vermunt – the career advice guru behind Careergasm – about “how to get your spark back when everything sucks.” At some point, Sarah laughed and admitted that somewhere along the way in 2020, “I definitely said ‘peace out’ to goals.” A few days later, she posted: “Let’s be real. Most of us will be starting 2021 with a pretty empty tank. The regular rah-rah goals on steroids thing we see on social media around this time every year has never seemed less attractive to me. (It’s never really been my thing, but especially so this year).”

This year, it’s especially obvious that there’s no magical transformation when December 31 rolls into January 1. That said, some research has pointed to a “fresh start effect” – the idea that transitions and symbolic temporal moments like the New Year can act as a “mental reset button,” motivating us to take stock, reflect on our hopes and goals, and affirm our intentions for the future.

If you’re keen to harness that fresh start effect, there are plenty of free, self-guided online programs to help boost your wellbeing and resilience for 2021. The updated and more interactive version of a self-help book, these programs offer principles and activities to build skills for happier and healthier habits (of body, mind, spirit, relationships, etc.). Sign up yourself, or join along with a friend to boost accountability and discuss the ideas and exercises together!

Therapy Assistance Online (TAO): Manage your well-being with tools on stress, relationship problems, substance use, and more. Register for free with a UBC email.

BounceBack: BounceBack® is a free skill-building program teaching tools (drawn from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT) to help with low mood, mild to moderate depression, anxiety, stress or worry. You can choose between a self-guided option or working over the phone with a coach.

The Science of Well-Being: Based on Dr. Laurie Santos’ popular class at Yale, this course leads you through a series of challenges designed to increase happiness and build productive habits. If you’re interested in the content but not the structure, check out Laurie Santos’ podcast The Happiness Lab. I liked a recent episode, “Dump Your Inner Drill Sergeant” – very relevant for a lot of grad students!

Living Life to the Full: A mental health promotion course focused on coping with everyday life challenges and building self-management skills – again, using principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This one’s different from the three above, in that it’s a series of group virtual classes that you actually attend with other people! Usually $250, but currently available for free to those living in BC. Sign up here.

It’s also okay to keep things simple and trust your gut. A lot of us already know what will make a difference for our wellbeing – maybe it’s committing to get outside every day (or drink water, or eat a vegetable). Maybe it’s deciding to make time for pleasure reading, or to message a friend every evening. Maybe it’s to try speaking to yourself in a kinder, gentler way. Whatever you most need to feel whole and well, I hope you find ways to get and protect it for yourself in 2021!