We’ve arrived at that time of the year again: the arbitrary day when the calendar hits “1” and we all take time to reflect upon our lives; trying to determine where we’ve been and where we are heading. We make New Year resolutions – vowing to make this the year we become rich and successful, or perhaps lose those 10 pounds we vowed to lose last year.
Goals can be a wonderful thing. As the old saying goes, the shortest path between here and there is an intention. The problem with New Year resolutions, however, is that they tend to revolve around existential things while furthering the illusion that happiness will be achieved only when such and such happens in our lives. Just as soon as I meet my soul mate; once I get that raise; when I can fit into a size 6 dress … then I’ll be happy.
This way of thinking keeps us on a perpetual treadmill, enslaved to the idea that contentment is always just around the next corner, dependent upon some new opportunity presenting itself. Such an attitude usually leaves one searching for happiness in all the wrong ways. As Dr. Richard Carlson states in his book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, “life, like an automobile, is driven from the inside out, not the other way around. As you focus more on becoming more peaceful where you are, rather than focusing on where you would rather be, you begin to find peace right now, in the present.” (Hyperion Press, 1977, p. 134)
So we’ve put together a list of new year resolutions that will actually improve your circumstances in the here and now, leading to a happier, less stressful life. Even if nothing spectacular happens in the next 365 days, suggestions will ensure a lot more fulfillment in the year to come:
1. Throughout the next year, every time a frustrating situation arises, ask yourself: Will this matter a year from now? If not, make a conscious decision to stress less about it.
2. Try to focus less on seeking the approval of other; which, ironically, tend to earn you more approval anyway. The less concerned you are with proving yourself, the more favorable others see you.
3. Decide to stop stressing out in traffic. It doesn’t get you there any faster, and it adds a lot of anxiety to your life.
4. Get in the habit of giving at least 3 compliments each day to people around you. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll probably discover others treat you better, too.
5. Be more compassionate: Come up with a list of kind things both big and small that you plan to do in the next year (donate to charity, hold the door open for others, etc.).
6. Every time a problem arises, think of it as a test to be mastered rather than a crisis.
7. Stop judging other. Not only is such a critical attitude unhealthy for your psychology, but you expend an enormous amount of time and energy doing it.
8. Forget about diets or numbers on a scale. Just find ways to exercise more in ways that are enjoyable. Not only will you lose weight, but it will boost your mood as well.
9. Learn focused breathing techniques to reduce stress.
10. Start meditating; thinking deeply about your life and what is important to you.
11. Stop and take time to notice the beauty all around you. Pay attention to the little things you routinely ignore, and look at what’s familiar in a new way.
12. In the upcoming year, spend more time listening and less time trying to prove your point. Seek to understand others before being understood yourself.
13. Be less of a perfectionist.
14. Spend more time this year doing absolutely nothing, and thoroughly enjoying it.
15. Start a gratitude journal, recording 3 things you are grateful for each day (or week, depending on how studious you are).
16. Try to relate to others more like a scientist. See the innocence in their behavior, and rather than getting upset over hurtful actions, examine the situation like a researcher studying a pride of lions.
17, Set a goal of learning X-number of new thing this year WHICH CHALLENGE YOUR CURRENT BELIEFS AND WAY OF THINKING ABOUT THINGS. The more flexible your thinking becomes, the less stress you’ll endure throughout life.
18. Be sure nothing important goes unsaid. Pretend you only have an hour to live and can make only 1 call. Who would you dial and what would you say? Why wait? Make that call this New Years (or write a letter) and repeat as necessary until everyone important is covered. You never know when it might be too late.
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