We’re 4 days into 2017, the New Year’s hangover has finally worn off and that Christmas ‘bloat’ is slowly beginning to subside. We’re feeling a little better but a little better isn’t good enough, we want to feel our best! It’s that time of year again where we recommit to a total lifestyle overhaul in pursuit of the best versions of ourselves. And this year, you’re convinced, will be it! 2017 is going to be THE year for health, fitness and those ever-elusive abs, even if it kills you! To start, you’ll renounce all unhealthy habits – quit smoking, no more alcohol on weekdays, give up sugar period – and reinstate your commitment to the wholesome trinity of New Year’s resolutions: workout more, lose weight, follow a healthy diet. Your body is a temple and health & fitness are your religion. Except, all this sounds kind of familiar to last year’s resolutions and you kind of like your weekday wine night with the girls…Well what if I told you that New Year’s Resolutions are bull shit!? Yes, you heard me right.
New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on some critical aspect of ourselves that society tells us we should change, instead of being born out of a more motivating, intrinsic desire to achieve greater things. So when we inevitably fail, we get swept up in a negativity bias & struggle to reconnect with that initial motivation behind our goals because it came from an external driving force.
So this year I’m not making any resolutions. My goals are something I revisit monthly and continue to adjust as the year unfolds, I don’t need New Year’s resolutions to keep me motivated & hold me accountable. Instead, this year I am making a commitment to happiness. Whether I achieve my goals or not, if I am committed to always return to happiness, I can continue to learn and grow as a person. And with that kind of growth mindset, I believe I’ll be able to look back on 2017 and feel like I’ve had a successful year. So here’s how I plan to have a happy new year.
1. Meditation every morning
This doesn’t have to be about some spiritual journey to enlightenment, this is simply a way of waking up every day and listening to your feelings. Perhaps taking a moment to set an intention (I picked up a set of inspirational cards on my travels and use them daily to help find a focus to set my intentions) for your day or just thinking about something you’re grateful for. It can be something as simple as enjoying an extra 10 minutes in bed or the smell of hot coffee wafting under the door. Just 5 minutes a day, you can do this!
2. Happiness Jar
I’m a very visual person & happiness can be a difficult idea to conceptualize. If you’re a visual learner like me, then making a Happiness Jar will help you to quantify and see how full your happiness tank is. At the end of every day take a moment to think of one positive thing that happened, write it down on a piece of note-paper, fold it up and place it in the jar. Not only will this help your brain to recognize reasons to be happy but at the end of the year you can open your jar and read through all your notes and remember all the joyful experiences you had. I can’t think of a more positive way to celebrate the end of a year!
3. Make time for activity you love
Some of us are so caught up in our hectic lives that we no longer find the time to do the things we truly love. Heck some of us aren’t even sure what those activities are anymore! This is where meditation and the practice of mindfulness can be so helpful. Consider what you’re most grateful for and the positive memories that you note down each day. Where are you in those moments? Who are you with & what are you doing? These are great clues for steering you towards your passions. I noticed that most of my happy memories involved some kind of activity and being outdoors, so I make sure to enjoy some fresh air & exercise as early in the day as possible because I know it will set me up for feeling good all day. Taking the dog for a short walk is a great way to do this. Which of course leads me nicely to my next suggestion.
Exercise triggers the release of chemicals in the brain that stimulate the pleasure center of the brain and promote happiness. According to researchers at the University of Vermont, the mood benefits of just 20 minutes of exercise can last up to 12 hours! Check out this infographic from Happify on how to maximize your happiness with your work out.
5. Give back
Ever felt a ‘rush’ after performing a good deed? This is known as ‘helper’s high’. In his 2006 study, neuroscientist Jorge Moll discovered that people who gave money to a good cause ended up happier. His research showed that the reward centers in the brain are stimulated more in altruistic people than in those who are less generous with their money. Altruism doesn’t just depend on your financial resources though. Simply feeling happy for a friend who is having a good experience or spending an afternoon volunteering can generate feelings of satisfaction and gratitude and help to reduce stress.
6. Celebrate little victories
Strengthen your positive experiences by taking the time to recognize that you have accomplished something when you complete a task. Even something as small as sending an email! We get so caught up in trying to be as efficient & productive as possible that we forget to pause and let ourselves feel good about our day-to-day achievements.
Unlike most resolutions that typically focus on things you shouldn’t be doing, these practices will help you let go of any negativity you might be feeling and retrain your mind to focus on things you can be grateful for.
Let me know if you plan to join me in my commitment to happiness or if you have other positive resolutions for the year ahead. I’d love to hear about any methods you plan to use on your journey to self-improvement!