It is that time of year again: time to reflect on the past year and envision the coming year.
Most of us plan to do things better or differently in the upcoming new year, with the intention of improving our lives. Intentions like these are good when they are part of well-designed plan and yet most of us would be ashamed to confess just how few of our New Year’s resolutions we actually carried out and fulfilled. So where do we go wrong? It is my belief that we get carried away with grandiose ideas, many of which will get thrown by the wayside because we can’t comply or we have set ourselves up with unrealistic expectations. What looks like a resolution is really a form of self-berating criticism.
Here are my ideas for New Year’s resolutions that really can happen. They may sound too small to make a difference, but if you take the time to consciously attend to even a few of these promises to yourself, you will find that the quality of your life has improved a surprising amount.
1. Say “please” and “thank you” more often. Believe it or not, those two little words can go far to improving other people’s day—and also your own mood. Say these phrases sincerely and with a heartfelt smile to your spouse or significant other, your children, and the cashier at the grocery store, or the postal carrier. It just might become a habit and one that will be a positive behavior that opens you to the possibility that other people are not simply those knuckleheads who get in your way or annoyances who don’t care about what you need. Courtesy and gratitude are great next-door neighbors. If you can expand this habit to perhaps remembering, each night, a thing or two unique to the day that you feel gratitude for experiencing, you may find that you are living with less anger , haste, impatience, or depression.
2. Compliment your spouse or significant other. Most people like to hear positive things about themselves. We absolutely thrive on praise! Try it and see what happens. Often it generates more behavior worthy of praise because we want to do more of the behavior that gets a pleasant response from somebody whose opinion matters. A puppy thrives on praise. It makes him want more and more of it. This simple precept is the secret miracle of most effective trainers. Humans are not very different in this respect. Criticism creates distance and resentment. But praise brings cooperation and mutual respect.
3. Say you are sorry when you unintentionally hurt someone or do something that offends another. Owning up to your own mistakes is a healthy and forgiving behavior. It means you don’t need to carry any guilt around with you from one day to the next. People who can apologize are able to stay flexible and humble, which means they are receptive to new ideas and sensitive to the needs of others. It’s not a bad foundation for a life with more help and less opposition.
4. Pay attention to your health. Each day, eat one thing that is better for you and get some exercise, even if it is just parking the car farther away from your destination so you must walk a few more steps. Take a stroll with your spouse or significant other; climb the stairs instead of taking an elevator; walk the dog instead of letting him out in the backyard. By taking care of your body, you affirm your connection to life and your desire to continue to thrive.
5. Get more leisure time with family and friends. Don’t just talk about it—do it, even if it is thirty minutes a day. Have you heard that “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”? Well, it also can create mental health issues such as depression. Human beings are social animals. We need relationships that are built on more than lip service and empty promises. By hugging each other, having conversations, sharing food, and creating light-hearted moments together, we are saying that there are more important things in life than making money or meeting deadlines.
That is good not only for other people’s hearts, but for your own.
These ideas may not sound like big things; but as you may know, small things can add up. I hope I have given you a few ideas that can make your life better without adding to the stress associated with this season. Remember that a resolution you can keep is better than one that is beyond your grasp. Aim for the possible, and never listen to inner voices if they are not full of kindness and understanding.