The beginning of a new year is a traditionally a time for introspection and to sometimes reevaluate life choices. This inevitably leads to New Year’s resolutions, which, in my view, can sometimes take the joy out of new beginnings. Resolutions that are too ambitious inevitably result in failure and can lead to guilt. That’s because they are often geared toward correction of old behaviours rather than to new beginnings. Too often our resolution involves changing an undesired trait or behaviour or situation. Changing these traits can be difficult and we can set unrealistic expectations and then by “Blue Monday” (this year that is January 21) you feel like giving up.
I’ve always believed in a more positive approach to New Year’s resolutions. Instead of chiding myself for my past decisions or for my errant behaviour, and then imposing rules on myself that seem more like punishment than life choices, I prefer to move forward by focusing on doing things that have been proven to enhance the quality of life. If I can do that, then I will feel better and look better, and isn’t that the objective? Time to throw away the guilt and take yourself down the road to happiness. Here are some New Year’s resolutions that are attainable, and a few reasons why they will make you happy:
Get in shape: Exercise is not just about losing weight. It prevents disease and aging. It helps you get a good night’s sleep, it makes you look better and it releases endorphins, a strong natural opiate that has the power to improve your mood, lower blood pressure, reduce levels of stress hormones and boost the immune system. Oh, and bonus: exercise does burn calories too!
Eat right: Eating properly can actually save your life by preventing disease before it happens. It can reduce your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer and osteoporosis. Without proper nutrition, your body is more prone to disease, infection, fatigue and poor performance.
Meditate: It sounds boring and it used to be just for hippies, but meditating and mindfulness have been proven to reduce anxiety and stress, improve concentration, reduce your chance of disease, and it is now widely used to treat depression. Best of all it is easy; anyone can do it. And it does not involve taking a drug. You simply sit or lie still and think about your breathing. For more information, please read: How mindfulness works.
Get more sleep: Fatigue is a major cause of auto accidents and household accidents, but it can also impact your family life, your body weight, and it has even been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. If you sleep better, you look better, too, and what could be better that. Here are some tips on getting a good night’s sleep.
Put down the device: The effects of smartphone overuse run the gamut from social and neurological dysfunctions to safety issues that can result in accidents and even death. Besides which, constantly gazing at the screen in the company of others can be downright antisocial. Put the phone down for awhile. Go to the gym instead. Or talk to someone, in person! For more information about smartphone addiction, please read: Are you a nomophobiac? How to identify and treat smartphone addiction.
Volunteer: It is not just about helping other people, although that is a worthy goal in itself. Research shows that the more we give, the happier we become. It can give you a sense of accomplishment and purpose. It makes you more a part of your community, and you might even learn some new skills.