12 New Year's Resolutions You Should Make This Year
When one year comes to a close and a new one is looming in front of us, we are often compelled to reinvent ourselves. Society says that a new year means a new you. Every year, thousands of us spend the first month of the year "sort of" accomplishing long lists of goals that never end up entirely completed. For a few weeks, we go to the gym or eat healthier. We start new hobbies or say we are going to quit smoking. As the weeks pass, those gym memberships go unused but continue to be paid for out of our monthly budgets. Junk food slowly slips back into our kitchens, and new hobbies are tossed into the back of the closet never to see the light of day again. By mid-year, very few people end up checking a resolution off of their list. Most of us give up completely, usually without notice or second thought.
I believe that the opportunity to make new choices is something presented to us every second of every day. Every moment, we make tiny decisions. Each of those choices can affect our day, our week, and our year. Below, I've put forth twelve long-term goals that you should consider embracing. Each of these resolutions can be accomplished by making those many daily choices that will add up to a better, happier, and more confident new you. This is the year for you to really reinvent yourself in small but meaningful ways. Turn the opening of this year into the trailhead on your path to personal greatness.
1. Assess Your Mental Health
These days, it is so much easier to be open about your mental health status. Every person alive has the right to acknowledge that they are not okay mentally. We each can say, "I'm having a tough time right now" and not become an outcast for it. This year, one of your resolutions should be to assess, acknowledge, and work on your mental health.
Make it your goal to say when things are not going well for you mentally. Celebrate the moments when you can honestly say that you're doing great. This year should be the year you can choose to seek help instead of keeping things bottled up inside. Talk with a professional or a close friend. Be honest about how you feel. If you are struggling, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to say it out loud - "I am not okay." Remember, solutions do not have to be found right away. It is more important for you to acknowledge your mental state honestly. If you can be honest with yourself, you can more easily figure out what it is you need to better yourself mentally. So say it out loud as often as you need to.
Resolution: Honestly recognize your mental state so that you can find the best way to improve it.
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2. Consider Your Relationships
Our relationships have a significant impact on our mental health, for better or for worse. Many of us stay in relationships because we feel we have no choice. We may feel we are obligated to remain in contact with people who may make us feel less than great about ourselves. A relationship could be with a family member, a romantic interest, or a friend. Any of these connections could be with someone who makes you feel less than you should as a person. Maybe a parent tells you that you will never accomplish anything, or a partner says you make them look bad. Perhaps a friend only comes around when they need you to bail them out of a financial situation. In each of these situations, you may feel that you must put up with the negative feelings they create. After all, family is family, and many of us think that they should be in our lives no matter what. A partner or friend may leave you if you stand up for yourself. Often, we feel that it is better to endure the toxicity some relationships have because we are afraid to say that it's not okay.
This year, give yourself permission to say it. Give yourself permission to tell toxic people that you love them, but that you need to do what is best for you. It will be hard, and you will be scared, but letting go may be the best thing you can do for yourself this year. Let go of people who negatively affect your mental health. Instead, surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself without compromising your mental wellbeing. Remember, obligation is not enough of a reason to remain in bad relationships (even if they are family).
Resolution: Remove toxic people from your life.
3. Be Kinder
Similar to the previous resolutions, you should learn to be kinder to yourself. A behavior many people learn as children is to insult themselves when they make a mistake. Many of us carry this toxic internal dialog to adulthood. Got up late? You're a lazy slob. Missed the turn you needed to take? Obviously, you are too stupid to drive. Said something that was turned down during a meeting? You don't deserve the job you have and should consider quitting. I'm sure many other thoughts come to your mind when a mistake is made.
It is difficult to break the habit of abusing yourself when you are frustrated or upset. One of the best things I ever learned was something I read in the book by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. In chapter five, Georgia's then-therapist asked her, "What do you think is the mentally healthy thing to say to yourself instead?" (page 188). Georgia went through several answers before her therapist said the correct answer was telling yourself, "it's OK." It's OK to make mistakes. It's OK not to be perfect. It's OK to try a few times. It isn't, however, OK to abuse yourself. The saying "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is wrong. Often, it's physical pain that we forget. The words linger for weeks, years, and lifetimes. When so many people are telling you that you can't do something or that you are not good enough, why would you need to be another in the crowd saying the same thing? Instead, be the only one holding up the sign that says, "I believe in you" or "You can do it." Be your own cheer-leading squad. Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered
The same goes for how you treat other people. We often forget that the things we say and do affect others. This year, strive to support your fellow person. Tell the people in your life that you are proud of them. Lend them an ear when they need it. Ask them how they are and really listen to their answers. Be the friend you want in your life.
Resolution: Be kinder to yourself and those around you.
4. Let Go of Anything Weighing You Down
It seems very few humans leave this life without having any regrets. Humans like to ruminate on their past mistakes. After even a few years of regurgitating these bad memories, the weight of how things "should have" been presses down on you. Some of us manage to hide our regrets, while others lash out or drown themselves in alcohol. We become depressed, anxious, stressed, and worn out.
Now is the time to start letting these regrets go. It's not easy to do, but once they no longer weigh on your shoulders, you can feel free. Make a list of the things you regret. Analyze each one and ask yourself if it's something you can change. Do you regret never learning a foreign language? It's not too late. You can learn this year. Do you regret not starting your own business? Find out what you can do to start one. I cannot give specific advice for the more complex regrets such as missed loves, lost relationships, and other similar moments. Some of these situations can be changed. Many cannot.
For the regrets that cannot be changed, you must come to peace with them. I am not qualified to tell you how to do so. Each of us has our own path to take to find peace. Strive to walk that path. Talk through the regret with someone close or with a therapist. Coming to terms with these regrets will improve your overall wellbeing.
Resolution: Let it go.
5. Tell Them "I love you"
The first four resolutions have been about your mental health. Each of these goals is a stepping stone on the path to your personal happiness. Be kind to yourself and others. Nurture relationships that are non-toxic and good for your health. The fifth resolution you should set this year is to tell those you care about that you love them.
We often say a quick "I love you" before hanging up the phone or walking out the door. It can often be a mindless and habituated gesture. Yes, we do truly love our friends and family who we choose to keep in our lives, but sometimes life gets in the way, and we say "I love you" out of habit. Instead of saying "I love you" because it is what you do, take the time to think of the emotions the phrase brings you to. Consider telling the person why you love them. For example, "I love when you make my lunch for work. I really appreciate the care and time you took to make sure I get enough to eat" or "I love you for taking the time to call me today. It was great hearing from you."
Taking the time to assess why you love someone and then telling that person the reasons can open up a whole new world of communication. Being honest about your appreciation and gratitude for things both big and small makes those you love feel good. They, in turn, will start to tell you what you do and say are appreciated.
Resolution: Let your loved ones know why they are so loved more often.
6. Be in the Moment
Working on letting things go and finding better, healthier relationships with yourself and others is just the beginning. A quote from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu says, "If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present moment." This quote, while oversimplifying things in today's world, does have wise advice. For the new year, you should focus on teaching yourself to let go of the past and to allow the future worry about itself. As you let go of the things weighing you down, there will be no reason to dwell in the past.
You can allow the future to take care of itself by not playing the "What-if" game. Many of us often let our imaginations run wild with possibilities of future events. What if I lose my job? What if I fail this interview? What if I get sick and can't work? What if this relationship doesn't work out? While it is wise to plan for these possibilities, make sure you do so in logical, tangible ways. Playing the "What-if" game is not logical or tangible. Lao Tzu is right. You will only give yourself anxiety.
Learn to be present both mentally and physically to what is happening around you. Electronics and cell phones have taken over our lives. We have lost a significant amount of the face-to-face interaction we use to have. We have more trouble staying focused on tasks in front of us and are easily distracted by our phones. It is now common to see people sitting around a table all staring at their phones.
Practice putting your electronics away and focus on the person or activity in front of you. Don't let your cell phone be the reason you miss what is going on around you. Don't let the internet be the cause of procrastination. Instead, disconnect and be in the moment. Really listen to the people you're with. Engage in conversation and activities. Don't check your social media, email, or games while you are doing more important things.
Resolution: Be in the present, mentally and physically.
7. Complete a Backlogged Project
I don't know anyone who doesn't have a long list of projects to do. Many of the things on our lists are outdated, too time-consuming, or unimportant. Broken items in need of repair pile up and store returns never get there. The leaky faucet never seems to be fixed. The photos from your phone are never renamed and organized.
This year is the year to sit down and make a written list of all of the things you have been meaning to do. Take some time to go through each item and decide how important it really is to complete it. If it's clothing you have been meaning to repair for a decade, it might not be worth the time. After all, you haven't been able to wear them for ten years. You have probably replaced them with something else. If it is a home repair project, it is most likely still important. It should stay on the list. Once you have decided on what is still a priority, make it your goal to get them done. Make real plans to do so. Find time in your everyday life to work on an item or two.
Resolution: Clarify your to-do list and get them done.
8. Work on Your Hobbies
Life should never be all work and no play. Having hobbies is important for your mental health and happiness. This year, you should focus on engaging in your hobbies every day or every week. Many hobbies can be enjoyed in small blocks of time - reading, writing, model kit building. Others, like sports or hiking, take more time and planning. Rearrange your schedule to eke out time to do your hobbies. Even fifteen minutes a day can improve your happiness.
Resolution: Enjoy your hobbies as often as you can.
9. Make a Goal to Save Money
So many of us are living paycheck to paycheck. It is often nearly impossible to save large chunks of money. Most people know how important it is to have an emergency fund, but fail to plan for it. This year, make it a goal to save money.
Saving money does not have to include hundreds of dollars a paycheck. Take some time to create a monthly budget. See where things can be cut back. Get rid of those excess expenses for things you never use, like gym memberships or magazine subscriptions. Estimate what money you have left after paying bills. Even if it is just a few dollars, put that money in savings. It may not add up quickly, but any dollar saved is money you can use toward a future expense. Increase the amount of money you can save each paycheck when you can. Assess your budget every month.
Resolution: Save what you can, no matter how little.
10. Treat Yourself to a "You Day"
With so many things that have to be done in a day, it is easy to become stressed out and worn out. Your body and your mind both suffer. Few of us have the time to really relax. This resolution may be one of the hardest on the list. You should, somehow, find the time to have a "you day."
A "you day" is a day spent doing things you want to do instead of things you have to do. It is a small bit of time you gift yourself to reset your mind and body. It can be spent any way you want to. Sleep all day or lounge on the couch with the greasiest junk food you can find. Go for a long walk or window shop downtown. Do whatever pleases you.
Even if it's just one day in the next twelve months, find a way to take that one day. If you can take more than one day, it is even better. You Days are about self-care. Give yourself permission to let go of all stresses for a few hours.
Resolution: Have a stress-free day for you.
11. Pay It Forward
Pay it forward: do a kindness for someone without expectation or want of having the kindness returned. Paying it forward is a gift that often creates a chain. You may help someone with loading their groceries into their car. That person, who was having a bad day, may see the kindness and have a better day. During their next errand, they give a kid a quarter so that they have enough money for that candy bar. That kid is thankful and maybe shares it with a friend who happens to have misplaced their pet. The candy bar is a comfort, and the friends cheer up enough to come up with a plan to find the missing dog. Along the way, they bump into the bullied kid from school. With cooperation from them all, the dog is found. Somewhere during their time looking together, the three kids find out that they have a lot in common. They now want to be friends. It all happened because you helped someone with their groceries. Would it have happened otherwise? There's no way to tell, but you started the chain.
This year, share kindnesses as often as you can. It can be as small as a smile or as grand as paying off a stranger's layaway for Christmas gifts. Be kind because it feels good and not because you might get something from it. Create happiness by giving happiness and help.
Resolution: Create a chain of kindness.
12. Believe This Will Be the Best Year
This is the most important resolution on the list. Countless self-help books say you get what you give. You create the kind of life you have. If you are negative, negativity will be attracted to you. If you are positive, your life will be positive overall.
This year, you need to believe that it will be your best year yet. Believe that things can and will change for the better. Believe that you will accomplish something you have wanted to accomplish. Believe that this year will be different. Know that what you put into this year is what you get out of it. There will be bad times. There will be setbacks. None of the bad times have to ruin your year if you put yourself into the right mindset. Loss can be a celebration of the life that was. Unemployment can be a new opportunity. A breakup can be the window to your soulmate. Make this year the best year by living your best.
Resolution: Make this year different.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2019 Anne Ryefield