I’m on the fence about making New Year’s resolutions. On one hand, it seems like a good idea to set a new goal and a new year seems like the time for a fresh start; on the other hand, if I don’t follow through and make these things happen, I have come up short. I came across a blog from Berkley’s Greater Good website and it has me rethinking resolutions.
Dr. Christine Carter says that people often pick things that are too hard to complete so they set themselves up to fail. She suggests picking just one thing, breaking it down into increments and taking small steps toward creating a new habit.
Here are three of her favorites resolutions:
1. Spend more time with friends. Study after study shows that we tend to be happier when we feel connected to our nearest and dearest, when we feel like we are a part of a group or a clan. Even introverts don’t like to feel lonely; this may seem like the science of the blazingly obvious, but it bears repeating. Do you frequently feel isolated or lonely? Make a resolution to routinely reach out to others.
Not sure how, or feel too busy? Join or start a group that meets regularly—maybe on the first Monday of the month, or every Friday at lunch. Some of my closest friends have come from book clubs, church groups, and standing family dinners. When we routinize our friendships, we remove the hassle of scheduling, and increase the odds that we’ll actually spend time with people we love or want to get to know better.
2. Everyday, find a way to give something to somebody. My favorite happiness booster is to give thanks: to a higher power for the abundance that surrounds me; to my dad for taking my kids to ice cream; to my main squeeze for all the ways he supports my work.
Equally good is to give something else—a helping hand, a compliment, a much needed $5 bill—even if it is just a tiny act of kindness. In a world that is more focused on getting than giving, a New Year’s resolution to do one kind thing each day, or to give thanks in one small way, is a pretty radical act. When we make giving a habit, we make gratitude and kindness central themes in our lives. In so doing, we transform our lives with joy.
3. Get more sleep and exercise. I know, that’s not one resolution, it’s two, but the science around these physical happiness boosters is pretty compelling. Studies are clear: You’ll be less stressed, less sick, and less grouchy in the New Year if you get more shut-eye. Try increasing your sleep 10 minutes a night for a week, and then another 10 the next week, and so on until you are regularly getting your eight hours.
If you aren’t active, you want to lose a few pounds, or you frequently feel a bit depressed, try adding more activity into your life in a way that feels fun or luxurious. I like to hike with my friend Jen and her ecstatically joyful dog Lou. It takes a couple hours out of my day (that’s the luxurious part, since I’m so strapped for time) but it leaves me feeling as bright and happy as Lou. On days when I don’t have time for a hike, I walk on a treadmill while watching Modern Family. This is luxurious and fun because I don’t watch TV at any other time.
I will add my own resolution to this list. I intend to laugh more. There is research that says that laughter can improve your immune system, reduce stress, and boost your mood. It just feels good. I plan to watch and read more things that are funny, be with people (and animals) that make me laugh, and look for the humorous perspective in daily life. Laughter is contagious and I look forward to seeing it spread to those around me. Have fun with your resolutions in 2016 and Happy New Year!