As we approach the end of one year and anticipate the new one before us—our thoughts inevitably turn to the age-old tradition of making resolutions. Armed with lots of expert advice and the best of intentions, we think about what we want to improve upon or change altogether over the next 12 months to be happier. We start out with a lot of enthusiasm and determination, exploring helpful resources, signing up for classes, purchasing and/or acquiring the necessary tools—then by February, most of us have either abandoned or forgotten the promises we made to ourselves.
Because it is never wise to continue doing the same thing over and over again with the same disappointing results; why not consider doing something completely different this year? Instead of resolving to make changes in your appearance, career, friendships and/or relationship—consider making only one change that will positively impact all of these. Simply put, resolve to be a happier you by doing the following.
1. View each day as the first day of the rest of your life.
Ironically, while we are rehashing and reliving what happened in the past or anxiously looking ahead to the future—we are unable to be fully present in the moment, which is where joy is experienced. While it is important to learn from past experiences and maintain an eye on the future, we need to leave behind our regrets, mistakes, hurts, and disappointments. Otherwise we will bring them along as baggage that will clutter and negatively impact the here and now.
View each day as a new beginning, and place your focus on living well, one day at a time. Doing so helps you avoid the difficulty of trying to maintain long-term momentum while you wait for reinforcements that may be a long way off. It will also help you avoid the self-recriminations and sabotage that come with having fallen off your goal wagon the day before.
2. Practice gratitude.
Begin each day with a moment of reflection where you focus on at least one positive thing in your life right now. This can be something small like waking up feeling rested and looking forward to the tasks ahead; to something big like having a lovely home, or a supportive partner, family, and friends. The key here is that this positive moment of reflection sets the tone for your day, and you can help sustain it by periodically reminding yourself throughout the day of this positive thing you have in your life.
3. Make a habit of asking yourself, “What is the worst that could happen?”
This is a very easy and useful exercise and one that when regularly implemented will help you put things in perspective and realize that the reality is often far less awful than what your imagination can come up with. Here is one work-related example: The next time you are about to blow a deadline, ask yourself; “What is the worst thing that could happen?” Your answers could range from falling into your boss’s disfavor to disappointing your team members or looking bad in front of them, to being upset at yourself for not working up to your ability. If instead you go straight into a panic and fear you will be fired, you might try to rush the project through and turn in something sloppy or inaccurate, or make a big enough mistake that it could cast doubt on your ability to do your job well.
By taking a step back and considering what the consequences could be you will be more likely to come up with better options for addressing the problem, like speaking to your boss and team mates, explaining that you need another day—then turning in something you can feel good about.
4. Always look for a silver lining
Your spouse did not get that new job after all. He and you are disappointed and will miss all the things you looked forward to doing with that extra money. But then again, the hours were going to be much longer, he would be traveling more, and his daily commute would almost double. As a high level manager he would be on-call all the time and required to respond to any and all emergencies and handle a lot more paperwork. You would have had extra money but less leisure time to spend together doing the things you had talked about.
The silver lining is that you have more down time and quality time together if he remains in his present position. Other job opportunities will become available in the future—and who knows, one of them might be a much better fit than this one would have been, but he would have missed the opportunity if he had gotten this one instead.
5. Learn to let go
By this I mean letting go of everything you have no control over because holding on will only lead to continued frustration and unhappiness. If you are not familiar with the serenity prayer from the 12-step movement, look it up and read it over a few times. It speaks to the first step, which is letting go. Letting go does not mean relinquishing all your power or influence over what you can change—it means accepting what you have no power over and moving on from it so you can focus on what you are able to achieve. Holding on takes away your choice and power, letting go is empowering.
Toni Coleman is a licensed psychotherapist, certified relationship coach and internationally recognized dating and relationship expert and founder of consum-mate relationship coaching.