Always explore new things that bring you joy, and do them every day
Usually, people appreciate little things when they experience tragedies. Don’t wait for a tragedy to happen to you so that you can realize what’s important. This kind of epiphany usually happens spontaneously, when you lose someone you love, or when something you’ve been taking for granted (i.e. health), slips through your fingers. Feeling gratitude is something that will bring inner peace to you, and this is not some hippie-self-help-mumbo-jumbo talk, it’s real. Appreciating small things is a first step towards finding new ways to be happy. It could be waking up and realizing you still have a couple of hours to sleep before work, it could be the way your dog jumps around when it’s happy, it could be the smell of cinnamon in the winter, it could be meeting new people or finding a new hobby. It could be literally anything, you just have to acknowledge that fact, and stop pressuring yourself to chase happiness through money or the other ways that society tends to impose upon us.
Don’t be so hard on yourself
We live in a very competitive world, where sometimes we feel pressured to compare ourselves to others, which often leads to not feeling good enough about ourselves. The fact is, every lifepath is different, and your New Year’s resolution should be to become the best version of you. What is the point of doing something under pressure, and dying from stress from trying to live up to other people’s expectations? In fact, that is the starting point for many people when writing down their New Year’s resolutions: they want to be the best in the eyes of others, not in their own eyes. People tend to have such a narrow perspective and to think there is only one right way to live a life. That is what society keeps telling you: finish school, graduate from college, get a nice job, buy a home, start a family. So, people tend to feel pressured, because they are just not there yet. They set unrealistic goals for themselves, for example: by the time I’m 30, I want to be married and have a baby on the way. You cannot plan love and control every single aspect of your life. And there is not just one single, universal path that all people should follow. That would make the human race terribly boring, don’t you think? Find your strengths, discover what you want to be and just – be it.
Work out and be active
If you wish to lose weight, then do it, but not so that you can become the envy of others. Maybe you should set a fitness goal from a different angle so that you don’t focus just on the question of physical appearance, but rather on the feeling good part. There are plenty of mental and physical benefits of staying active, and if you’re struggling with motivation, read one of our previous articles about it.
Listen to what your body needs
We live in a time where there is an intense tempo, it seems that we are always in a rush and stressed out. You have to set your priorities straight, having in mind the importance of health. If you are too focused on getting the job done, you could experience the symptoms of burn-out syndrome, which is briefly feeling extremely exhausted and depressed. If you feel swamped with work, that can only mean two things: you didn’t organize your time well, or there is just too much for you to do. Learn to say no to additional work. Your health cannot suffer because of that. If your body needs sleep, you have to sleep. If you are hungry, you have to make time for that (and preferably, eat healthy, try to perceive food as a fuel for your body). If you don’t satisfy your basic needs, the job you’ll do won’t be as good as it could be. People get stressed out because they think they are out of time, but devoting just half an hour (or a full hour) just to yourself will make a huge difference. You will work better and harder, with a much clearer focus.
Disconnect to reconnect: devote free time to things you can benefit from
Instead of wasting your time on social networks, try doing things that will reconnect you with yourself. Read a book, take an online course, spread your horizons, learn new things. Too often we get focused on just one thing, which eventually makes it boring or unattractive, and that leads to feeling stuck in life. Reading new books or developing a new hobby, devoting your time to something other than the virtual world can make you happier (see the first resolution on this list). There is also this great suggestion: pick one day when you will not touch your computer. Use your phone only to arrange gatherings with your friends. Spend the whole day socializing with people, play board games or cards, take walks, go grab a cup of tea with a friend, focus on your family, laugh a lot. Pick a day (Sunday is great for that), try to maintain this every week. If you are just too busy, then do it at least once a month.
Do something that scares you once a month
You know what they say: nothing spectacular ever happens within the limits of your comfort zone. People are very resistant to change, which is reasonable and, as a few have noticed – even an evolutionary mark of the human species. You stick to whatever you have been doing because it works and it’s safe. But taking risks is what makes life worth living. So, whether you are scared to ask that girl or boy out, or whether you fear trying something new, change a job or move to another city – explore what it is that’s stopping you. Is it the lack of fire in your desire, or is it your fear of things not turning out the way you want? You can even plan ahead if you wish to have a more concrete plan: in January, I will try skydiving; in February, I will quit my current job and switch to that new one that I’ve been offered; in March, I will apply for that internship in London and try my luck, etc.
Travel as much as you can
Travel, even if you can’t find a travel buddy. Sometimes it’s hard to make these arrangements with friends. It’s hard to agree on the destination, time of travelling, and all the other details. If you want to travel somewhere specific, do it by all means, even if it means going alone. Travelling helps to shake up your life, it prevents life from becoming too static and boring. New experiences and the different mentalities of the people you’ll meet by travelling – can deeply change you. You may feel like you’ve changed completely, within just ten days (or however long your trip lasts). I have two friends who have visited Cuba and Thailand, and they’ve come back to Serbia full of enthusiasm and energy. This wasn’t something that just lasted for a few days, while the imperssions were still fresh. No, these trips were life changing for them. So, when making resolutions, try to squeeze in travelling. As much as your time and finances will allow.
Learn to say YES
You may be one of those people who prefer staying in one place and don’t really feel like investing energy into anything new. It may be a simple thing, like organizing a party with a friend, or just going out. Then, the excuses start emerging: I don’t really feel like it; it’s raining; I don’t have the time to wash my hair; it’s too far away; I don’t think I know anybody there, etc. Learn to say yes, nurture a more positive approach towards life. The worst case scenario isn’t that bad, and the chances are – you’ll have fun. Maybe even something magical will happen. My friends and I have started organizing YES nights. That means going out and having to say yes to any proposal, no matter who makes it. Of course, there are some ground rules: no breaking the law, no explicit and sexual requests, plus – you can have one joker, for something that you really don’t feel like doing. It is actually a game, and some of the greatest memories have come to us from these nights. It is great because you get to know some different sides of yourself, including some that you didn’t even know existed! Plus, you can share the passions of your friends and support them in different activites. For example, going to a club that you may not like, but your friend does. You find the good in the bad, and you find new ways to have fun. This YES game is a great way to loosen up and learn not to take life too seriously, all the time. It will revitalize you, and you will gain a much healthier attitude towards life. So, say yes more often, be open to new experiences, not just within the framework of this silly but extremely fun game.
Focus on other people
Although many people think that the most broken New Year’s resolutions include: stop smoking, exercise, eat healthy, I can bet that this resolution is in the top five of the most neglected. When writing down New Year’s resolutions, people tend to put do good or volunteer somewhere or do charity. But, how often do they stick to it? Unfortunately, we are predominantly focused on ourselves, on our personal desires and needs. Doing good for others is a way of confirming humanity in ourselves. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should, for example, start volunteering at the Red Cross (if you have the time and the energy, by all means – do it)! Thinking of others seems like a lost art today, so just take some time to rehabilitate your ability to empathize. You can start small, by saying thank you and you’re welcome, or helping out someone: hold a door for your neighbour, help the old lady carry her groceries, etc.
Take control of your life, with awareness that sometimes you can’t control what happens, and that’s okay
Don’t pressure yourself to fulfill everything you’ve planned. It’s all in your hands, the list you organize for yourself can never be final, and it shouldn’t be final. It may change as life is unpredictable, and you shouldn’t feel bad about it. You know what they say: life is what happens while you’re busy making your plans (or excuses). Some things are just out of our control. It is far more important to do good than to plan well, even if it means figuring out what you should do along the way.