It’s 2017. I’ll say it again. It’s two thousand seventeen. Maybe one more time. It’s twenty-seventeen.
I know that resolutions can seem daunting and annoying, like everyone has an elaborate plan to better themselves this year. Well, guess what? I don’t. There’s no list of things I’m going to beat myself up over if I don’t check off every item. There’s no reward for fulfilling each task; there’s no punishment for skipping over it. If I do it, great! If I don’t, life moves on, tomorrow is a new day. It seems like each year, resolutions get more and more serious, but I don’t exactly like that idea. My resolution, each day, each week, and each year (lately) has been to live; live everyday for what it is, accepting the good, the bad, and all of the stuff in between. I don’t think we need to set ourselves up for failure, or put a bitter taste in our mouths just because of a new year’s resolution. So, as someone with a chronic illness, and someone who just doesn’t really understand all the hype about resolutions, I did some thinking. I’ve researched and thought of some creative, helpful resolution ideas for those of you who want to institute change in 2017, but don’t necessarily want to bend over backwards.
- Add 10 minutes of mindfulness to your daily routine. Set a 10 minute timer on your phone. Find a comfy, quiet place to lie down or sit. Turn on some relaxing music (here’s a great one that is 3 hours long, so you can use it many-a-time and not get sick of it: https://youtu.be/93CyZ1rt2vQ). Now turn your phone to silent. Close your eyes and just be. Don’t judge your observations. Just recognize how you feel, in complete stillness. Notice how you feel. Notice what else you hear, besides the music. Notice the temperature of the room. Notice the temperature of your body. Notice the texture of what you’re sitting/laying on. Notice any smells. Did you just finish eating dinner? Breakfast? Do you have a candle burning? Are essential oils diffusing? Notice how you’re breathing. Are breathing deeply? Shallow? Are your inhalations the same length as your exhalations? Is one shorter than the other? Notice how you’re sitting. Is your back straight? Are your knees bent? Are your hands open or closed? Focus on the music. Focus on the beat. Focus on the sound of each note. Focus on your breath, again. Inhale for 4 counts. Hold for 7. Exhale for 8. Inhale, hold, exhale. Continue this until your timer goes off. See your mindset, your attitude and perspective shift. Ten minutes of this each day will keep your stress levels in check, making you happier, and in-turn, healthier.
- Keep a gratitude journal. This is simple. Every morning or every night, you pick, jot down 3-10 things that you’re grateful for. They can be specific to that day, or they can be general. They can be little things or major things. I encourage you to keep a physical journal, as it is more motivating to keep up with it everyday; you see the pages fill up, and pretty soon you’ll have multiple journals filled with things you’re grateful for. You can always keep a little note in your phone or computer to keep track of what you’re grateful for throughout the day, just don’t forget to write it down when you get home. Don’t be afraid to repeat things, but once in a while try to think a little harder for what you might be grateful for. Your perspective on life and your attitude towards other people is sure to change.
- Add (at least) 15 minutes of active time to your everyday to-do list. This may seem silly, or not long enough to make a difference. But, think about it: 15 x 7 = 105 active minutes per week. You may even do longer, more extensive workouts 2-5 times per week on top of that 15 minutes. Working out is scientifically proven to increase happiness and reduce stress. Who doesn’t want to be happier and calmer? Working out in my world is a phrase that is used quite loosely. Working out for 15 minutes could mean a 7 minute walk and 8 minutes of various ab exercises. Or, 5 minutes of walking, 5 minutes of biking, and 5 minutes of upper body exercises. Or, 15 minutes of gentle, restorative yoga. Working out, in my world, is getting out of the everyday postures and actions, and exploring the body’s abilities outside the normal movements.
- Replace a bad habit. I am not an expert, but I’ve done some research. You are not going to disgard a habit altogether, you are simply going to replace it. You need to become aware of your habit. And by aware, I mean, very aware. Write down the habit you’re trying to replace. Physically, on a post-it note, in a journal, whatever, write it down. All of the time. When you catch yourself doing whatever it is, when you think about it, when you’re reminded of it, write it down. Focus on the healthier replacement. Whatever you’re going to replace the unhealthy habit with, make a conscious effort to think about the healthy habit. Research suggests that to get something engraved in your brain, you have to write it down three times, read it three times, and repeat the process three times. Make your environment accepting of the replacement. Cater your environment to the healthier habit. Make a point of replacing the unhealthy habit with the healthy habit, physically, so you can clearly see the healthy option.
- Increase your H2O intake every day. Water is healthy for you. Shocking.. I know. If you’re bored of the taste of water, add some fresh fruit. Increasing your water intake each day will increase energy, decrease fatigue, promotes weight loss, improves skin complexion, boosts immune system, is a natural headache remedy, puts you in a good mood, prevents unnecessary cramping and injury, and many others. Now, get that water flowing!
- Spend your money on experiences, rather than material things. Purchasing the necessities is, well, a necessity. But, are you investing in something that will grow? Is it a hobby? Does it bring you joy? Does it improve your quality of life? Can you tell a story about it? Think about it, you have an iPad, do you really need the newest one? Save that money, and go buy coffee for the person in front of you at the drive through. Or, save that money, and go find something to do, with friends or by yourself. Do something! Whether it be a movie, a hike in your local state park, or inviting some friends to coffee. You’ll realize how good life is when you thoroughly take it in. This is something I need to do more often myself, and one I plan to really work on this year.
- Send an encouraging text or thank you letter to someone new once a week. Uplifting others is proven to lift our own spirits. Knowing that you helped someone feel better, in one way or another, makes you feel good. This is an easy way to fulfill that resolution of “complete ___ random acts of kindness per week.” Whether it be a Facebook friend you barely know, or a close friend/family member, send them a hand written letter – it’s fun to receive mail from an unexpected sender – or shoot a quick text thanking them for their friendship, wishing them well, or just a simple positive message. You’ll likely get a response filled with gratitude and love, which will also make you feel good.
- Make your heart happy, for a minimum of 2 hours per week. Whatever makes your heart happy, do it, for a concentrated time of at least one hour, twice a week. What’s your hobby? What relaxes you? What do you enjoy doing? Allowing yourself that time to do nothing else, but what you want and like to do will decrease stress, improve your overall mood, and give you something to look forward to on those days that seem to never end.
I pray that 2017 treats you well. I pray that you make many more forward steps in your journey through life. I pray that you realize the abundance of love and grace that God provides. I pray that you find meaning in even the darkest of times, because God’s plan is bigger. I pray that you smile more than you frown. I pray that you feel health more than sickness. I pray that you explore yourself, your surroundings, and your relationships; there’s always something to be learned. I pray that God works through you. And I pray that you witness God’s work through others.
“But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.” ~ Isaiah 40:31
Here’s to a happy, healthy new year!
“She is tossed by the waves, but does not sink.”