The Christmas/New Year/holiday season really threw me off my normal schedule. I’m sure this happened to a lot of you. I got a little lazy with my regular work, stressed out about holiday tasks, and overindulged in seasonal treats.
By the time 2019 rolled around, I was ready to get back to normal.
But when the only constant in life is change, what IS “normal”? Can we even hold on to “normal” when many changes are out of our control?
Maybe not. But you can be better prepared for life’s changes with a few smaller changes. Here are some small changes you can start making for 2019 to be a great year, professionally or personally.
1. Write down 3 good things every day.
Which are you more likely to remember: a sweet compliment or an offhand insult? Our brains tend to remember bad stuff more than good stuff, even if both things have equal intensity. This “negativity bias” helps protect us from dangers, but can also hinder our growth by making us overly pessimistic.
Counteract this bias by writing down at least 3 things that went well in your day (or the last 24 hours, depending on when you write it down). Each list item can be small and mundane (“I had clean water to drink”) or big and unusual (“Finally got that promotion”). The purpose is to realize that, over the course of the day, most things actually go pretty well.
2. Pause during the day.
Even if you literally have only two minutes of downtime, seize the chance to give your brain a break. Close your eyes and take deep breaths (from your stomach/diaphragm, not your chest). Turn off noise around you, look away from screens, and be still for a few minutes.
This can help you relax, reduce stress, and clear your head. Constant noise and activity can hinder creativity, raise stress and blood pressure, and drain mental energy.
3. Use your strengths more.
Whether it’s our negative bias, a career necessity, or some other reason, we often focus more on improving our weaknesses and developing lesser skills. While this can be important, sometimes it’s demoralizing.
Spend some time doing something you’re good at. This might involve working on a project or hobby, or performing a simple kindness. Have a love of learning? Spend a few minutes reading about something new to you. Are you a creative thinker? Take some time to do some brainstorming. Do you have a passion for life? Get some vigorous exercise and boost your energy. Doing enjoyable, productive things you’re good at can boost your confidence and give you a greater sense of meaning.
4. Let yourself feel.
Not to sound too woo-woo, but feelings are important. They shouldn’t be your main decision-making criteria, but they exist for a reason. Instead of trying to ignore, change, or get away from your feelings, let yourself experience them.
By themselves, feelings can’t hurt you. Feelings are there to send you signals about what is happening around or inside you. Think about what is causing your feelings. If it’s something you can change, take steps to do so. If you can’t change it, then allow yourself to experience the feelings until they change. They always will.
5. Reduce clutter.
It’s a good idea to remove mental and emotional clutter–making an effort to forgive past mistakes, cutting back on screen time–but I’m talking about physical clutter. It’s amazing how tossing even a little bit of unnecessary stuff helps your mental health.
Don’t worry about tackling big projects. Take things a little at a time. Pick one box in your attic to go through, or one closet in your house. Look at one set of shelves–whether it’s full of books, tools, or cosmetics–and find something to throw or give away. If you’re keeping something for sentimental value but don’t otherwise use it, take a picture instead of holding onto the item.
Whatever your resolutions are, these five little things can help you make it a happier, healthier year.
As always, thanks for reading. If you find this blog post helpful, or know someone who would, share away!