I’m not actually a fan of New Year’s resolutions, which probably sounds a bit weird coming from someone who enticed you into a post promising a list of mine. But confession time: I really don’t like them. I don’t like the culture of them, I don’t like that corporations capitalize off people’s hopes to sell products and gym memberships, and I especially don’t like that so many of us buy into this shit every year even though, statistically, only about 8% of people actually keep their resolutions.
I spent a long time trying to decide if I wanted to make resolutions this year. I did know, immediately, what resolutions I didn’t want to make: I wasn’t touching “lose weight” or “exercise more” with a ten-foot pole (sorry, fitness bloggers, but more power to you folks!), and while I know that specificity and measurability are the keys to a good resolution, I personally tend to do better with broader categories that I can turn into measurable objectives as I adapt and figure out how to they’re going to work (aka, give myself as much wiggle room as humanly possible, because I’m a slippery eel who loves a good loophole). That said, I do like a good positively-worded goal, and as this year (or at least, 2015) became the year of my happiness project, I figured I might as well keep the momentum going by figuring out some resolutions I might actually keep.
So, without further ado, I present:
- Walk 1 Mile Every Day
Confession: this one’s a bit of a freebie. I made this one “walk one mile” as opposed to “go for a walk” or “take a mile-long walk” very intentionally, because I know very, very well that as nicely intentioned as I am, there’s no way in hell I’m going to go for a walk every day (sorry, Sammi, but sometimes you don’t want to go for walks, either). That said, I do wear my Fitbit just about every day, and one mile comes out to about 2,000 steps, which even on a pretty sedentary day is pretty doable.
My Fitbit step goal is currently set at the default 10,000 steps per day, though I don’t usually hit that unless I take Sammi on more than one walk (walking Sammi is usually Husband’s job). I tend to average about 6,000 to 8,000 steps a day, which gets me well over my one-mile goal. Eventually I’d like to be hitting 10,000 steps everyday, which would put me at the step goal that the American Heart Association recommends to help maintain a low risk of cardiovascular disease. But for now, walking one mile–or about 2,500 steps–every day is a goal I can hit with relative ease even on awful pain days, and seeing the distance on my tracker at more than one mile will give me an emotional boost. Which brings me to…
- Smile More Often
I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since my teens, and since getting into a field where I’m regularly confronted with heavy emotional pain I’ve had a lot of my own issues brought right to the front of my brain. After a day of seeing back to back clients and helping them peel back layer upon layer of trauma and sadness and grief and fear and abandonment and etcetera, I often come home feeling like there’s not all that much to smile about in the world. But I’ve also started to understand over the past months that days like that are the days when I most need to look for something to smile about.
In my last happiness project post, I wrote about rediscovering gratitude, and it’s been an ongoing project for me to sit down with my journal each night and write down a few things about the day that made me smile. In 2016, I want to take this a step further and start to seek out experiences that will give me joy. Not necessarily huge experiences, but ones that will allow happiness to settle onto me like a blanket: letting myself savor a cup of coffee over breakfast, buying nice wine and tea, reading books that make me smile even if they’re not literary masterpieces. 2016 is about smiling more, and finding time to appreciate the things that make those smiles happen.
- Watch 1 TED Talk Each Month
So I’m a huge nerd, which I suspect surprises absolutely none of you. One of the many things I’m a huge nerd about is learning itself, and TED Talks are a great way to spend fifteen or twenty minutes learning about something new in an interesting way. The TED website is fairly easy to use, but more often I end up getting recommendations of talks to watch from friends, old professors, or professional contacts.
My goal in watching TED Talks isn’t to become an expert on anything, but rather to try and explore topics I’ve been interested in but maybe haven’t found a way to learn about, and to find new ways of thinking about topics I may have dismissed or become bored by. I’ll be starting my TED adventure with this playlist later this month. Anyone feel like joining in?
- Send More “Snail Mail”
Guys, getting mail is awesome. I LOVE getting mail. I mean, not bills and random credit card offers, screw those, but mail mail? Real mail that someone put together for you and wrote your address on and licked and stamped and put into a mailbox for you? Guys, that is just the greatest thing in the world? WHO DOESN’T LOVE MAIL?
I mean. Hardcore environmentalists, probably. But other than that.
Getting paper mail is nothing like getting an email. When I spent my summers at camp, we would all sit on our beds and wait like puppies with wagging tails for our counselors to hand out mail at rest hour, and my reaction to the mail coming to my house has changed exactly zero percent over the years. So knowing how much I adore getting mail, and figuring that other people probably feel about the same, I decided to make mailing real letters and cards one of my 2016 goals. I went through my contacts and put birthdays into my planner, and I’ve already sent out six birthday cards–and even already received one response. From my mother-in-law, no less! 😀
I’m pretty sure this now makes me That Person in the friend group who sends out the birthday cards and asks everyone to be their pen pal. Whatever, y’all, I’m cool as hell.
- Be More Mindful
I spend a lot of time with my clients teaching them about mindfulness, a concept that has its roots in Buddhism and got into the American mainstream through therapeutic approaches such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. There are as many ways of practicing mindfulness as there are therapists who teach it, but at its core, mindfulness is a state of open attention on the present, actively living in the moment and being aware of your experiences as you have them.
Practicing mindfulness is clinically shown to have benefits for mind and body, and as someone who tends to have problems in both, I figure it’s about time I got onto the train. As I’ve learned more about mindfulness over my time teaching it to clients, I’m always surprised to find how many things I do are already mindful: savoring the first cup of coffee each morning rather than chugging it down, scanning my body at the beginning of the day while I’m still in bed to become aware of what is hurting or sore, practicing daily acts of kindness and compassion.
My plan for this resolution is to start with these exercises from Pocket Mindfulness, and to work on incorporating them into my daily life, especially mindful breathing, which I often do with my clients every day. As my therapist often reminds me, if I recommend it to my clients, why not try it myself?
- Read 25 Books in 2016
Over the past few years, I’ve set myself a goal of reading fifty books over the course of the year. I tend to do really well for January and February, taper off in the spring, power-read all through the summer, and then crash in the fall again. I still managed to hit my Goodreads goal in 2014 (by the skin of my teeth), and wasn’t too far off for 2015, but by November, I was more stressed about pushing myself to read fifty books than I was about enjoying the stories I was reading.
For 2016, I decided to set a lower goal, with the hope of being able to incorporate my mindfulness by improving my attention to what the books I read rather than powering through them to get to a certain number of books read by December 31st. I already have a pretty substantial reading list of books I’m totally excited to tackle in 2016, as well as a shiny library card to play with, so I’ve got to say, I’m pretty excited. And speaking of books and excitement…
- Write Every Day
In all honesty, this one really should be “write something creative every day”, since I definitely won’t count myself as having written something if all I wrote in a day was progress notes at work. That said, I’m excited about this. I wrote a bit in my Passion Planner reflection about how important I’ve found it to block out time in my day to write, and setting writing goals for myself has also been super helpful. Journalling has been a big part of me feeling happier over the past months–I notice a distinct difference in my sleep quality and how settled my mind is as I try to fall asleep on nights when I’ve journaled versus nights when I haven’t.
Writing has always been a huge passion of mine, and I am always, always happier when I’m writing as often as I can. As long as I’m writing creatively, it doesn’t matter what I’m writing: original stories, fanfiction (judge away, y’all, I don’t need your sass), blog posts, creative essays, media analysis, geeky meta, it all settles onto me like a warm, fuzzy literary blanket and lights up my whole being. This is probably going going to be the easiest resolution to keep.
Like I said at the top of the post: I don’t like New Year’s resolutions, though I find myself getting into them year after year. I haven’t had much luck keeping them in the past. But I’m hoping that picking resolutions that are positive, send good energy into myself and the world, and give me enough wiggle room to compromise might finally be the equation that helps me reach my goals this year.
Did you make resolutions for 2016? What are your plans to reach them? Drop me a line in the comments!