We all start the New Year (new chapter, new week, etc.) with great intentions–I’m going to eat right, exercise, journal, meditate, read more, etc.–but usually within a couple of weeks we fall back into old habits. How do we to stick with our best laid plans?
Often our problem is a lack of grit, or “sticktoitiveness,” which is okay. Changing lifestyle habits is hard work, especially if you’re dealing with the emotional burden of grief, and most of us will falter at some point. The key is to be prepared to fall off the horse then get right back up there.
To be ready for that moment, it’s a good idea to write down what you want for the next 365 days and why. This way, when you find yourself losing motivation, first forgive yourself, then revisit your plans and give yourself a solid restart. Here’s how:
Mapping your Resolve
Take some time to look a year ahead and really think about what you want for yourself in realistic, practical goals.
- Write your list of goals in the positive. Rather than saying, “Don’t be sad,” say, “Do things that make me happy.” “Don’t be sad” is abstract and difficult to accomplish, but coming up with things you can do which bring you joy can be practiced and implemented.
- Focus on gratitude. Gratitude shouldn’t just be relegated to one Thursday in November. Regularly spend some time considering the things in your life you’re thankful for and even better, write them down.
- Try something new. One thing. Give yourself 365 days to try one new thing. This certainly doesn’t need to be skydiving, but getting out of your comfort zone or learning something new is good for the physical and psychological mind.
- Volunteer. Studies have found that helping other people may be an abundant source of vitality and well-being. Find a cause that means something to you, and possibly the person you lost, then lend a helping hand. If you’re not ready for a recurring commitment, you can offer to help for a single event.
- Connect. Consider positive people in your life that you wish you had more interaction with and commit to contacting them in the next year. A text, an email, or a hand-written letter may reopen a neglected line of communication.
- Write it down. Thoughts come and go, but lists are tangible. Setting your goals or thoughts to paper gives you a guide to follow and acts as a reminder that your intentions are real and attainable. As a bonus, as you tick things off your list, you can revel in your accomplishments.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. This is a big one, and pretty much everybody struggles with it. All of the things on this list require varying degrees of vulnerability on your part.
It’s very possible that one or some of them won’t work out the way you hoped. Do not let that deter you. There are countless moguls, musicians, actors, and entrepreneurs that will tell you of the mountain of failures they encountered before finding their way to great success; this is the same thing on a smaller scale.
If you reach out to someone and they don’t respond, connect with someone else. If a volunteering experience didn’t fit for you, try somewhere else. The key is to persistently pursue your goal of finding happiness.
Happiness isn’t a spontaneous state of being, it’s a practice. And though it may have come easily in the past, if you’re now experiencing grief, you may find that for the first time you really have to work at getting to joy and happiness.
Though you may not have the energy, will, or ability to work toward hope and healing all the time (which is definitely okay), consider using this list to take small steps toward rebuilding your practice of happiness in the coming year.
Go forth with grit!
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