Here are five tips for areas of your life you can work on to improve this year:
1. Focus on Health
Every year, millions of people join gyms, go on diets, and focus on improving their physical health. Those who succeed at improving their health are the ones who incorporate small, manageable changes into their lives that they can follow on a daily basis.
If you feel the need to exercise more, joining a gym may not be the best approach for you. Try changing your daily routine to add exercise into your day. Develop a simple 5-10 minute stretching routine that you can do each morning when you wake up. Park farther away from the door when you go grocery shopping each week, or when you arrive to work each day, to give you a reason to walk more. Go for a walk on your lunch break for ten minutes, or take a short walk at the end of the work day before you head home. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Jog to the bus stop instead of walking. Look for opportunities to give yourself an excuse to up your normal exercise. Your exercise routine doesn’t have to be dramatic and impressive. All the little steps you add daily into your life will add up and give you positive health benefits that are enjoyable and easy to accomplish.
Sleep deprivation is the most significant health problem people face in our modern world. Poor sleep habits affect every area of a person’s life. For both physical and mental health, go to bed at a reasonable hour each night to ensure you get 7 to 8 hours’ worth of sleep. Being rested will help your body fight disease, maintain a healthy weight, focus and think more clearly, and give you a happier mood throughout the day.
If you have a habit of running late or procrastinating, decide to get up a half hour earlier than you normally do (which also means going to bed a half hour earlier). This choice provides positive mental health benefits, as you will feel less hurried and stressed throughout the day, and generally will feel more impressed with yourself for facing the day and choosing to greet it on your own terms. Early risers accomplish more each day than those who fall out of bed at the last minute because their attitude about the day is significantly different. They have decided to take charge of their lives, rather than run after it. You can be in control of your life, and the first step is giving yourself the time to do what you need to do each day.
2. Smile More
New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on physical health, and few people set goals to improve their mental health. A simple way we can all improve our mental health is to smile more often each day. Research has shown that adults tend to smile around 20 times per day. In contrast, children smile 400 times each day.* If you remember being happier as a child, it is because you were! The simple act of smiling will make you feel happier. Smiling has been shown to improve our overall health, and it helps to boost our immune systems too. A smile is also the fastest, easiest way to make you look more physically attractive to other people. Smiling helps you to relax, and it makes you feel more positive that you can accomplish what you’re doing. In fact, adults who smile more are also perceived by others to be more competent and capable than their frowning counterparts. So when in doubt, smile!
*Source (click here for a cool video all about smiling): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9cGdRNMdQQ
3. Focus on Finances
One of the biggest sources of stress people face in their daily lives is financial concerns. The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to sit down and evaluate your financial situation. Most people only worry about their monthly expenses. Now is the time to write down all the expenses that you reasonably expect to pay in the coming year – taxes, transportation, doctor visits, medications, birthday and holiday gifts, vacation plans, etc. List out every expense you anticipate having this year. Then write out how much you expect to earn this year.
If your annual income is insufficient to cover the expenses you expect to have this year, now is the time to decide how to best address this situation. You may need to cut back on your expenses. Do you really need to buy a new car this year, take that vacation, or join a gym? You may have to decide to turn off the cable because it’s not in your budget and start reading more books from the library instead. If you are already living a “no frills” life and have no extras that you can cut, then you need to consider other options. You may need to work more hours at your current job, or take a second job. You may need to find a cheaper place to live or get a roommate, find a less expensive form of transportation to take to work, or look into consolidating your debt so you have fewer bills you’re paying each month. You may need to look into bankruptcy options, or speak with a financial expert on how you can avoid such measures.
Planning for financial problems at the beginning of the year will keep you from being surprised at the last minute later on. Even if you can’t make ends meet, you are aware of the problem and can be actively seeking solutions to your financial problems. Being proactive will lower your stress and keep you from feeling overwhelmed by your finances. You can take control of your financial situation, no matter how dire it may be. You simply need to be honest with yourself and face the problem with a realistic attitude.
On the other end, if your finances are sound and you will make more money than you need to cover your bills this year, then you can look into long-term planning for your future. Set up a savings account to cover any emergencies that may arise during the year. Set up a retirement account, or take other financial measures to save for the day you can’t work… or just don’t want to any longer. It takes years to save for a secure retirement, and you’re never too young to start that process. If you already have a retirement plan set up, evaluate if you should increase your contributions to it this year.
Financial planning is a process everyone at every income level should do at least once a year – so why not start your new year off by accomplishing this task? Making this effort now will help you to plan better for the year ahead, feel more in control of your own life, and be happier throughout the year.
4. Learn Something New
Successful people never stop learning. They are always reading about the world or technology, learning about the industry they work in, or developing themselves in some positive way. It’s the beginning of a new year, and the perfect time for you to expand your own knowledge base about the world and grow as a person.
Learning about the politics of your country – all the parties and their platforms – helps you to be a better citizen at the voting booth, and may make you less frustrated with “the other party” because you will understand the broader scope of issues politics is trying to address in the world. Catching up on the latest medical and technological advances of last year keeps you engaged in the problems society is solving, and helps you to understand how your life may be impacted by the changes these solutions will bring.
In your personal life, learning more about your profession is a great way to improve your happiness and value at work. Learning a new skill or hobby that has nothing to do with work is a wonderful way of expanding your focus in general, and it makes you a more interesting person to be around. The only dumb people in the world are the ones who think they already know everything and so have stopped asking questions. Learn to improve your life. Seek out knowledge. Do something you’ve never done before, like dancing or drawing. Be interested in the world around you because it is amazing, and you should be a part of it.
Ask anyone who makes a habit of helping others, and you will hear how it makes them feel better about themselves and life in general. Volunteering your time, skills, or help to others helps you love yourself and other people. It is something we can all do. People tend to think of volunteering as going to an organization and signing up for several hours a week, and it’s great if you want to do that! But volunteering can also be as simple as giving your neighbor a ride to the grocery store with you once a week when you go because you know they have no way of getting there on their own, or picking up groceries for them because they’re too sick to go themselves. It could be as simple as offering to babysit for free so a parent you know can have time to go take care of something they need to do, or have an evening off now and then just to relax. It could be visiting the sick in the hospital who have no one else to talk to. It could be mentoring someone at work who is struggling, or volunteering to tutor a child in math, reading, or some other subject you know well.
Opportunities to volunteer exist everywhere; you just have to look for them. When you help others, you help yourself. You see the positive way your life impacts the world, and you get to share your skills and abilities with someone who will be grateful for your help. You will value others more, as well as yourself. So do more volunteer work! Starting volunteer work at the beginning of the year will make it easier for you to set up a pattern of giving that you can maintain throughout the year.
So here are five steps you can take now to improve your life and make 2016 a great year. I hope you go for it!