Each year, nearly half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, according to a 2014 study published in the “Journal of Clinical Psychology” of the University of Scranton, in Pennsylvania. Only 8 percent of the study’s respondents, however, reported actually achieving their resolutions.
How can you become part of this elusive 8 percent? Consider the underlying goal behind your New Year’s resolution. Whether you’ve resolved to find a new job, eat more healthfully, lose weight, or travel more, for example, you actually may be pursuing something more abstract: happiness.
Although the road to happiness is not a set path, some daily habits to brighten your outlook can be adopted. Here are six:
- Be present in the moment. Technology has enabled us to stay connected with distant family members and friends. It can also create barriers, however, between you and those who are physically present in your everyday life. If you’re a parent checking work email or texting on your cell phone at home, these actions may cause your child to feel neglected or frustrated, according to Harvard Clinical and Consulting Psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair, author of the book, “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.” Designate “technology-free” zones at home and put the cell phone away while out spending quality time with family or friends.
- Listen more, talk less. Do you actively listen while others are speaking or are you simply waiting for your turn to talk? In his best-selling novel, “How to Win Friends & Influence People,” salesman and author Dale Carnegie advises readers to be good listeners and to encourage others to talk about themselves. By allowing others to be heard and understood, you’ll also be more effective at communicating with them.
- Fill your life with people who better it. It seems simple, doesn’t it? Spend more time around those who uplift your spirits and less time around those who don’t. If you can’t avoid a negative person, avoid engaging with him or her in any negative talk or gossip. If they start this type of dialogue with you, counteract it with a positive statement or politely change the subject. Putting others down will only bring you down, too.
- Look forward, not back. We live in a mistake-phobic society, said Wendy Mogel, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of “The Blessing of a B Minus.” Mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Learn from them – and then let them go. By harboring feelings of disappointment about past events, you could be taking away valuable time and energy from accomplishing future goals.
- Take responsibility. You were late to work because of traffic. Or you had to bring lunch money to your child’s school because your spouse forgot your child’s lunch. Avoid the blame game and, instead, focus on what you can control – your actions. Maybe you could leave earlier for work and designate which days you or your spouse are responsible for packing your child’s lunch. Taking onus for your actions (or lack thereof) will help you to feel empowered to make positive changes in your life.
- Be confident in your ability to succeed. Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” Outline your goals for the year ahead, how you plan to accomplish them and then envision yourself doing so. Positive thinking and self-talk may also be linked to health benefits, such as lower levels of distress and better psychological and physical well-being, according to the Mayo Clinic.
By focusing on the positives in life, you may, in turn, start to feel more positive yourself.
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