On New Year Resolutions

Fry from Futurama new years eve

How to stop torturing yourself and have a really happy new year.

So, it’s that time again, and the Internet is filled with declarations about going to the gym, losing weight, quitting bad habits, etc. I’ve always hated this holiday because, lets face it, New Years Resolutions, and New Year’s Eve parties are basically designed to create disappointment because we superstitiously base the outcome of our entire new year on the success of one night and a silly resolution.

So as always, we will wrap up this year with raging parties and delightfully lazy nights watching the ball drop in Times Square.  Here in Italy, tradition dictates that you eat lentils in hopes of earning more money in the new year. You’re also supposed to wear red underwear, and in some parts of the country, people throw their old things out of the window.

The next two days even the most cynical seem inevitably pushed to reconsider our lives and to attempt to make them better.  Since it seems nearly unavoidable, I think New Year’s Eve is a great time to think about ways to make yourself happier in the upcoming year, rather than to make resolutions which are really just about guilt and self-hate.  So, these are my suggestions to make healthy changes in the coming year in order to actually make your life better.

Throw your old things out the window.  Ok, not literally, because in many  parts of the world, you’ll probably end up with some angry neighbors and law enforcement if you chuck an old TV from the 7th floor. But symbolically, the start of a new year is the right time to let go of old grudges and forgive, or at least forget, things and people that have caused you pain. There is no point in holding on to these things, as they only serve to make you unhappy, and if your vengeful spirit is just too strong, remember, happiness is the best revenge. Take a deep breath, breathe out, and let go.

Treat yo’self. Those of you who’ve seen Parks and Recreation know what I’m talking about. Everyone needs to treat themselves in different ways, but everyone needs to treat themselves.  For some of us it’s a bottle of nice red wine and a big bar of chocolate, for others its a spa day or a shopping spree.  Whatever it is that makes you happy, indulge every once in a while, because you deserve it. Basically, this is a way of showing yourself how much you care.  You deserve to be pampered, and dammit, you deserve to be pampered by you!

Eat lots of vegetables. Seriously, they are good for you, and when they are cooked right, they taste delightful.  Don’t believe me? Take a look at Pinterest or Foodgawker for suggestions such as recipes and cooking tips.  Plus, they are low in calories and full of all the vitamins and minerals you need. Instead of worrying about portion size or taking part in silly fad diets, think about eating better, treating your body right, and making habits that will actually have lasting benefits. Unhealthy diets will make you grumpy and unhappy (because you’re probably starving yourself, literally), but eating well gives you more energy, and makes you feel better mentally and physically.

Take the stairs. Instead of trying to make going to the gym a habit, take a smaller step.  Instead of escalators and elevators at work and at the mall, choose the stairs.  Park in the back of the parking lot, or better yet, instead of driving, ride your bike.  These small changes can make you feel healthier and happier while burning calories, without the guilt of watching your gym membership expire when you’ve only used it twice.

Try a new sport.  Instead of running on a treadmill while hating yourself, give something new a go.  Think about trying kickboxing, Olympic lifting, yoga, even ice skating.  This way you can learn a new skill and actually have fun while working out.  Plus, keep in mind that working out should be about your own happiness and personal strength, not about getting down to 5% body fat.  Exercise is good for your body and mind, but only in moderation, and with a healthy mindset.  Here’e Kevin Moore’s take on unhealthy fitness inspiration.

Read. Read something, read anything, whatever you read, make it interesting and inspiring.  Read about places you want to travel, read about food you want to cook, read fantasy, science fiction or comics. Read Gaiman, Mieville, and Martin. Make time to read whenever works for you.  Personally, I read during my commute.  Others may find time for an hour after work to unwind.

Take a trip.  It doesn’t matter where, maybe all you can afford is a night camping in a nearby town or just to try a new restaurant.  The point is to explore, to have an adventure.  This requires a certain mindset, not an enormous credit card bill.  Get lost in the woods or in a new part of town.  Go to see a museum or a theme park or a tourist trap that you’ve never been to before.

Turn off your tech.  Now that we’re constantly connected with smart phones, its hard to avoid getting sucked into the social world constantly. Take a break from it and take some time for yourself every once in a while, and avoid the myriad of drama and stress caused by work emails and nasty Facebook posts.

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