We always get excited about a new year starting. Why though? We always want a new beginning to be more hopeful for the future. Everybody, when asked, wants something more or different than the year they are leaving behind even if it was the best year of their lives. Human beings are just wired that way. Then there are those who had a very tough year and they want it to end which is understandable. The calendar year is artificial though. We actually do not need to wait for January 1st to start anything new. We can always start over the next day.
Since there is something more significant about the new 365 days that is starting let’s dig in to some practices that can improve the quality of our lives.
Some of them, you may already have integrated in your life, some others may make you get excited and implement in 2020. Here are some of the best advice I got in my 50+ years of life that I embraced and some that I am still working on:
1. If you have not done it yet, take the time to reflect back on 2019and list all the good things that happened to you; small or big. (If you take a lot of pics like me, your phone photos can help you remember. Or your calendar if you use one.) It helps you realize many good things happened although we may be lingering on only the bad ones or the things that did not happen yet. (I wrote an article about that recently.)
2. Your body and soul needs attention. Scientists, spiritual people, people who have amazing lives agree on a few great daily practices that make them happier and healthier:
a. Meditation, even if it is for 2 min a day. (I use Calm app on my phone. So easy!)\
b. Mindfulness, which means you are in the moment instead of thinking what is next. Easier said than done but with practice it gets better.
c. Exercise, even if it is brisk walking. I need to say no more. We all have a lot of info about this one.
d. If you have any constant pain in your body, do your stretches or massage, whatever is needed to make it heal.
3. Have a gratefulness prayer or notebook to write down everything that you love and cherish in your life. If you do it every night before you go to sleep in a consistent basis, science proves you will be happier. I am doing this for years now and it makes my sleep a lot better too. People who are grateful for what they already have or have achieved are a lot happier than those who always focus on things that are lacking in their lives. You can check this article out if you want to know how gratitude affects our brain.
4. Do not grab your phone as soon as you get out of bed. Give yourself time to rest, have breakfast without all the bombardment of news, messages on your phone. This helped me tremendously. Also pick a day every week to stay away from your phone when life allows. I know when you have kids or sick people, you want it close by. If not, just do it for 6 hours a week for example during the day.
Same thing at night. After work hours or after 8PM for example do not look at social media. Allow yourself time to read a book instead even if it is for 10 min. (I am working on this too believe me.)
5. Remind yourself news is 99% focused on bad news and it tweaks our minds to believe the world is getting to be a worse place to live. Read Steve Pinkers books; in so many ways it is not. So make sure you limit your time listening or reading news. Make sure it is not the first thing you do in the morning or last thing you do at night. It is not healthy for us. Do not get obsessed about it. If you can do something about it do it but make sure the bad news does not take over your life. (Coming from a family who listens to news all day long, I thought this would make me a responsible, smart person but now I know that much exposure is bad for all of us.)
6. Remember, you are NOT your thoughts. Bad thoughts come to all of us. Positive Psychology field has a term called “negativity bias” which means human mind is more affected by negative than positive. It is just a fact. Out of 100 good reviews if you get one bad, you will think about that one. So for every 1 bad news, we need 4-5 good ones. That is why media news is really bad for us. When you know we all have this negativity bias, we know we are not crazy but just human; we can try to intentionally do more positive thinking to eliminate it. Hanging out with positive people is important too. I am so lucky in that way. So you may have these negative thoughts, but you do not need to listen to them.
7. Read your letter to your self. What to include in the letter? What you want from 2020; write them in present tense. Like “I have a beautiful home” not “I will have…. “. Your subconscious gets to hear it every day to attract what you want. Even if you do not believe some of your list items, do it anyway. Do not think of the how. Again doing it as the first thing before you start working or last thing at night. Again these positive statements count for eliminating all the negative things you may hear during the day.
8. Set aside time on your actual calendar (digital makes it easier since it has reminders as well) to do the practices above and anything else that gives you joy. Do not say “I will do this in 2020”. You know you will for a few weeks but then it will slip away. Make these important appointments with yourself like it was your boss who demanded it. Give them priority. Do this now on your calendars for the whole year. Like 8AM meditation. 3PM every other day go to the gym, etc. Add anything that you love to do. I have “write for at least 10 min every week night” That goes to my calendar too. It could be “make ceramics, paint, play basketball, meet with friends for happy hour” whatever makes your soul joyful. When it becomes a habit it gets easier to remember but until then we need a system to remind ourselves. And remember WHY you are doing it so that it does not become a boring chore.
9. Being the person I am, I cannot leave this list until I say something about purpose. This is not an empty buzz word. If you ask yourself the question “What would I change in the world if I can?” and find the answer to that question it takes you closer to your purpose. Purpose includes more than you and your material wishes. It includes others. It could include one child you want to help or it could be to do everything in your control to save the planet, etc. There are so many things we can do to make this world a better place in our own small ways. If you find meaning in your life every time you get up in the morning, you will be happier. Do not sweat it if you don’t have a clue yet. Give some thought to it though. We come here for a short amount of time; to have a ding in this world or to leave a good legacy behind is all we can do.
Most important of all, if any of your new practices slip away from you, do not give up. Start over again. And never ever decide the fate of the whole year with a bad week or month and say “2020 is not a good year for me”. I see people saying that really early in the year. Please, no! Every day is a new day with opportunities. It is not about those 365 days either. We just made it up. Even 2 days left in the old year can bring a lot of great surprises. A year full of hope is great but as adults especially we know every day cannot be glamorous. We want our good days to be a lot more than the bad ones.
I do not call this list “New Year Resolutions” for a reason. Yes, it is a new beginning but is not all about the New Year only and we know resolutions usually do not stick for too long. So let’s call them great practices we can all embrace ANY DAY. Not only on January 1st. If we are more energized for the new year then go ahead and start it then.
Have an amazing 2020 beyond your dreams!