Eight ways to a happier 2012
January 10, 2012
What’s your New Year’s resolution?
Chances are, it’s aimed at a happier 2012. But what works when it comes to improving your day-to-day satisfaction? Can one resolution actually make any difference?
Sure, says Dr. William Arroyo, the Department of Mental Health’s regional medical director. But it may not be the sort of resolution most people are used to making. Here are his tips for a more soul-satisfying year:
1. Resolve to do a self-inventory. “Take note of all the good things, large and small, that were achieved in the prior year,” Dr. Arroyo says. Write them down—you might be pleasantly surprised at all you’ve accomplished. Now take special note of anything that was not only good for you, but also good for your family, workplace or community, and consider doing them again this year.
2. Resolve to give yourself permission to change. This is harder for some people than it sounds, Dr. Arroyo says. Behaviors become entrenched. Friends and families become invested in old habits. “It isn’t always easy to remember that it’s in our nature to pursue good,” he says. “It’s okay to do something differently, especially when doing it the same old way hasn’t worked or has offended those close to you.”
3. Resolve to build pleasure into even into the smallest of budgets. “Maybe you want to manage your money more efficiently,” says Dr. Arroyo, “or allocate for all your bills. That’s fine, but if there’s anything leftover, don’t forget to allocate some resources for pleasure—and pleasure doesn’t have to be expensive. Sometimes pleasure can be just spending time with friends and family, or with those one didn’t have time for in the prior year.”
4. Resolve to be healthy. “And that includes mental health,” the doctor says. “Pay attention to diet and exercise. Avoid harmful substances, whether it’s fatty food, or alcohol or some other potentially harmful thing. But also monitor moods and feelings. If one’s social life is unsatisfactory, think about bringing parts of that to a close. If people around you appear to jeopardize your well-being, think about changing your social circle. Whether it’s foods and beverages or people, give yourself permission to get away from toxic environments.”
5. Resolve to seek peace. “Yoga, prayer, meditation—these work wonders for many people,” says Arroyo. So, he adds, does professional counseling. “Everyone experiences worry and anxiety, but if that’s your primary mood, then it’s probably excessive and you might want to consult with a spouse, a partner, a trusted relative or member of your congregation, or you may want to seek professional help. A little bit of anxiety is normal and useful, but not to the degree where it interferes with your well-being.”
6. Resolve to communicate. “Becoming closer often entails making an inquiry,” says the doctor. If you’d like to be closer to your loved ones, “ask how you can be better with them this year. Be humble. Give the other person permission to let you know when you do something that causes them displeasure—and be willing to change it.” Or, if you aren’t getting what you need from your relationships, resolve to say so: “It’s okay to set limits with others, no matter how close or how distant they might be.”
7. Resolve not to overlook the positive. “One needs to be objective in tough times,” says Dr. Arroyo, “and to keep in mind that there is always more than one way of looking at things. Even in our darkest, most painful moments, there is often a bright side.” Hard times pass, he says, but those who weather them can come away with valuable life experience.
8. Resolve to reach out. “As folks are winding up the year, there’s always a lot of hustle and bustle, and we forget that some people are not as fortunate as we are,” Dr. Arroyo says. “Those who don’t have our means or our health or our rich circle of family and friends could benefit from some demonstration of interest in their well-being—spending time with them, conveying that we care.” Donating to charity isn’t the only route, either. “You can volunteer in an organization,” he says, “or work within your neighborhood.” The key, he says, is to connect and be useful: “It reminds that one is more than the things and money one has.”