We traditionally associate the New Year with a fresh start. Many of us have bad habits we want to reform, or changes we found difficult to make in the normal course of our days. In media, the emphasis is so often put on resolutions of a more guilt-ridden nature: diet, fitness and financial reform. They tend not to emphasize the personal and interpersonal things we might also take time to reflect on... not just how to look better, but how to become a better person, a happier person.
Often, we think that the superficial stuff is what's holding ourselves back from a joyous life. "If only I could lose that last 10 pounds," "If only I could squeeze into my skinny jeans." In the past, I've fallen into that trap too. Don't get me wrong, I STILL want to fit into my skinny jeans! But I'm realizing that those things are not the problem, but a symptom. When I'm happy and living a "good life" -- balanced, healthy and loving -- a lot of that smaller stuff seems to take care of itself.
So, my own resolutions this year aren't about eating more protein or taking more spinning classes, they're about nurturing my very soul and being, and about creating a state of mind where I'll make better choices about everything, including -- but not limited to -- diet and exercise. Here are my 2013 resolutions:
(1) Stay true to my expression
The best thing you can bring to ANY relationship is honesty. If you say, sincerely, openly and kindly, what you mean then you give the other person an opportunity to respond to the REAL you. We often wish people would just understand what we want, as if they could read minds, or read between the lines of what we say. It's a lot to ask. And we often feel anxiety and stress when we walk away from situations knowing we didn't say what we really wanted to.
This year, I'm committing to really trying to communicate what it is I think and feel. I hope it will deepen my relationships on both sides.
(2) Understand that happiness is a choice
Last year, my resolutions were very focused on being brave and feeling gratitude every day. 2012 was an interesting year for me... much was in flux, definitely a year of growth and change, which left me sometimes feeling unsure of my feelings, so a boost of courage was very much required. But also, I wanted to remember that even as I was experiencing some "key learnings" I have much to be grateful for.
This year, I feel like I can progress from that and realize that happiness is my own autonomous choice. I believe that applies to all of us... happiness isn't something that happens to a lucky few and not to others. It's something you too deserve. And it's something you can decide you want to embody and to multiply in your life.
Let yourself choose to be happy, even when you feel challenged, even when you're 10 pounds heavier than you want to be, even when other people let you down. Let it be something you give to yourself, not rely on other people for. Understanding that this is a decision YOU control and making that decision can be one of the most liberating and illuminating lessons you can ever learn and the greatest gift you can give yourself.
(3) Feel and receive unconditional love
Unconditional love is a kind of old-fashioned notion that seems to have lost some of its beauty. I think for women especially, the idea of loving unconditionally is easily equated with being a pushover or compromising on things you want. It doesn't have to be that way. You can assert your own needs and wants but still love unconditionally. Not every little unhappiness means that love should be second-guessed.
I think we understand unconditional love better when it comes to children and even our animal friends than we do with adult friends and romantic partners. But I really believe it's a beautiful outlook to have in a friendship or relationship. It doesn't mean that the relationship will be immune to hurt or difficulty, but that you're committing to something bigger, to a love that transcends all of that. I want to give unconditional love in 2013.
(4) Reframe situations
I believe that another source of unhappiness and confusion in our lives is when we fail to empathize with those around us. We tend to feel alienated and alone when the actions of others are a mystery to us. How often do you wonder "what must he/she be thinking?" about your partner, or friend, or coworker? But, do you really try to understand what/why they are thinking and feeling?
Learning to step outside of your own wants and needs and reframe the situation from another person's perspective will help you become more empathetic and understanding. But it will also change your own reality, because once you've seen something from another's perspective you might learn something new or reconsider your own course of action. If you learn to do this pre-emptively you may find you have fewer arguments, become a better communicator and develop a greater love for those around you.
(5) Smile everyday
Perhaps this is the simplest resolution of all, but also the most transformative: I noticed over the holidays that people tend to smile at each other a lot more... just passing on the street or at the coffee shop or grocery store. It made such a difference, those little exchanges with strangers, with coworkers, clients and loved ones. It's something I want to carry forward into my New Year.
But smiling isn't just about making other people feel good. It definitely changes our own mood too. A real smile creeps up into your eyes and alters your brain chemistry, lingers on your face long afterwards. It's so much nicer when you're going about your normal routine but find you're doing it with a smile on your face rather than walking with your head down or, worse, a frown. Let's all turn those frowns upside down and smile, giggle and laugh our way into 2013.
So, together, let's try to be more honest with ourselves and others, give unconditional love, choose to be happy, think outside our own perspective and smile every day. Perhaps then we won't sweat the smaller things. If we work on these resolutions I believe lots of other things will find their right place.
Happy New Year! I wish wonderful things for each and every one of you in 2013.
I would love to know what your new years resolutions are?
<strong>Our Suggestions To Make It Happen:</strong> "The Book Of Awesome" author Neil Pasricha says instead of looking at all the negativity in the world, one should<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/neil-pasricha/awesome-things_b_854093.html#s269889&title=Coming_back_to" target="_hplink"> appreciate the awesome-ness around them</a>. For example, how awesome is it coming home to your warm bed after a long day? Or that awesome smell of kids' Play-Doh or pulling out a weed and getting all the roots? Yeah, awesome.
<strong>Our Suggestions To Make It Happen:</strong> Now if you eventually want to become a part of the one per cent and roll around in your dough, you'll want to save your money first. For example, there are tons of ways to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/Menuism/affordable-dining-out_b_1100254.html" target="_hplink">save money while dining out, </a>including hosting predrinks at your home, researching promotions and coupons (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/28/extreme-couponing-all-stars-premiere_n_1172961.html" target="_hplink">extreme couponing</a> is the best option) or even skipping the drinks altogether during meals. Remember, water is always free.
<strong>Our Suggestions To Make It Happen:</strong> It seems like all of us have some type of health goal for 2012. If French fries haunt your conscience, check out these <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marcus-samuelsson/delicious-fries-and-dippi_b_1116293.html" target="_hplink">recipes for alternative "French fries"</a> or this <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/10/05/roasted-root-vegetables_n_994204.html" target="_hplink">recipe for a root vegetable side dish</a> to make at home.
<strong>Our Suggestions To Make It Happen:</strong> Not all of us want 5,000 Facebook friends and Twitter followers. If 2012 for you means taking a step back from the social world, check out these <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leslie-davenport/meditation_b_1172649.html" target="_hplink">meditation tips</a> to create a peaceful new year.
<strong>Our Suggestions To Make It Happen:</strong> If your phase of jamming to Beyonce's "Single Ladies" is over and 2012 is about working on your relationship, here are nine <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/todd-patkin/the-truth-about-happily-e_b_1158442.html" target="_hplink">golden rules for a lasting relationship</a> (or marriage).
<strong>Our Suggestions To Make It Happen:</strong> Oh Europe, the continent of... well, everything -- love, history, food and expensive shopping. Before travelling, check out our <a href="http://travel.aol.com/travel-guide/europe/" target="_hplink">Europe guide</a> and consider <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/oneika-raymond/cheap-travel-tips_b_929605.html" target="_hplink">tips to save</a>, including using public transportation, going on free walking tours or taking advantage of doggie bags.
<strong>Our Suggestions To Make It Happen:</strong> We are actually quite happy this one made the list -- we don't find it too strange at all (yoga giant Lululemon has even made it <a href="http://shop.lululemon.com/products/clothes-accessories/women-jackets-and-hoodies/Sing-Floss-Travel-Jacket-33049" target="_hplink">part of their philosophy</a>). It's not just about having a better smile -- if 2012 is going to be a healthier year for you, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/01/oral-hygiene-health-problems_n_914565.html#s319360&title=Reduced_Risk_Of" target="_hplink">keeping up with your oral health</a> can be a huge part of that plan.
<strong>Our Suggestions To Make It Happen:</strong> Thankfully, you don't have to dress up in a cape and coloured spandex to achieve this goal. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/danielle-nierenberg/going-green-12-simple-ste_b_1173059.html" target="_hplink">Recycling, turning off the tap</a> while brushing your teeth and turning down the heat will all help make the planet a little friendlier.
<strong>Our Suggestions To Make It Happen:</strong> Probably the most random resolution on the list, we certainly can't fault these Canadians for wanting to belt out choice lyrics from Darren Criss' <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmwM_AKeMCk" target="_hplink">Harry Potter musical</a>. And while walking around trilling about Muggles could be seen as slightly strange, we do endorse enlisting friends to partake in an impromptu number -- might we suggest <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkYZ6rbPU2M" target="_hplink">a food court</a>?
Follow Natasha Koifman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/natashankpr