A more fulfilling approach to New Year’s resolutions

New Year's resolutions have started to become more of a mindless tradition these days rather than a heartfelt promise. Image source: Getty

New Year’s resolutions – they’re easy to make but even easier to break!

Defined as “a tradition in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behaviour, to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their life”, New Year’s resolutions are commonly about eating healthier, losing weight or exercising more. And although they sound like great resolutions to have, the reality of maintaining them for 12 whole months can feel uninspiring, causing many of us to go back on our word and fall into the same routine.

A much better way to approach traditional New Year’s resolutions is to make a to-do list of small changes in the year ahead which bring you more fulfilment and joy. And better yet, you don’t have to wait for the new year to make these changes. Here are some things you can try instead of resolutions:

Volunteer your time

The more we give, the happier we feel. It’s true. Volunteering increases self-confidence. While volunteering does good for others, it also provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. Many studies have demonstrated that helping others kindles happiness.

When researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness in a large group of American adults, they found the more people volunteered, the happier they were, according to a study in Social Science and Medicine. It’s also a great way to remain socially active and build your social circle, keeping feelings of loneliness and isolation away.

Express more gratitude

Taking time to recognise and appreciate what we have goes a long way. Research has shown that people who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercise more regularly, have fewer physical symptoms, feel better about their lives as a whole, and feel more optimistic about their upcoming week as compared to those who keep journals recording the stressors or neutral events of their lives.

According to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, daily discussion of gratitude results in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, energy, and sleep duration and quality. Grateful people also report lower levels of depression and stress, although they do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life. What’s something you are grateful for today?

Maintain strong social connections

Eat your veggies, exercise more and get proper rest. We know these things are important. But how many of us know that social connection is just as important? Social connection improves physical health and psychological well-being. That lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure, reports Mayoclinic.

On the flip side, strong social connection leads to a 50 per cent increased chance of longevity. Social connection strengthens our immune system (research by Steve Cole shows that genes impacted by social connection also code for immune function and inflammation), helps us recover from disease faster, and may even lengthen our life. People who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression.

Practice forgiveness

Nearly everyone has been hurt by the actions or words of another. A mother who criticised our parenting skills, or a partner who didn’t treat us well, an outrageous neighbour… well the list goes on. These wounds can leave us with lasting feelings of anger, bitterness or even vengeance. But we need forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimise or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Studies have found that forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life. Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

How do you plan on finding fulfilment in the New Year?

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