What will you do differently in 2017? Before you start listing off cliché resolutions—getting fit, eating healthy, saving money—think of life-giving resolutions that you’ll actually want to keep.
Statistic Brain research found that just 8 percent of people who made resolutions for 2016 were successful in keeping them. What's the secret to making a resolution stick? Make it something that brings you—and others—joy. Here are six making our list.
01. Make and nurture a new friendship.
If you’re hoping to expand your social circle in 2017, prioritize quality over quantity. Rather than trying to round up a new band of buddies, focus on developing a strong connection with one person and you will naturally become part of their world and friend group.
Psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glase shares, “A good friendship is a wonderful antidepressant. Relationships are so powerful, we don’t always appreciate the many levels at which they affect us.” Social connections and friendships are proven to reduce stress, improve general health, and increase our sense of belonging. Every year brings new challenges and blessings, and a strong friendship will last you through any ups and downs.
02. Reconnect with a long-lost friend.
Similarly, aim to rekindle an old friendship that may have faded off due to differences in location or lifestyle. These are the relationships that may take more time and persistence to maintain, but are worth the effort.
I moved to a new city under a year ago and unfortunately have lost touch with some of my friends. But whenever I see or catch up with them again, we pick up right where we left off and I remember how much I value having them in my life. As Gallup researcher Tom Rath explains, "Friendships are among the most fundamental of human needs. When we asked people if they would rather have a best friend at work or a 10 percent pay raise, having a friend clearly won." A review of 148 studies also found that the quality of an individual’s social relationships is not only linked to mental health, but also life span and mortality. Friendship is a powerful thing!
03. Perform an act of kindness every day.
Resolve to go out of your way daily to help or affirm someone else: coworkers, friends, family, significant others, or strangers. Day in and day out, it’s easy to get wrapped up with inward thoughts and lose attentiveness to others. This resolution is totally doable, will boost your selflessness, and shift your perspective outward while spreading positivity.
Your daily act of kindness could be as simple as offering a compliment or as involved as volunteering at a local charity. A University of British Columbia study discovered that doing acts of kindness at least 6 times a week such as holding the door, doing chores for others, donating to charity, and buying lunch for friends improved positivity and decreased anxiety. “People who engage in kind acts become happier over time. When you are kind to others, you feel good as a person—more moral, optimistic, and positive,” said psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky at University of California, Riverside.
04. Set aside time to disconnect.
We are constantly connected to digital devices and distractions. Even when I’m walking to work, I’m scanning Instagram or my inbox while popping in my headphones. It’s a habitual preoccupation that tunes out silence and the world around me. Intentionally setting aside time to unplug will refresh your mind and prevent digital addiction.
A University of Maryland study found many young people describe their dependence on the Internet as an addiction, even if they’re not officially diagnosable. After 24 hours of online detachment, many showed signs of withdrawal, craving, and anxiety without the ability to access their digital devices. Various studies including research by the University of Birmingham also prove that spending lots of time online directly damages relationships, communication skills, and mental health. Start small with 15 minutes then strive to reach a full hour of disconnected time every day. Fill the time with reflection or activities you enjoy.
05. Take a skill or hobby to the next level.
Happiness is strongly associated with our level of engagement in things that bring us knowledge and gratification. This concept was coined as “flow” by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. He observed that this state of losing yourself in a positively-preoccupying activity helps maintain happiness in the face of dangerous situations. It also used to describe the creative engagement of artists and musicians.
Identify a skill or hobby that makes you feel fulfilled and take it to the next level: take on a new project or enroll in a class. I’ve been meaning to get back into sewing, a skill and creative outlet inherited from my mom, and am planning to take on a home decor project in the New Year because I have less experience in that area.
06. Do one thing that inspires or challenges you.
Find one way every day to do something that brings you peace or forces you outside your comfort zone. It doesn’t need to be extreme, it could be anything: reading an interesting article, inspirational quotes, releasing creative energy, or speaking up in a meeting. Staying in our comfort zone lets us maintain steady performance, but a little bit of anxiety is actually healthy for us. Psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson identified optimal anxiety, a state of just enough anxiety to help us maximize our productivity by making us step outside our comfort zone.
Start 2017 intent on making and keeping resolutions that make sense for your life, and helps improves another's. Whether you try one or all six, these resolutions will last and have a growing impact over time. So here’s to a happy, healthy, and resolute New Year!
Photo Credit: Horn Photography