A New Year brings with it renewed hope and greater enthusiasm for making positive changes in our lives. So take a big inhalation of that intoxicating New Year smell and formulate a plan for putting all that good energy to work.
Here are five tips for making the most of 2012.
1. Take the phrase ‘onward and upward’ to heart
Bummed about a detour in your career path or the dismal state of your love life? Join the club, sister. The pity party ends December 31 at midnight because brooding on the past is a waste of the present. The only way to get out of an emotional slump is to start swinging, says Dr. John Izzo author of Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything. His advice for the New Year: “Choose not to be a victim and refuse to focus on all the reasons why you can’t change.”
2. Do something—anything
If you want to make 2012 memorable—and in a good way— “Do something—do anything that improves any situation in your life, in your workplace, or in the world. Don’t play the blame and complain game,” says Izzo. “Start small. In your personal life, identify one action that if you take it every day for the next thirty days it will start moving you towards what you want.” For example, if you want to be a better person to others, decide you’re going to “intervene and speak up if you see someone being bullied.”
3. Make Sleep a Priority
Busy, busy, busy, we’re all so busy that many of us are either too wired or too tired to sleep when it’s time to hit the sack. That’s got to change. Improve your physical and your mental health by making sleep a priority. This is never truer than when you’re going through a tough time. One recent study found the deep sleep that characterizes the dream state has the power to heal emotional distress. Tips for getting a good sleep: Eat a lighter meal at night, avoid an intense workout before bed and don’t text or watch TV at least an hour before you retire. Give your body and mind a chance to unwind before you hit the hay.
4. Practice breathing
This may sound like the goofiest advice you’ve heard all year, but you might be surprised at how a few minutes of conscious breathing can positively affect your state of mind, especially when you’re stressed or anxious. The easiest way to calm down after a tough day at work or a painful exchange with a loved one—or even a nasty encounter with a jerk on public transit—is to sit quietly or lie down on your back and pay attention to your breath. Yoga Journal offers a handful of simple breathing exercises designed to relax body and mind. See them here.
5. Be happier: bail on sugar, bad fats and processed foods
Dropping that red velvet cupcake from the weekly treat rotation in order to feel happier sounds counter-intuitive, but maybe that’s a sign that it’s a good idea. A new diet book (via the Daily Mail) called The Happiness Diet argues that it’s the excess sugar, bad fat and preservatives in processed food that are making us both miserable and fat. According to the authors, the key to mental health lies in eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals that improve mood, such as magnesium and vitamin B12 in addition to ‘good fats’ such as olive oil and whole grains.