Written by : Chris Libby

4 Ways to Be Happier in the New Year

Women relaxing on couch.

A new year is here and it’s always a great time to reassess our lives and figure out strategies that can improve our life satisfaction and well-being. According to Gallup,  the state of global unhappiness is on the rise and feelings of anger, sadness and stress are all contributors. While some of the major factors that are bringing down our collective happiness may not be as easy to get a handle on (global pandemic, economic uncertainty, polarization, etc.), we can take individual steps to help improve our lives and boost our well-being so we can have a buffer for when those negative stressors start to strike.

Goal-setting, optimism, relationships and self-care are just four things you can work on this year to boost your well-being, and now is as good a time as any to start moving that happiness compass in the right direction.

Set Realistic Goals

Goal-setting season is upon us and a fresh new year seems like a natural time to start something new to work toward. While many set goals at the beginning of every new year only to see their effort run out of steam in just a few weeks, there are some steps you can take to make sure new habits have staying power. If our goals are to set too high and require too much bandwidth to complete, we will never reach them. Instead, map out your goal and see where you can it up into “bite-sized” bars. This accomplishes two things: you can celebrate the smalls wins to keep you motivated for the bigger picture, and you won’t be overwhelmed with an insurmountable task that intimidates you from even starting.

Look on the Brighter Side

We’ve all heard or read the affirmations of positive thinking ad nauseum, but there are sound reasons behind the sage advice of making lemonade out of lemons. Having higher levels of optimism may help you handle the day-to-day stressors that life throws at you and could be associated with  living longer, according to the latest research published in The Journals of Gerontology.

Optimism, an attitude or belief that outcomes to your actions will generally be positive, will also help you in relation to other tools of well-being, including goal-setting. When you are met with setback that may otherwise impede your progress, your optimism may give you the mental edge to persevere toward your targeted goals. While some people just naturally have a sunnier disposition than others, one method to improving your optimism is to adjust your perception to negative situations, such as failure, as opportunities to grow.

Strengthen Your Relationships

One of the strongest indicators to living a happy life is measured by the quality and depth of relationships, according to the Harvard Study of Adult Development. As people, we are naturally drawn to connect with one another, and feelings of isolation and loneliness only brings down our life satisfaction and can have dramatic negative consequences to our health and well-being. A recent poll from CivicScience shows that our positive relationships with others is a major factor when we define our own happiness. Whether it is family, friendships or relationships, people like to be around other people to make them feel better.

A few things you can do to strengthen your relationships is to continue to make time with the people close to you and savor those moments. Expressing your gratitude and appreciation toward others will also help you reaffirm the good in people and lets them know how much their presence in your life means to you.

Strive for More Self-Care

While the term self-care may seem like a popular buzz word to describe superficial acts of self-indulgence, there is emerging science to back up the practice of personal check-ins and check-ups to ensure you live a healthier and happier life. While it is good to attend to the needs of others, it’s equally as good to not forget about the attention you need so you don’t fall into negative cycles of self-loathing, low self-esteem and guilt. When these feeling become too frequent and pervasive, it may be a symptom of a larger problem, such as anxiety or depression.

One way to reduce those negative feelings, is to fit more mindfulness into your daily routine. Studies show that practicing mindfulness can even reduce your anxiety levels as much as some antidepressants. Whatever method or exercise you use, 10 to 15 minutes of mindfulness a day to unplug from the outside world in tune in to the present self can bring your life back into a healthy balance.

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