Welcome to a new year my simple-minded friends! Does that make you mad? Being called simple-minded? Well, it shouldn’t! I’m here to tell you why thinking simply can help you so much and why this year is different! I think every year when the calendars flip over, new planners are being purchased, and decorations are coming down, a sense of refresh comes over people. You are looking at your house, clean and unseasonal, and you start thinking about how empty certain spaces seem now. I think minds start reeling about how thoughtful purchases can be made to fill those empty spaces without wasting the investment. Quality decor, right?
And when you flip open your new planner, or start a new semester and have to start organizing folders, or you get on the job hunt to start the next phase of your life, you want to make thoughtful moves. You want to make sure you’re writing down things perfectly so you’re not starting your year off with a spelling mistake in your brand new planner (already did it…not that tragic guys, I promise).
So, with all of these refreshing canvases to work with whatever life has put in front of you, I think new years make people want to improve. But, seriously, let’s keep 2017 simple. Think in simple steps. Don’t think too far ahead. And really go with the flow. And let me tell you why. But first,
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So, I have picked up some great reads from TIME over the past 12 months, between last summer’s The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life special edition and this winter’s Mindfulness: The New Science of Health and Happiness special edition, and I have come across stuff that I can’t NOT share with you!
What Makes People Happy?
I ask this because when you’re happy, things seem to flow along easily. When you’re upset or there’s discontentment in your life, things just seem to be complicated and full of problems; not simple. If you’re not interested in buying the magazine, cause it ain’t cheap, then let me summarize, so that you can apply the info to your life this year. What makes people happy according to TIME is:
Not Doing More
It’s kind of like being a sheep. If you do what everyone else is doing, maybe because you admire them somehow, you may follow suite in hopes that you can achieve what they have achieved…or what you think they have achieved. You believe the payoff of happiness will come from achieving more, but by doing more and becoming accustomed to that life in the fast and productive lane, you will be left with no time to actually enjoy those achievements.
So, do less this year. Not overall. Don’t slack and fail your classes or get fired from your job. Just don’t perpetually be doing more and more. Do one thing. One thing at a time. Do it fully. And then enjoy how well you did with it. And move forward. Notice the details along the way. But, just do a little less with your precious time on this earth and soak up your happy moments as they happen.
Identifying and Maintaining Your Support System
If luck wasn’t knocking on your doorstep last year, chances are you came into 2017 telling yourself you will be happier. After all, only place to go is up, right? But what if it wasn’t just about your circumstances? How you handle crap deals can be the make or break on your level of happiness this year. And for life, really! The happiness edition talked about resiliency, because it shouldn’t matter what life deals you. What matters is bouncing back and training your brain, as well as the people who support you, to be able to tell you that you can bounce back from anything. This brain training is something called neuroplasticity. Google it.
When stressful times hit and you want to focus on it instead of anything positive, then having a supportive network that has your back can really help get you out of the suck zone. Steven Southwick, a Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University, says that chances are pretty high you’re not one of the chosen few who can do life stressors alone. Just sayin’. Have that group ready to go for a happy pick-me-up!
Really Knowing Yourself
The mindfulness edition had handfuls of articles that I was able to pull a ton of questions from to ask yourself. Questions that I have never asked myself, let alone written down for affirmation. As most life coaches will tell you, setting goals becomes more achievable when you write them down. So, why not write down the answers to these questions? You can do one every morning or all of them at the beginning of every month and see how things change. Maybe jot down a couple notes about what happened recently that may explain any changes in your answers.
- What do you love about yourself?
- What’s missing from your life?
- What do you appreciate about your life?
- Are you in a romantic relationship?
- If so, are you happy?
- If not, do you want to be?
- Are you fulfilled at work?
- Do you feel life you’re in touch with your life’s purpose?
- Do you feel sexually satisfied?
- Do you express yourself creatively?
- Do you feel financially stable, or are you stressed about money?
- If your fairy godmother could change one thing about your life, what would you wish for?
- What do you think might be at the root of your illness?
- What does your body need in order to heal?
- When do you spend the most time on social media?
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- Are you enjoying your time online?
- What do you want?
- What would you like to change?
- What parts of your life aren’t working?
- What small changes can you make to feel more rested?
- …more connected?
- …more inspired?
- Where would you like to go?
- What’s calling to you?
If you want, you can print them to write them down in letter or in A4 format, but I suggest using a journal or a digital document to track your answers. What’s important (and nice) to remember is that no one is going to read your answers, so be honest with yourself. If an answer shocks you, write down what you can do to make it better.
Those little spaces of emptiness where your snowman and tree used to sit in your house? Yeah, they must need something there right? Wrong. Well, probably. In the happiness edition, some Harvard professor you probably won’t even bother looking up said that “once you get basic human needs met, a lot more money doesn’t make a lot more happiness.” Happiness doubles if you’re going from earning $20,000 a year to $50,000 a year, but if you hit $90,000 a year…you ain’t gonna be much happier.
According to this guy, we overestimate how happy something will make us because we forget that humans are adaptable. The thrill of having something new wears off and we get used to earning $90,000 a YEAR (which I would still love to make despite it all haha). We think that upgrading our perfectly working TV for a bigger one or buying some new piece of furniture to fill that space over there will make us happy forever. But it subsides and we need more. How you spend your big big bucks can also lead to stress if you buy a slightly bigger home that is slightly farther away from work. What happens when your hours take a hit and you get sick of the commute? Stress.
Surrounding Yourself with Friends
This is separate from the support group mentioned earlier. Being surrounded by people making memories have far more concrete studies linking it to happiness than being surrounded by stuff. So, simply enough: Invest in your friends by hanging out with them regularly and also maintain a healthy relationship with your significant other. See? Pretty simple.
So What’s the Plan?
Now, posting this after the new year started was a blessing in disguise because, first, I wanted to focus on the holiday and my family and not this blog. Just being honest. Second, who is really ever ready for a new year before the new year comes? So, you recovered from last year, built up your motivation, looked at what 2017 will probably have in store for you, and then wanted to figure out how to be proactive with it. And then it’s February haha. There’s still plenty of time guys, I promise. So, here’s my take on how to keep 2017 simple initially. As the year progresses, the plans will too.
Write out what hobbies make you happy
…and try to do them at least once. Once this year. Once a quarter. Once a month. Whatever. It doesn’t have to be just the hobbies that you currently enjoy either or have been able to do just lately. Write down all the hobbies you’ve enjoyed doing at any point in your life and see if they can still make you happy these days. If they do, then make time for them!
Write down the people who mean the most to you
…and make plans to meet up with each of them in the next three months. Maybe you can do some of your hobbies together. Or try one of your friends’ hobbies and try something new! If they aren’t local, make plans to call them or maybe even send them a few photos or a funny note, so that they know they are important to you and that you’re thinking about them. And by plans I mean, again, write it down. Make it an appointment in your phone’s calendar app on a day that you know you will actually have time to do it.
Write down the items in your home that really make you happy
…and make a point to use them to their fullest potential. If you really love some childhood memory that’s still in a box, frame it! Put things in shadow boxes! Invest in a digital frame so that your 100GB of digital photos aren’t just taking up storage space on your computer…in the dark…for no one to see. If you have a piece of furniture that you love but needs some work, work on it. Learn how to do it online if you need to! That may become a new hobby! Again, just pencil in the important things, but don’t waste money replacing something you already love. This stems from my interest in the KonMari Method of simplifying your home.
But really…all of this is really simple. A simple plan to have a simple year. Making excuses not to try any of these things is what’s complicated. I hope, if anything, I have at least inspired you try, so good luck and please share your plans for this new year in the comments below! Everyone needs motivation!