Here we are at the start of another year. The first of the year always seems like a nice time to look back at the good and the bad from the past 12 months and wipe the slate clean moving forward into a new year. No doubt more than a few of us looked back at the resolutions we started 2017 with. How many of us succeeded? How many managed to make headway on those goals? How many of us forgot all about them by the time President’s Day rolled around in February?
I am happy to say I managed a little bit of a win in 2017. Despite a late setback, I ended the year as a former smoker. Yay me! Of course, I’ve been here before. I once managed to quit for two years before I picked that horrible habit up again. But I learned that I am at risk of faltering — even when I’m sure I’ve made it so far, and hopefully that will help me to be more vigilant.
Of course, with that habit — hopefully — under control, I started looking at other habits: my sweet tooth, my somewhat nonexistent workout schedule, my complete and total lack of work-life balance. I know what I’ll be working on in the coming weeks and months and I hope I can be part of the 8 percent who actually manage to keep their resolutions.
One goal I’ve set for myself is to be more aware of all the many good things in my life.
Fact: I am blessed.
I may not have everything I want, but I have everything I need. I don’t wonder about where my next meal will come from or if I’ll be able to stretch my income to meet my basic needs, like food and shelter. I have a reliable car that gets me where I need to be and where I want to be.
My job is at times high stress and often local reporters are underappreciated for the work we do and the time and effort it takes. It can be a bit all-consuming. But I enjoy it and I think my work means something in my community. And some days, it’s even fun.
Most importantly, I have surrounded myself with wonderful people, some through the lottery of genetics and some through choice. But I wouldn’t trade any of them. My family and my friends are my greatest blessings. They listen to me and offer their wisdom and support to help me through life’s tough spots.
In quiet moments of reflection, it’s obvious how much I have to be thankful for and just how many wonderful things I have in my life.
In the midst of a helter-skelter morning when nothing is going right — like spilling my coffee all over me when I’m already 20 minutes late and then finding out I forgot to pack a notebook for my meeting and the batteries are dead on the camera — it can be a lot harder to remember that, overall, life is good.
Unfortunately, it can be all too easy to sit around and focus on the negative rather than appreciating the positive. But shifting our focus to the good things in life can not only make us more pleasant to be around and happier in general, but psychologists believe a positive outlook can have multiple positive impacts on our lives and our work.
Shawn Anchor, author and happiness researcher, gave a TED Talk in which he shared how a positive attitude can help people be more engaged and productive at work, and more creative and resilient all around. When people stop saying they’ll be happy “when,” and start being happy where they are, they are able to do more and, in turn, generally achieve more success.
These individuals also experience less negative effects from stress because the brain just works better when we’re happy.
I think a lot of people already knew this, though. Over the holidays, I saw more than a few people pulling out their “gratitude jars,” where they had put notes in throughout the year about things they were grateful for. What a way to ring in the new year! Instead of thinking about the things you might want to change next year (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing to do), people spent time celebrating all the things they were thankful for throughout the year before thinking about what they would change. They went into their “resolution mode” in a positive mindset.
Starting any new habit takes about three weeks. I’m about two weeks in now. Every morning, I at least try to say out loud three things I’m thankful for.
Last week was a bit difficult. I had been on vacation the week before, in Florida where it was a pleasant 80 degrees. Vacations are always great, but even more so when I get to spend them with people I simply do not see enough during the year. Every minute is precious, and I really didn’t want our time to come to an end. My return to the “real world” coincided with a cold snap the likes of wish remind me why I don’t live in the north. Here in the South, we just don’t do 3 degrees.
Even so, I tried to trudge into the new year with a positive attitude. It was a little hard the first few days when I was cold, tired, and reeling from a vacation hangover. I’m going to keep it going as long as I can. Hopefully I’ll have a great new habit by the end of the month.