New Year, New You: 10 Steps to Your Best Year Ever!
It's a new year, folks! And you know what that means! It's time to start busting out those weight loss plans! New year, new you! Am I right? Well, no, not really. I'm actually here to offer up some friendly advice.
I'd like to apologize in advance if you came here for quick tips and diet advice. But I'm not interested in that. What I'm interested in is sharing my (blunt) opinion, and helping you to have the best year possible in 2015. So here it is: My unsolicited, friendly, opinionated, and hopefully helpful advice:
You can try out all of the fad diets that you want. You can work your ass off at the gym for the next four weeks. You can spend countless dollars on fitness equipment, kitchen gadgets, and health club memberships that you're going to use once, if that, and then shove deep into a closet, not to be seen again until next new year's eve rolls around. If that's what you want, go for it. You'll be no different than a vast majority of the population. I promise to do my best not to judge. Heaven knows, I'm far from perfect.
But if you'd really like to change your life, put down the "Get Fit Fast!" articles and the Shake Weights.
I'm no expert on fitness, health, or weight loss. What I am, though, is happy, and what I experienced this past year was my best year ever! So, why not give me a chance to explain myself? Grab a nice cup of tea, and check out these:
TEN STEPS TO YOUR BEST YEAR EVER
1. Let It Go!
Unless you're completely out of touch with pop culture (which is actually pretty admirable), you've probably heard the hit song, "Let It Go", from Disney's Frozen soundtrack. I, for one, have been unable to get it out of my head since before I even saw the movie. There's no denying it. It's a pretty decent song, and it's not a bad message either! This year, remind yourself to let it go!
I have come to the realization that dwelling on the past is a sure fire way to suck all of the good out of your future. Whether you're holding onto the pain of a breakup, or some sort of guilt about a situation that is out of your control, or even a grudge against someone who has wronged you, why not give yourself a break and just let it go? Take a moment and reflect on the situation. Is holding on to this thing doing you, or anyone else, any good? Is there anything you can do to change things? If the answer is no, maybe it's time for you to give yourself the chance to move forward. Confront your thoughts about the situation. Write them down on a sheet of paper. Crumple it all up. Toss it in the trash, and let it go! You deserve to be happy, and it's a lot easier to do so without that crushing weight following you around everywhere you go.
2. Focus on the Good
As Maroon 5 once said, "It's not always rainbows and butterflies. It's compromise." They could not have been more correct!
Not every day can be a sunny, happy, wonderful day. There needs to be some sort of a balance, in order for us to truly appreciate the good days. Every once in a while, there is going to be a day that we just can't wait to be done with. You know the ones! Your boss yelled at you for being late, your SO was in a bad mood when you get home, your BFF flaked on your dinner plans (yet again), and your dog pooped on the carpet. I get it! Some days are just plain bad, and thats okay! These days can usually be remedied with a little R&R, a bit of proper communication, and some good strong cleaning products.
Sometimes, though, we forget that, and we allow ourselves to focus on those bad days. We continuously replay all of them in our minds, and think, "Ugh! Why does all of this bad stuff happen to me? Why does the universe hate me?!"
That's when we run into problems. It's as if we've completely forgotten about all of the days that were simply wonderful. We've absolutely disregarded the good times that we have had, and the positive things that we have experienced go out the window. We allow the negative things to overpower the good things, and then we are caught up in a seemingly endless cycle of discontentment.
For me, the best way to end this cycle of negativity was to simply switch up my focus. Instead of counting all of the ways that my life was lacking, I started focusing on the good stuff. No matter how big or small, focusing on these positive things seemed to magnify them, and multiply them too! It was only when I moved my focus from the bad to the good that I realized what a difference it could make. Since then, it seems as though the bad days that used to rule my life are now few and far between. I have so much to be grateful for, and I choose to focus on the good. Go ahead and give it a shot!
3. Get Moving
Oddly enough, there are people out there who enjoy going outdoors in the winter. While I'm cuddled up at home, they're out there skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and snowshoeing. They're exercising and staying fit. Now, while I do enjoy a good snowstorm from time to time, I am simply not one of those "winter sports" people. To me, winter is about spending time inside with friends and family, playing games, reading books, drinking tea and hot cocoa, eating cookies, and staying cozy; All while peeking out the window every so often to watch the snowflakes accumulate.
That said, I know that if I were to do only that for 6 or 7 months, I would eventually be driven mad by the inactivity and isolation. Which is why I do my best to balance the coziness with as much activity as I can muster. Whether it's just going to the mall and walking briskly for an hour or so, or doing yoga at home in my living room, every little bit of activity helps! (Obviously it would be far better to go to the gym 5-7 days a week, but that's just not my jam. To me, the gym is boring , and if it's snowing outside, it's unlikely that I'm going to lug my butt outside into the sub-zero temperatures just to get a few minutes in on the elliptical. But if that's your thing, more power to you!)
As soon as the weather warms up though, you'll find me outdoors again. Walking , swimming, hiking, and kayaking are all free or low cost, and supremely entertaining.
Whatever your activity of choice, I suggest trying to get at least 20-30 minutes (minimum) of physical activity each day. There are loads of fitness videos to be found on Youtube, ranging from yoga to pilates to kickboxing, and I think that's an excellent place to start. If that's not your style, try hitting up your local shopping center and doing a few laps around there. As soon as it warms up, just get outside!
Exercise releases endorphins, and endorphins make for a happier you. So if you really want to have your best year yet, you best get moving!
4. Surround Yourself with Positivity
This sort of ties in with a few of the other steps, but I felt that it deserved it's own place. It's that important.
Whether we like it or not, as humans we tend to emulate the people that we spend our time with. We become similar to the friends and family that surround us. When we are surrounded by "Negative Nancys", we too tend to become quite negative. If our BFF is constantly complaining about her crappy grades, her crappy job, her crappy relationship, and all the ways her life is crappy, then we, too, get sucked into that negative mindset. Before you know it, we're commiserating with her, and we're caught in a downward spiral of negativity.
Sorry BFF, but we don't need that! There is enough negativity in our lives! Our friends and family should be a respite from the trials and tribulations of the day to day. Obviously, a bit of commiseration here and there can be a nice release. There's nothing wrong with a little friendly venting over a glass of wine. It's nice to be there for a friend when things aren't quite going his or her way. But if your friend's everyday attitude is solely negative, and they continuously do nothing to change their situation, maybe it's time to make room for more positivity in your life! It's hard to focus on the happy things if you're barraged with constant negativity.
Surround yourself with people who express gratitude, who are excited about life, and who can help you focus on the good stuff. Make friends who support you, who believe in you, and who want to find positivity in the world. If you are serious about being happy and feeling fulfilled, these are the kind of people you should be sharing your time with. You'll be surprised at the difference it makes!
5. Do What Makes You Happy
We are in charge of our own destinies, people! No one else can live our lives for us, so it is up to us, as adult human beings, to live the lives we want. We each have a limited supply of time, and a limited supply of energy. We must choose wisely the ways in which we spend these things.
I have heard far too many people complain about their jobs. "I hate my job. I don't want to go to work. My job sucks, but I need to pay the bills." Now, I'm sure that there are some cases in which there are extenuating circumstances. But generally speaking, no one is forcing you to work a job that you despise!
From the second we wake up in the morning, until the moment we close our eyes and sleep, we are making choices. We choose where our energy is focused. We are so lucky to be able to make our own decisions. Why on earth wouldn't we make those which lead us to happiness? If you are unhappy at your job, you have the power to change that. Invest your time and energy into changing your situation.
In this day and age, there are so many resources available to us. I cannot imagine complaining about my life, while these resources sit around unused. Don't like your job? Don't have a computer? Can't afford a newspaper? Go to the library! You'll find computers and newspapers which you can use to search for a job that interests you. Still can't find anything you're interested in? Check out some (free!) books! Look for ideas that inspire you. Do you like woodworking? Papercrafting? Writing? Start your own business! Invest your time and energy into something you like doing, and make a living from that! It pains me to see people getting up every morning and doing something they hate, when there are so many other options. You just need to take it upon yourself to do something about it! Find your passion. Become skilled at something. And then do what makes you happy!
6. Eat to Live
Food: We all need it to survive. Our bodies need quality food to create energy, so that we can move, breathe, and function properly. Unfortunately, it seems that many of us have lost sight of that fact. In today's society, food has become less about nurturing our bodies and minds, and more about money and entertainment!
Food companies spend billions of dollars every year on marketing in order to get us to buy their products. These products are produced in factories, and processed into oblivion. Most of these products are high in useless calories and chemicals, and very low in nutritional value.
These so called food products though, are hardly what our bodies need and deserve. We need healthy fats, carbohydrates, fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and more, in order to live a healthy lifestyle. Many of the products on the shelves of our local supermarkets are horribly lacking in these areas. Instead of the healthful, nutrient dense foods we need, we find products filled with sugar, refined carbs, and unhealthy, artery clogging fats. These products may be fun, and they may taste good. But that's where the positivity ends. Rather than fueling us up, these food products drag us down and make us tired, sick, and unhealthy.
So next time you're at the grocery store, simply ask yourself, "Is this food going to support me and sustain me? Or is it simply going to entertain me and nothing else?" Choose foods that provide you with the nutrition that you need to live a healthy lifestyle. Forget about the fad diets and the weight loss tricks. Just focus on eating foods that exist naturally, no factories needed! Skip the boxed and canned foods that can last on shelves for outrageous amounts of time. Stick with the stuff that appears in nature! Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, greens, and more! The best places to find these things are local farmer's markets, and the outer edges of the supermarket. Avoid the center aisles filled with cereals, snacks, crackers, chips, etc. Just focus on eating real food!
If you want to have your best year ever, take your health into your own hands. Eat to fuel your body. Eat for health. Eat to live! You'll feel better, and with each meal, you'll be one step closer to lasting happiness.
7. Do Good
One surefire way to turn a blah day into an awesome day, is to do some good in the world. Help a neighbor or friend. Visit your local soup kitchen. Make a donation to your community homeless shelter. Participate in a fundraiser. Volunteer at a local animal sanctuary. Focus on someone else for a change! It's amazing how much better you'll feel once the deed is done. You'll realize that you have the power to help make the world a better place, and hopefully, you'll be inspired to continue doing your part in the future.
When the year comes to a close, you'll find yourself realizing that doing good for others is a big part of living a happy life. What better way to increase your happiness, than by increasing the happiness of others? Karma, FTW!
8. Find a Hobby
You may be surprised to hear that having your best year ever is going to take a lot of work. Well, it is! But who says that it can't be fun, too? Go ahead and carve out a few hours each week to learn and participate in a hobby of your choice.
Once upon a time, I considered hobbies to be "frivolous" activities. I mean, there are so many things that need to be accomplished every day. Who has time for hobbies?!
Well, we all do, if we prioritize things differently!
Hobbies are an incredibly important part of the puzzle. Not only do they give us a chance to unwind and de-stress, but they also give us a chance to learn a few things about ourselves. Whether it's photography, canoeing, painting, or karate, it doesn't matter. Just find yourself a hobby, and jumpstart your best year ever!
9. Do Things That Scare You
Is there something that you've always wanted to do, but have been too afraid to try? Well, this year, do something about it! This is what humans were made to do! We were made to travel the world, to learn, to experience new things, and to find ourselves.
Whether it's visiting a foreign country, riding in an airplane, speaking up in a meeting, moving out on your own, or selling all of your things and buying an RV, just do something this year that scares you. Whether the experience is good or bad, you will have ventured out of your comfort zone, and you'll be better off for having done so. You'll learn new things. You'll make new discoveries. You'll have new stories to tell. And you'll be making the most out of your short amount of time here on Earth!
10. TREAT YO'SELF!
Ever seen Parks and Recreation? (If not, you should!) Donna and Tom know what they're talking about when they celebrate "Treat Yo'self" day! Because you know who deserves some love every once in a while? You do!
How on earth can we be expected to take care of our friends, families, and obligations, when we aren't taking care of ourselves first? Now, if you ask me, Donna and Tom take it a little over the top with their cashmere and their bling. But the basic principle is still there. Sometimes we just need to treat ourselves.
Treat yo'self to a new pair of shoes, or a long, hot bath. Splurge on a Venti latte from the 'bucks, or that 20 minutes of yoga that you've been dying to squeeze into your busy schedule. Go all out with a luxurious and relaxing spa day, or schedule that appointment with your physician that you've been putting off. Whatever you do, do something for yourself.
It's a wonderful thing to be able to take care of others, and to grant favors for friends. But don't forget to be kind to yourself as well. Every once in a while, take the time to treat yo'self! You won't regret it!
So, there they are. 10 Steps to Your Best Year Ever.
While a few of these things may seem a bit redundant/out there/preachy, they're all important. Trust me! Take some time and figure out how you're going to fit each of these steps into your daily/weekly/monthly routine. Hopefully, you'll be out there living the best year of your life before you know it! YOU CAN DO IT!
Happy 2015, friends! Good luck and safe travels!
(Please let me know if you think I missed anything! I look forward to hearing your feedback.)
Stock Imagery from CC0 Sources: Unsplash, Gratisography, Little Visuals, Pixabay, Pexels,
Picography, and/or Morguefile.