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If you want to be happier, these off-beat goals are for you.
It's finally February of 2021. We made it out of 2020 - and what a year that was. Let's not talk about it, yeah? And we're past the cliche "new year, new me" phase of 2021.
Personally, I didn't make any fancy New Years's resolutions, did you? But does that mean that we shouldn't make any at all? I don't think so.
In fact, I think resolutions or goals are essential to a healthy year where we try to heal from the traumas of 2020.
I told my sister this and her response was probably what you're thinking, "Oh yeah? Like what goals? Name some."
I'm not saying we should buy into the cliche "resolutions" that people typically "commit" to and then fail miserably. Forget about the cliched New Year’s Resolutions like "lose weight" and “be nicer.”
If you want to lose a few pounds, go for it, I applaud you, but here are some actionable goals for 2021 that focus on creating a happier and more fulfilling life, along with the science behind each one.
Do these things to promote happiness in your life (and the life of others)!
Handwrite Letters to Loved Ones
“The pen is mightier than the sword.” — Edward Bulwer-Lytton
In today’s world of fast-paced instant messaging, emails, and phone calls, the charm of good old fashioned snail mail has been lost.
Often times, the best way to show people you care about them is through time and effort. Not only does handwriting a letter instead of shooting a quick text show both, but it can make you smarter.
According to Dr. William Klemm, “studies reveal that multiple areas of the brain become co-activated during the learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.”
So writing, specifically in cursive, stimulates more areas of the brain in addition to showing people you care enough about them to take the time to write them a letter.
In January, I joined a pen pal program. I started writing letters to ladies around the world and I can promise you that there's something both fun and magical about sitting down with a pen and some pretty stationery to write to someone else. Especially right now, when travel is restricted.
And getting a reply back in the mail is also super fun! It's nice to see something in your mailbox other than bills, isn't it?
Whether it’s a family member, friend, or someone new, write a letter. Spend time on your penmanship. Tell them something positive that made you laugh or think or smile. Hell, include a picture or a recipe for that bread you perfected in 2020.
Trust me, they’ll appreciate the thought and effort and your brain can benefit from the exercise as well.
Engage in Gratitude for 5 Minutes a Day
“Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer
According to a study published in Psychotherapy Research, after 4 and 12 weeks, people who engaged in a gratitude writing exercise experienced significantly better mental health than those who did not.
So, in 2021, instead of focusing on the news, the state of the world, or scrolling the endless Twitter feed, focus on gratitude.
What are some things you're thankful for? For me, it's my health, fiance, cats, sunshine, and a good cup of coffee.
How to Express Gratitude Through Journaling
Grab a blank notebook or journal and sit down away from your computer and phone. This is essential - you'll want to minimize outside distractions. Set a timer if you want, and write. You’ll be surprised by the gentle peace that will come to you if you let it.
Journaling is often compared to meditation for a reason, after all.
Here are some prompts to get you started:
- What’s something I’m proud I achieved today?
- What am I thankful for?
- What’s something I enjoyed about today?
- What's something that made me smile?
- What's something that made me laugh?
- What's my favorite thing about x, y, or z?
You get the point.
These don’t have to be large things. You don’t need to have climbed Mount Everest to take pride in yourself and your achievements.
Maybe you did the dishes. Maybe you enjoyed a warm shower before work. Maybe you’re thankful for your health, your family, the sunshine. It can be anything. Literally anything. There are no rules when it comes to gratitude!
It seems simple, but those five minutes of mindful gratitude have the power to change your outlook. Eventually, outside of journaling, you'll be a more thankful, positive person. You'll start to notice the positive things more than the negative. That mindset will develop and strengthen. And you'll be happier for it.
Buy a New Plant and Watch It Grow
Many of us sit inside most of the day, whether it’s in our home office or a workplace. However, nature has restorative properties for the mind and body.
“Nature gives the part of the brain that’s used in effortful concentration a rest,” says behavioral scientist Ming Kuo. “If you spend time doing something mentally relaxing, you feel rejuvenated.”
Furthermore, some plants actually help filter the air by removing harmful toxins.
Some of the top air-purifying plants are:
- Spider plants
- Bamboo Palms
- Chinese Evergreen
So, adopt a new houseplant and enjoy the pleasures of having nature a bit closer to you. It will help relax your mind and clear the air, literally. Plus, they're stylish and adorable.
New Year’s resolutions can be stressful, as the turn of the year is often seen as a time where people have to implement big changes. However, we’ve already been stressed enough in 2020, and we're past the point of making New Year's resolutions, so make some 2021 GOALS.
Also, I would like to add that many resolutions seem to have a habit of failing. People go too big. So, think of simpler goals, like these, and implement them.
If you’re itching for a "resolution" that’s cheap, easy, and conducive to true happiness, then try one or more of these three:
- Handwrite letters to loved ones.
- Write in a gratitude journal.
- Adopt a house plant.
So, which one will you choose? Do you already do any of these?