New Start for a Happy You!
Research-based advise on New Year resolutions for happiness
As we all know too well, New Year resolutions are not even expected to last, but that doesn’t mean we should give up before even starting. Here are some secrets to maximising your chances:
1.Keep it simple – our brain can’t retain too many complex actions
2.Formulate your wishes in a positive way
3.Form a habit
How about adopting a well-known framework to help you out? You might have heard of Five Ways to Wellbeing – a set of evidence based happiness promoting actions proposed by nef (the new economics foundation).
First comes CONNECTING with people – friends, family, colleagues or even strangers. You might not feel like it after spending the whole festive period in the kitchen to cook for your extended family, but that may mean you simply need a different type of connection. How about a vow to spend a dedicated one-to-one moment (this without children, friends or TV) with your partner at least once very fortnight? Or reconnecting with at least one old friend at least once per month over the year to come?
Next comes EXERCISING. Forget the scales, pounds or kilos – these are precisely the resolutions that don’t work. Focus on feeling good in your body, gaining health, energy and vitality rather than loosing something. Research is pretty clear that an intention to simply stabilise our weight has a greater chance of coming true than the one we all usually have. Getting into shape is not the easiest task, especially if you are out of habit of regular exercising, but the consequences are not only physical, but also psychological. If fact, when I am asked for the best intervention for overcoming low mood, I always respond with “physical activity”, often to the astonishment of the inquirer.
TAKING NOTICE may also sound a little strange as a New Year resolution, yet all the evidence points to the importance of this action. Noticing comes in many different shapes and forms. You can notice the good things that happen to you every day, even on the bad days (see the Mindapples website to help you out), take one of the many courses on mindfulness or even focusing, a revolutionary technique that teaches you how to hear your own body.
Now comes my favourite, LEARNING. You might want to learn some cooking techniques, a new language or to dive. Whatever you choose, your chances of forming a habit are maximised if you decide to embark onto a structured course of some type. Why? Because a structured course helps you to carry on without relying on your fluctuating intentions. After all, it offers a time and a place of learning, new friends expecting to see you there, and certain form of commitment. You wouldn’t want to waste your investment after all! Given your interest in psychology, you might even decide to do something as radical as to embark onto a new international MSc in Applied Positive Psychology (iMAPP), perfectly adapted to the needs and schedules of busy professionals fascinated by the way human beings work.
And finally, don’t forget about GIVING. Whilst the other four actions are really all about you, giving is truly about others. Yet, the research shows that you can also benefit. To bring a little happiness into this world, what can you give to others? How about inviting a lonely neighbour for dinner? Have you ever wanted to volunteer but then kept putting it off? Is there someone you know who would benefit from a gift of time, just time, with no specified label?
Hope these five ways will take you a long way towards happiness. Personally, I am starting with exercise and sharing the learning with others, as the iMAPP is about to open its doors to the first cohort!