Think your end-of-the-year commitments need to be dour pledges to make worthy improvements in your life or business? Think again, says a happiness researcher.
It's no wonder that New Year's resolutions are the bain of everybody's existence this time of year.
These end-of-the-year pledges tend to be either dour commitments to do something unpleasant but healthful like paying down debt, hitting the treadmill, or eating more Brussels sprouts, or vapid self-help-type resolutions like "realize your potential!"
Spend more time with friends. Study after study shows that we tend to be happier when we feel connected to our nearest and dearest, when we feel like we are a part of a group or a clan. Even introverts don’t like to feel lonely; this may seem like the science of the blazingly obvious, but it bears repeating. Do you frequently feel isolated or lonely? Make a resolution to routinely reach out to others.
Not sure how, or feel too busy? Join or start a group that meets regularly--maybe on the first Monday of the month, or every Friday at lunch. Some of my closest friends have come from book clubs, church groups, and standing family dinners. When we routinize our friendships, we remove the hassle of scheduling, and increase the odds that we’ll actually spend time with people we love or want to get to know better.
Everyday, find a way to give something to somebody. My favorite happiness booster is to give thanks: to a higher power for the abundance that surrounds me; to my dad for taking my kids to ice cream; to my main squeeze for all the ways he supports my work.
Equally good is to give something else--a helping hand, a compliment, a much needed $5 bill--even if it is just a tiny act of kindness. In a world that is more focused on getting than giving, a New Year’s resolution to do one kind thing each day, or to give thanks in one small way, is a pretty radical act.
JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist. @EntryLevelRebel