Watch less TV
If you can make only one change in your life this year, let it be reducing the number of hours you dedicate to this pastime. That time spent on the couch is time you could be spending on other things.
Choose a strategy that works for you: Reduce your TV time by an hour a night, keep one night of the week TV free, or make a list of your favorite shows then commit to watching only them. If you’re really feeling motivated, participate in Mental Detox Week come April for seven pixel-free days.
Buy fewer things
Let’s face it: We’ve gone overboard with accumulating stuff, and it’s not doing anything to make us happier. Try to buy nothing for one day each week; withdraw a predetermined amount of cash at the start of the week, then leave your debit and credit cards at home. Before you buy something, ask yourself whether you really need it.
Many of us in Western society have an extremely narrow survival skill set. Learn how to make something from start to finish this year: Bake bread, grow vegetables, sew a skirt, build a table. Check out the roster of classes offered at a community college, your local community centre or a retail store that has teaching as part of its mandate.
Stop stressing about sex
Often, embracing life means embracing sex. But when TV shows and magazine articles endlessly emphasize strategies for improving our performance level’and hence our partner’s happiness’it can end up having the opposite effect. This year, promise to enjoy your sex life, because when you’re enjoying the moment, so is your partner.
According to researchers from the University of California Davis and Southern Methodist University in Dallas, those who do daily gratitude exercises enjoy increased alertness, enthusiasm, optimism, energy and determination’along with decreased depression and stress. So keep a gratitude journal and write down what you’re grateful for. If you have kids, keep a family gratitude journal: Reminisce about your favourite parts of the day with your kids at the dinner table, then write it down.
Eat better food
Okay, so the words local and organic have become ubiquitous, and not a little pretentious. But think big picture: Overly processed food isn’t doing much for your health. Try to incorporate more locally grown, organic foods into your diet. Think you can’t afford it? It might just mean reprioritizing your budget: those expensive Friday-night drinks and Monday-morning lattes can buy a lot of organic carrots.
Be less selfish
It might feel good in the moment to look out for number one, but over the long haul, it can diminish our humanity. Embrace three levels of selflessness this year:
- The macro: There are plenty of problems in the world, so pick one and support it, either with money or your time.
- The micro: You don’t have to be a doormat, but find ways to put friends and family first and their smiles will warm your heart.
- The abstract: Do selfless things for strangers, like letting a car into your lane, and your good deeds will inspire them to be nice to others, too.
Be more active in your community
As Winnie the Pooh says, ‘You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you; you have to go to them sometimes.’ Whether it’s using your local library, attending community meetings, coaching soccer, teaching someone how to read, helping with a community garden or just visiting your local coffee shop and talking politics with the regulars, helping to strengthen our communities makes us feel useful and worthwhile.
Take pride in your work. Even if you are just a cog in the great machine, be the best cog you can be.
You don’t have to spend a fortune camel-riding in Morocco or bicycling through the Pyrenees to bring adventure back into your life. Canada has some of the best outdoor activity around’and for most of us, it’s just a day trip. Check out your local travel office for hot recession deals on snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, dog sledding and winter horseback riding. Then get outside and boost your vitamin D’along with the depression-busting serotonin’the natural way.
Tell more stories
Scientists are beginning to study the significance of storytelling to the human experience’that it soothes, transports, creates empathy and generally makes us feel really good. But the family yarn seems imperiled. After all, our grandparents had the war to talk about; we have, well, moving out of our parents’ house. Take a workshop in storytelling, or check out the growing number of websites and books dedicated to creating better storytellers among us, and you may discover a nascent storyteller’and stories to tell’inside you.