2017 is slowly but surely coming to a close, and I think most of us can say we’ll be ringing in 2018 with a sigh of relief. To say that this year was a strain both politically and socially is an understatement, and I can almost guarantee that most of us are trying to figure out how to be happier in the new year after enduring this seemingly never-ending joke that was 2017. Ashton Kutcher, where are you? We’d all like to end this episode of Punk’d now, please.
The world we’ll wake up to on Jan. 1, 2018 won't be the same world we entered exactly one year ago. You never really notice how the atmosphere has shifted until you look back over the past 365 days and realize that, considering the events of the year that’s passed, there is simply no way we can move forward without feeling changed in one way or another. Unfortunately, 2017 introduced our country and the world we live in to a lot of heartache, natural disasters, and man-made tragedy. But my hope is that we can all find solace in a clean slate and learn from our misfortunes moving forward.
2017 was rough, but come Jan. 1, we have the opportunity to reflect on the year we'll be putting behind us, and revel in the start of something new. Here are a few realistic resolutions you can make in order to ensure you'll be happier in 2018.
1. Be More Grateful For Life's Little Blessings
2017 started out rocky, and it eventually exploded into a never-ending stream of tragedy. For so many of us, it seemed like you couldn't turn on the news without hearing about an insane political scandal, or seeing heartbreaking images of violence and destruction. And when the negative is all that surrounds you, it's really easy to lose sight of the parts of your life you should actually be grateful for.
As we slowly find our way to 2018, now more than ever is the time to realize that yes, parts of life are scary, and tragic, and unfortunate, but there's also a lot of good in life, and it's not all that hard to see once you open your heart to it.
To put this particular resolution into action, Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and author of relationship blog You're Just A Dumbass, tells Elite Daily you might want to write a letter to your former self in order to "itemize the things that you gained, [see] how you grew, and [recognize] what you're appreciative of," which will help you gain a little bit of perspective on life.
As you continue on throughout the year, make it a habit to list the things you're grateful for every now and then. This could be something you add onto every month, bi-weekly, or even every day to constantly remind yourself, no matter what's happening in the world, you have reasons — even small ones — to smile.
2. Make Your Own Contribution Toward Changing The World
It was Mahatma Gandhi who once said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." And it was John Mayer who wisely noted, "We're still waiting for the world to change."
If nothing else, 2017 was definitely a wake-up call to the world that even though we've made significant progress, for every one step forward, we've often taken two steps back. There's still so much work to be done, and we are all at least partially responsible for the world we live in.
Stacy Kaiser, Live Happy editor-at-large, tells Elite Daily,
Think about something you were emotionally moved by, angry about, or saddened by, such as political issues, hurricanes, other tragedies, etc.
Get more active politically, collect donations for areas that have been impacted by natural disaster, send letters of love to people you have heard are suffering, etc.
In order to create change, we have to ask ourselves how we can go about doing so, and put these thoughts into actions — even if they seem small.
3. Focus On Your Passions
I realize this is a very broad statement, but hear me out, because it's definitely a resolution everyone can strive to accomplish.
Whether your dream is to be a famous singer or to simply to make it through a tough semester at school, I think we all have dreams and passions that we'd ideally like to strive for and achieve. I'm not saying 2018 is going to be the year that all of your dreams come true, but then again, I'm not suggesting otherwise, either.
More often than not, it's our passions that ignite genuine feelings of joy. According to Kaiser, passion "is one of the greatest forces that fill us with both energy and greater happiness," but we easily lose sight of what we're passionate about when we're constantly focusing on the negatives. It's definitely easier to focus on the cons than the pros in life, but there's something really courageous about tuning out the bad vibes to hone in on the things you love.
"Spend time investing in your interests," Kaiser tells Elite Daily, "or look for new hobbies and interests that will elevate your future experiences."
4. Be Real With Yourself About Your Relationship With Social Media
The more research I dig up, and the more candid conversations I have with friends and loved ones, the more I realize I'm not the only one with some serious qualms over using social media.
For one, social apps are addicting, and who can get anything done when there are food pics to scroll through all day every day? Forbes reports that social media addiction isn't our only downfall; the fact that we're even checking in on everyone's digital highlight reels all the time doesn't really make us feel so awesome about our own lives.
A 2013 study published in the journal PLOS One found that Facebook usage was directly linked to less life satisfaction, while another line of research published in 2017 by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that too much exposure to social media can often lead to social isolation in real life.
Most of us have endured such a love-hate relationship with our cell phones. On the one hand, Facebook and Twitter keep us up-to-date on world news to the minute, and Instagram keeps us entertained at any given moment. But too much time on our smartphones is sucking the life out of, well, life, and I say 2018 is the year to take it back.
5. Move Your Body More
Not to be a pop culture cliche here, but Elle Woods was right when she confidently stated "endorphins make you happy" in Legally Blonde. And how do you spark endorphins? By regularly exercising, friends!
Working out is obviously a great goal to set for your health in the new year, but did you know that doing so is pretty much guaranteeing a foolproof positivity boost, too? Rest assured, you don't have to be an extreme bodybuilder or join in on a barre class if you have zero balance in order to reap the mental health benefits of exercise.
In fact, according to millennial health coach Jess Hopkins, all it takes is a mere 20 minutes of movement a day to negate a negative mindset. She tells Elite Daily,
In just six weeks, exercise has been proven to enhance dopamine production and receptivity in the brain, which elevates your mood and mental performance. Exercise also decreases stress and the likelihood of experiencing depression.
So if you're a natural gym rat and lift the heavy stuff on the reg, more power to you! But if you're not into waiting around at the weight rack or working up a sweat on the treadmill, ditch the fancy gym membership and opt to jog around your block, do yoga on your bedroom rug, or simply take a few minutes to stretch it out.
6. Take The Time To Meditate And Reflect On Your Emotions
Personally, I think one of the best ways to overcome a period of overwhelming negativity is to become better aware of how you, personally, are feeling. Understanding your emotions and why they occur can help you compartmentalize your overall thought process and how you react to and cope with difficult situations.
If you have reservations because you're not a "natural" at channeling your inner zen, don't sweat it; none of us are. I began my own meditative journey by downloading Headspace, an app that takes you through guided sequences for only 10 minutes at a time. It's quick, efficient, and can be done on your lunch break, morning commute, or even in bed when you first wake up in the morning.
It’s likely that it’ll be more challenging to run a marathon before you've gone jogging. So, start with shorter meditation experiences, like breath work, and work your way into a routine and a habit.
7. Disconnect From Anyone And Anything That Doesn't Bring You Joy
To quote Stephen Chbosky's Perks of Being A Wallflower, oftentimes, "we accept the love we think we deserve." And this goes for all kinds of love, by the way: romantic love, friendship, love between family members, even materialistic love. But in 2018, don't be afraid to stand up for yourself and realize that sometimes, it's really not you. It's them.
Love it or hate it, the truth is, we are all products of our environment. If you surround yourself with people who cling to negative mindsets, or who are constantly criticizing or taking advantage of you, it's time to start fresh and cut the cord on that toxicity. Trust me, you don't need it.
Abigail Brenner, MD, told Psychology Today that one of the main reasons why toxic personalities are so problematic is because not only are they negative themselves, they can be mentally draining just to associate with, too:
Time with [toxic people] is about taking care of their business, which will leave you feeling frustrated and unfulfilled, if not angry.
Don’t allow yourself to become depleted as a result of giving and giving and getting nothing in return...Your time and energy are essential for your own life. Don’t be overly willing to give them away.