“Change brings opportunity.” – Nido Qubein
Each year, there are significant opportunities to evaluate our lives and look ahead to the future. The new year, birthdays, anniversaries, and major holidays come to mind.
Each cause us to look back at the decisions that shaped our lives during the past year and give us opportunity to make adjustments for the next one… or as we call them, resolutions.
Some needed adjustments to our life habits are painfully obvious: we need to get in shape, we need to stop smoking, or we need to get our finances in order. Those life changes are typically easy to notice and are often promoted in our society.
But there are other, equally valuable life improvements available to us that fly a bit out of the mainstream. For various reasons, you don’t hear much about them. But in many cases, they are just as valuable. In fact, sometimes, they even help us address the underlying assumptions in our lives that are leading us to the poor decisions in the first place.
To that end, consider these 12 Life-Giving Resolutions as possible life habits to incorporate.
1. Intentionally laugh everyday. Laughter releases stress, lowers blood pressure, and exercises muscles. More importantly, it changes our outlook on life and brings us joy and hope. It ought to be practiced everyday. Put it on your To-Do List. And give yourself permission to laugh each day… especially during the hopeless days.
2. Practice solitude. Find time alone in quiet on a regular basis. No books, no music, no outside voices. Just you alone with yourself. Your life will never, ever be the same.
3. Make gratitude a discipline. Thank someone or something each day, every day. Gratitude refocuses our attention away from what we don’t have and redirects it towards what we do. As a result, it naturally causes contentment and generosity to spring up in our lives.
4. Stop speeding. You may need to plan in advance or choose to leave a bit earlier. After all, you will be spending more time en route. But slowing down intentionally allows extra opportunity to be with yourself, be present, and enjoy the journey. Life is not a race. Life is not meant to be lived hurriedly rushing from one event to another. It is meant to be enjoyed and savored. And driving slower will remind you of that fact every time.
5. Fast one day each month. There is a reason nearly every religious tradition incorporates the use of fasting (the practice of not eating food for a specific length of time – usually 24 hours or sunrise to sunset). It teaches us self-control, self-denial, and sacrifice. It trains our mind to weather storms and temptation. And it heightens our senses. As a side note: the purpose for practicing fasting may be for spiritual purposes, but it doesn’t have to be… your mind, body, and soul will benefit regardless.
6. Adopt a “Do it Now” mentality. The opposite of procrastination is to simply “do it now” instead. And seeing as how procrastination results in an unnecessary amount of stress in our lives, “doing it now” is an appropriate life habit for many of us to resolve. Make that a new mindset for your life. Repeat the mantra often. And then, just do it now – whatever “it” may be.
7. Eat more vegetables. Eating more vegetables is a better, simpler, and often times more measurable approach to your weight loss goal than simply deciding to eat less. Eating vegetables at each meal (or as snacks in-between them) naturally reduces the amount of unhealthy food that we put into our bodies. Additionally, it gives us more energy, more self-esteem, and more opportunity to fight off illness and disease.
8. Read classical books from different centuries. Books that have lasted centuries tend to do so for a very good reason: they contain wisdom. They speak to timeless human truths that bind us together. Though our culture and world look entirely different today than they did 200 years ago, the human spirit is still the same. Life still includes sorrow, joy, hope, and trial. And we would benefit greatly from rediscovering how men and women approached life hundreds of years ago.
9. Remove pornography. Pornography limits our capacity to appreciate the real world and the people within it. It clouds our mind with unrealistic and unhealthy assumptions about sexuality and our relationships with others. Because of that, it never fully satisfies its consumer, but always leaves them desiring more. Sacrifice the temporal pleasure of pornography for a life that can better appreciate the simply joys of the people and relationships around you right now.
10. Go to bed earlier. Changing just the first hour of your day changes the remaining 23. And the best way to change the first hour of your day is to get a good night’s sleep. So make a practice this year to move your bedtime up. You may just be surprised at how that small change will naturally benefit other areas of your life.
11. Give to a charity. Pick a cause that you believe in strongly: poverty, education, animals, research, or the environment (just to name a few). And then, write a check. You’ll be glad you did. They’ll be glad you did. The cause they serve will be glad you did. And if you can spread that much joy by filling out a check, just imagine the joy you’ll spread if you volunteer your time and talents.
12. Date your spouse. Take your spouse/partner on a date at least once per month. You’ll have fun. You’ll reconnect. Your union will be stronger because of it. And if you think it’ll cost a bunch of money, you’re just not being creative enough.
Make no mistake. While I have intentionally tried to develop each of these habits in my life at some point in the past, I don’t intentionally practice each of them today (some still come more naturally than others). And my desire is not that these resolutions would be considered a 12-step secret to solving life.
Instead, my desire is that we would simply consider implementing one of them today… and find a better life because of it.