Q: Do you have any New Year's resolutions?
A: New Year's resolutions are often made in hopes of self-improvement. Some very popular resolutions are to lose weight, stop smoking and to exercise more. A few years ago, I printed out and filed away an article, "New Year's Resolutions - What's Great In Your Life," by Stuart Brown. He suggests that before you make your list of changes needed, start off this year by focusing on what's already great in your life.
¢ Start by making a list of things you are already good at or are good about you. You never have to share this list, but somehow seeing an actual list of good things about yourself is sure to be a morale booster. Can you play an instrument, ride a horse or know a poem by memory? Are you a good cook? Perhaps you make the best pumpkin pie and the holidays wouldn't be the same without it. Have you ever trained a dog or built something with your own two hands? Are you good at cards, crossword puzzles or Sudoku? Do you have beautiful handwriting or know calligraphy? Maybe you volunteer; list the ways you make a difference.
Also, include on your list things that are great with your life: family, friends, a nice home and possessions. Count your blessings. Have you been blessed with plenty of luxuries? You may not list them but remember those comforts such as heat and electricity, sanitation, clean water, abundant food, an education, health care or an income. These seemingly simple things make our lives truly great. What we take for granted every day may be another's greatest wish.
¢ Now, while you are feeling good, share the joy. Send a quick note or e-mail to someone you know and tell them something that you think is great about them. Wouldn't it make their day to get a sincere message from someone they respect, thanking them for being a fabulous friend, or pointing out how much fun they are to go out with?
After you've made your list and have sent out a "feel good" note to someone else, declare a New Year's resolution that is different from the usual diet and exercise promises. Here's some ideas to build family memories:
¢ Bring on the laughs. Put more humor into your life. Rent a comedy film once a week and enjoy laughing out loud.
¢ Schedule a weekly dinner. Even if you have to add it onto the kitchen wall calendar, plan a family meal. Aim for participation. Let different family members decide the menus each week and cook together.
¢ Commit as a family to volunteer within your community. This can be as simple as cleaning out your closet regularly to donate clothes and toys to a local pantry or shelter.
¢ Document your family history. Gather all of those scattered photographs into an album.
¢ Draw a family tree. Take a genealogy course, even if it means just searching the Internet.
¢ Look after yourself. Discover a ritual that makes you feel good - a hot bath, a fancy flavored tea, a manicure or an evening out with your best friend. As the stress of daily life intensifies, we have to be good to ourselves and pass on this coping mechanism and concept of self-love to our children.
¢ Swap a hug for a yell. Next time you are ready to yell at your child - even if you have a good reason - hug him or her instead. Take a few deep breaths. Then offer a calm reprimand. You'll be teaching anger management as well as giving love when they need it most.
¢ Perform one kind gesture a day. Be courteous when you're driving. Say hello and smile at a stranger. Pick up some litter. Tell your child about your good deed. Show your family that "it's cool to be kind." See who can do more random acts of kindness.
¢ Get in touch with the natural world. It is the best antidote for our fast, materialistic world.
¢ Look up at the sky: watch the sunrise or the sunset. Walk outside in the snow, wind or rain. Buy a plant, and watch it grow. Visit the parks and outdoor spaces in the community.
May your new year be blessed with goodness.