A Better New Year’s Resolution

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It’s that time of year when thoughts turn to self-improvement. Americans typically vow to eat better, exercise more, and quit smoking on January 1. That’s why I was struck by the results of a recent Marist poll that found the majority of those asked said being a better person was their top goal in 2017.

I’m not sure what being a “better” person actually means to the people who were polled. Maybe they intend to be more considerate of friends, family members, and co-workers, donate more time or money to people in need, or resist the urge to be rude when they’re in a bad mood. The meaning really doesn’t matter, however. The fact that people have a desire to live a more purpose-filled life or be kinder to their fellow human beings fills me with hope, and puts a new spin on new year’s resolutions.

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Being a better person is full of possibilities, unlike most January vows, including swearing off all of your favorite foods and going to the gym seven days a week when you don’t really want to.  Punishing resolutions sap your energy, and can leave you feeling frustrated when you don’t live up to your own drastic expectations.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with efforts to eat better, exercise more, and give up the cigarettes.  There is evidence that people who make resolutions at the beginning of the year to do something positive are more likely to stick with those vows six months later. All I ask is that you be forgiving of yourself along the way, because slip ups will happen (nobody is perfect!).  As my friend and colleague Rebecca Scritchfield, author of Body Kindness says, it’s important to have compassion for yourself on the journey to better living.

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Seems that you can’t go wrong with being generous with your time and money, or simply being kinder every day. Research shows giving back stimulates the reward center in your brain and relieves stress.

Doing good benefits your body and brain while helping others.  Sounds like the perfect resolution to me!

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1 Comment

  1. These are the kinds of resolutions I can get behind. I love the idea of everyone replacing “perfect” with “better”. The research you mentioned is interesting too. I feel this is the work of Brene Brown and others encouraging “connection” — I learned so much from Daring Greatly which is what inspired me to dedicate an entire section of the book to “belonging”. At first editor was like… we don’t get what connecting the the planet has to do with improving your health. But this area has helped me tremendously in recent years, especially feeling good about doing better by my friends and family and even the environment without being perfect at it. Another great book is Love 2.0 I talk about it in my upcoming Body Kindness podcast.

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