By Nataly Kogan

3 meaningful ideas to replace New Year's resolutions

Tags Living Happier

New year, new you.

That seems to be the theme in early January of every year, when many of us make sweeping New Year's resolutions for how we will dramatically improve our lives. According to research I've read, the most popular resolutions have to do with losing weight, quitting smoking, drinking more water, reducing debt, and being in closer touch with family and friends. All awesome and important goals.

But as someone who has made New Year's resolutions for most of my life, this year I'm taking a break. My to-do list feels really long already. And I've got many goals I am working towards. Do I have habits I want to quit and others I want to create? Absolutely. But making huge commitments feels like piling on to an already big mountain of commitments I already have. And that feels harsh and overwhelming, two feelings that I know won't lead to my actually sticking to any new habits.

So instead I am trying a different approach by focusing on small shifts, reminders, and tiny rituals that I'm incorporating into my life.

Research shows that we're more likely to create a new habit when we make it really small. So small, in fact, that it's literally a no-brainer—that is, our brain doesn't need to spend a lot of energy on it.

This is my inspiration for the coming year and for the few rituals I'm adding to my and my family's life to help us embrace more of the little moments of joy and togetherness and to stay connected to what is truly meaningful.

The first is Tiny Monthly Reminders.

Here's the idea:

Write yourself a few reminders in your planner or journal to discover as the months go on. What would a good friend remind you of? What are some thoughts, ideas, commitments that you want to remember?

You know that feeling when a really good friend says something to you that brings you home—your heart and mind home. Something that reminds you of your bigger why, the reason you’re working so hard, doing so much, running so fast. Something that just snaps you right out of your worries and stresses and helps you to arrive right here, in this moment, and not lose track of what’s really important? This is the spirit of the reminders I’m suggesting you write to yourself for the coming year: What would a good friend remind you of?

We did that as a family last night on New Year’s Eve and sealed each month’s reminders for ourselves in an envelope for that month. It feels comforting to know they are there, waiting for us.

My next tiny ritual is Family Awards.

My daughter and I share the idea behind Family Awards in the video below and I hope you will consider doing this with your family, friends, or even co-workers. It's a simple but powerful way to remember to practice gratitude towards people you care about, one of the most important happier skills that fills your life with joy and helps to strengthen your most important relationships.

My third little ritual is actually one that I came up with to reflect on the past year. I called it Questions for Your Soul. 

Using the five core happier skills of acceptance, gratitude, kindness, a sense of meaning, and self-care, I created five simple questions to help me reflect on each of these areas. It was such a powerful exercise that I decided to do it regularly throughout the coming year—like an emotional health check-in.

If you love making New Year's resolutions and find them motivating, that's awesome! But I offer you these three tiny rituals as an addition or alternative to help you invest in your well-being and happiness in the coming year without putting too much pressure on yourself.

I feel we've got enough of that already, don't you?

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