HOW TO HAVE A GOOD DAY, an alternative to New Year's resolutions
We’ve all tried and we’ve all failed, because studies show that approximately 80% of New Year's resolutions will be abandoned within a few weeks. Perhaps yours have already flopped by the time you read this, in which case this article is for you. If by chance you belong to the 20% that do manage to stick to your resolutions then well done… but you should still read on.
Instead of setting goals around doing things differently to become healthy, wealthy and wise, a better alternative is to create your intentions around being different because you are a human being, not a human doing. So rather than making lofty promises about eating and drinking less, exercising more and calling your mother regularly, how about discovering a more enjoyable way to create a sense of fulfillment and happiness. (Which, by the way, does not exclude calling your mother more often.)
What I recommend is simple. I suggest you spend an extra five minutes in bed each morning, thinking of three things that bring joy to your life. (See, my method looks good already.) I’m not talking about fantasizing about unlimited wealth, eternal life and peace on Earth for all mankind, but things that are within the realms of reality for you to experience: anything you truly enjoy doing and that makes you genuinely happy. It’s built on the proven premise that deliberately thinking positive thoughts will produce a more confident and productive state of mind. It is the mental equivalent of standing up straight, with a so-called power posture, to help you speak with more confidence and authority.
For this to work well you have to vividly imagine whatever you are thinking about, making it as real as possible in your mind. The brain does not distinguish between reality and imagination. It will simply react chemically as it would to the real experience, stimulating your serotonin levels, which creates a sense of wellbeing. However, it should not only be mind game to make you feel better. For this method to bring genuine reward you must also give yourself time each day to really do at least one of the things that bring you joy.
You may already know this technique by the name the gratitude attitude, but in my opinion the name implies that you somehow owe your happiness to an outside force. Whilst gratitude is a fine sentiment that should be expressed whenever appropriate, the objective here is to take charge of your life and be able to decide for yourself what you feel good about. I have therefore given it the name positive positioning, which I feel more accurately expresses its purpose.
The things that dominate our thoughts most strongly influence our actions, but we often cruise through our busy days on autopilot, lurching from one task to another, without pausing to stop and reflect on why we’re doing what we’re doing. By spending time in the morning, pre-programming your mind with positive thoughts and feelings that will subconsciously direct your actions, you will greatly increase your chances of having a more productive and enjoyable day than if you had just rolled out of bed without any thoughts or intentions.
If you want to make this exercise really effective spend another five minutes writing your three items of joy in your diary. By doing this they become even more firmly fixed in your mind; you create intentionality and therefore they become part of your subconscious priorities. What you focus on is what you get, what you think about is what you do. It might be interesting to see over a period of time what thoughts occur more frequently. If there's one thing that dominates your choices, that constantly stands out as more joyful, then perhaps this is what you should be focusing on more than anything else – maybe even dedicate your life to.
The problem with giving up on New Years resolutions is that when you drop them you feel like a failure, which will damage your self-esteem and confidence. So committing to resolutions you cannot fulfill might actually harm your chance for success rather than encourage you to persevere. Instead you now have an alternative; a morning ritual that is both pleasant and very simple to apply to your life, which will actually produce results and support you throughout the year. In fact by applying yourself to this method maybe those pesky New Year's resolutions will come into effect after all: eating and drinking less, exercising more – and why don't you call your mother right now?