An Anti-Resolution Revolution

We all know that New Year’s resolutions, for the most part, fail. Beyond setting us up for guilt and unhealthy self-criticism come February, resolutions prove ineffective by draining our ego and our willpower, without an authentic grounding for change. I have tried them, with middling success. I’ve tried the alternatives, everything from writing a manifesto for the year to elaborate matrices of written goals broken down into achievable steps. The result? Some progress, but honestly, for what?

In 2015, I tried a new technique for capitalizing on the arbitrary but still meaningful change in calendar year: defining a theme for the year. This year, I committed to the theme “make.” I printed out that one word and hung it around my office so that I could see it from every line of sight. Over the course of the year, among other things, I wrote more than I have in a long time, I took a painting class and created a few paintings, and I even founded Kindness Communication. Without holding myself to specifics or berating myself for missed objectives, I am coming out of the year stronger and more focused, and I believe that themes versus resolutions offer us a kinder and more effective path to personal growth.

For 2016, I have chosen a new theme: “look up.” I like that it means a wide range of things, from authentically meeting the gaze of people whom I encounter and sending them kindness to eagerly, optimistically embracing the future, despite the endless churning of bad news that can easily become an addiction. I see the phrase “look up” as shorthand for taking a position that embraces and engages with my surroundings with greater focus and connectedness.

While I couldn’t tell you now how looking up will manifest itself in concrete actions I take in 2016, I feel confident it will serve as a powerful tool for me as I literally and figuratively meet the year ahead of me with a direct gaze.

With that in mind, if you followed suit, what would you choose as your own defining theme for 2016, rather than making resolutions?

Small Kindnesses And Holiday Depression

I would like to offer three reminders for kindness practitioners to help boost spirits during the holidays. We all know very well the truth of these simple propositions. The suggest a simple recipe we can use to spread healthy, positive holiday cheer.

  1. Many people feel an unexpected but still familiar sense of depression at this time of celebration.It may stem from personal memories, regrets, loneliness, feeling left out, feeling guilty for not seeming as chipper as those around us. Not getting enough sunlight may contribute further. Regardless of whichever personal combination of these factors affects individuals, the impact can result in pain, withdrawal, and sometimes even unhealthy behaviors.
  2. Showing even small acts of kindness to people can help alleviate their feelings of depression.We don’t need grand gestures of charity and holiday cheer, which may even play into the triggering factors in holiday depression. In many cases, feeling more empathy, more inclusion, more validation, and the like can help dispel depressive feelings and thinking.
  3.  Acts of kindness make the kindness practitioner feel better, too.We all benefit from an improved outlook and increased positivity when we act kindly towards others. Study after study has explored and validated the virtuous cycle of greater empathy and increased sense of interdependence sparked by acts as simple as smiling, greeting, helping, and connecting.

From these three, we can infer a simple holiday recipe as warming as any cookies or eggnog.

  • Take your best heart
  • Add small acts of kindness
  • Spread liberally.

Serves everyone.