New Year’s commitments are almost always different renditions of the desire for better health, wellbeing, and happiness. Here are some surefire, research-based strategies for actually achieving better health, improved wellbeing, and increased happiness:
- Mind your conversations. If you do only one thing, choose to be intentional about your conversations. Conversations—with yourself and with others—significantly impact your health, wellbeing, relationships, and success in life. If you want 2019 to be a great year, have conversations worth having! Research shows you can add up to ten years to your life if 75-80% of your conversations have an affirmative tone and positive direction. Why? Because negative or depreciative interactions trigger the release of “stress hormones” (cortisol, norepinephrine, testosterone, adrenalin), which depress our immune system, our sense of wellbeing, and our ability to connect and learn. On the other hand, appreciative and inquiry-based interactions trigger the release of “happiness hormones” (oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins), which fortify our immune system, stimulate learning, creativity and connection. Get a free toolkit on fostering conversations worth having.
- Improve Conversations and Relationships by Double Clicking. Judith Glaser suggests we “double click” on what we think or what others say. It’s like double clicking on a computer to see what’s behind the immediate and visible page. Double clicking requires you to pause briefly before responding to get curious. If you’re about to pass judgment (on yourself or someone else), stop and double click. What’s behind the thought or the comment. Become a master at asking questions that support connection, learning, understanding, possibilities and shared pathways forward.
- Practice Gratitude. Research shows that feeling gratitude decreases stress and increases overall happiness, contentment, life satisfaction, and optimism. Start the year off with a gratitude journal and make at least five entries daily. Elaborate about each person or thing for which you are grateful in order to deepen your experience of gratitude. Focusing on people for whom you are grateful has more of an impact on your wellbeing and health than on things. Savor the surprises. Share your gratitude with others. For more about the benefits of gratitude, check out Greater Good.
- Engage regularly with a close friend. People who have one or two close friends with whom they can share their heart are happier. Belonging and a sense of connection improve our overall health, well-being, and happiness.
- Exercise and eat healthy. Keep moving. Exercise is correlated with improved mental wellbeing and lower incidence of depression. Stand up for 30-60 seconds out of every 20-30 minutes. Just doing this will increase circulations, bringing oxygen and needed nutrients to your brain and vital organs. A little longer break every hour or two will help hit the reset button!
- Do what is meaningful. A meaningful life brings a deeper kind of happiness.
- Cultivate kindness and generosity. Kindness and generosity create an inner sense of wellbeing and happiness and they are linked with greater life satisfaction, stronger relationships, better mental and physical health, and longevity. Connect with others, be present. Smile and mean it. Listen openly. Let the other car cut in front of you. Volunteer. Be of service.
- Do What Brings You Joy. Find what makes you come alive and make sure to use it daily in your work and personal life. Make time to do what brings you joy, even if it’s just for 15-30 minutes a day. Know your strengths and use them daily; using our strengths often elicits joy. You can identify your character strengths using this free survey from VIA.
Engage in these eight well-being practices and your year will be healthier, more joyful, and successful. Keep in mind, a single conversation can undo the benefits of practices 2-8. So if you do nothing else, be mindful of your conversations. Don’t avoid problems or conflict, simply engage in ways that move your forward towards solutions and higher ground. From those of us at Conversations Worth Having, may your coming year be your best year yet!
Cheri Torres is a catalyst for positive change, speaker and author. She works with leaders in organizations and communities enhancing their ability to fuel productive and meaningful engagement. firstname.lastname@example.org