2016 is almost here, which means people are starting to think about how they'll make the new year different in some way.
It's not a bad thing, really. While it's important to love yourself, each of us can improve in one way or another.
One of the most common resolutions people have is the decision to lose weight. Gym memberships soar, and the local health food store gets completely slammed by people who want to change their appearance in a big way. Unfortunately, when results don't come quickly, many people get discouraged and give up. While maintaining a healthy weight is an important factor in overall health, too many people look to their weight as the source of their self-worth, which completely misses the point.
Here are seven ways to improve yourself in the coming year that don't involve obsessing over the number on the scale.
"Wait, isn't this list not about weight?"
While being overly involved with one's weight isn't healthy, exercising certainly is. Maybe you will lose weight from it, maybe you won't. That isn't the point. Exercise has been proven time and again to relieve stress, improve overall health, ramping up your sex drive, and just generally improving your quality of life. Yes, it's hard getting into a routine when you're out of shape, but there's no better feeling than finding your groove and achieving exercise goals.
Train for a 5k, even if you end up walking most of it. Join an adult recreation league for that sport you haven't played since you were a kid. Dust off that weight set in the garage. Whatever your thing is, do it. Getting your body in motion is one of the best things you can do, and is one of the most worthwhile habits to start in the new year.
2. Read books
While many people don't read a novel after they've left school, and they don't have an English teacher introducing them to finest literature ever written, spending time reading is something that should never be outgrown.
Reading is a great way to keep your brain stimulated, warding off the effects of aging and slowing the onset of dimentia. Set a reading goal of the number of books you want to complete during the year or the number of pages you want to read every week.
The first step is figuring out what you want to read. Is your favorite TV show or movie based on a book? That might be a good place to start, as you're already familiar with the characters and can easily picture the setting. The best part is that there are definitely details left out of the screen adaptation, giving you more to love.
Another great goal is to re-read those classic books you haven't thought about since high school. It's amazing how much more enjoyable they are after getting a few more years of life experience to put their messages into context, and not having to worry about writing a book report at the end.
3. Become more polite
As daily life gets busier and technology removes the need for a lot of face-to-face communication with other people, it becomes too easy to forget our manners and to be considerate of others. Making a point to be genuinely more polite in our daily lives is a great way to spread kindness all day long.
Make your grandma proud by writing thank you notes after receiving gifts, hold the door open for others, and if you're having a bad day, don't take it out on other people.
4. Become more creative
We often get so caught up in our day-to-day life, we forget to stop and appreciate the art that makes life beautiful. The idea that some people just aren't creative is a myth; everyone has the capacity to do something to express themselves.
Draw. Paint. Write. Cook. Explore fashion. Play music. Set aside time each day or each week to indulge your creative side and start embracing things in life that are central to the human experience.
5. Get organized
While the holidays are great and everyone loves choosing gifts for other people, it can become painfully clear that most of us have way too many material possessions. The worst part is that most of it is stuff we don't actually need.
Clearing out clutter is actually a little bit like Christmas in itself, because it allows you to find things you forgot you had. But if don't need it, don't hang onto it.
Decluttering is also a time to remember while certain items are just in your way, they could make a tremendous difference for those who have nothing. Donate clothes you know you won't wear again. Recycle outdated or broken electronics that will never get repaired. Bring extra household goods to a shelter for victims of domestic abuse. You'll be helping out others and taking control of your own space at the same time.
6. Take control of your finances
The average American is about $250,000 in debt, including credit cards, mortgage payments, and student loans. Start chipping away at that number by reducing frivolous spending and negotiating better interest rates for loans. Anyone old enough to have a job is old enough to start stashing away money for retirement, and a rainy day fund to cover unexpected expenses can be a lifesaver.
Money is a big cause of stress and is one of the main reasons that couples get divorced. Taking control of your finances will take that burden off of your shoulders and make your life happier.
7. Make amends with others
Life is genuinely too short to hang on to grudges and bad feelings toward others. It's not healthy, emotionally or physically, to live with that kind of anger or resentment. If you've done something wrong to someone, apologize. If the person you have tried to reach doesn't want to talk to you, try your best to write them a letter and make amends. You can't control them, but you can do your part.
Call that relative you stopped talking to three years ago. Return the text of that friend who has desperately been trying to make things right with you. Everyone makes mistakes, but the capacity to forgive and move beyond it is the mark of a mature and compassionate person. You'll be glad you did.
How will you make 2016 your best year ever? Let us know in the comments!
Cover image: Shutterstock