a new year, a new beginning…

New Year’s is always such a fascinating concept to me, for many reasons. Besides the always-over-hyped and utterly-disappointing party plans, the idea of setting new goals for myself on the first day of the year has become a routine for me. We usually painfully endure through the glutton and sloth of the holidays with the intention of “better days” following January 1st. But why is it that we do this to ourselves? If we have already set out new goals that we plan to implement in the new year, why not start immediately? Is there really something that significant about the first day of the calendar year that we excuse lethargy and indulgence for a full 2 weeks before turning a new leaf?

For me, 2012 was all about taking care of myself. My entire life, I have been dedicated to taking care of others, putting their needs before my own. But in my 26th year of life, I realized that my time on this Earth is limited and to not spend it being happy would be silly. So, one year ago, I set a list of resolutions for myself to increase my health and happiness. Taking vitamins, challenging myself at work every day, reading new books, laughing more, taking full advantage of living by the beach, were just a few things I tried implementing all the way through the year. Some things on the list fell away as the months passed by, but many more things were added on my year-long quest for happiness. But that was the beauty of my mission – that my journey to being happy would change along the way as I felt out new activities and crossed paths with new people. The ability to be flexible and edit my list was why I was so successful in the end. As a result, I discovered (and re-discovered) things about myself and what made me happy that I never thought would be possible.

When Christmas was upon me and I began my vacation from work, I spent a lot of time pondering what I wanted for myself in 2013. After the amazing year behind me, all I wanted to do was keep on the high road to happiness that I had set out on just one year ago. I had made so much progress, but did not feel like the journey was over yet. I have definitely started to realize the things that make me most happy, but it continues to be a task trying to implement them in my every day life. Here is a shortened list of some of the things I have been doing, and a few new additions, I plan to do more of and with even more enthusiasm in 2013!

  • Making my house a home: Keeping the house clean is a task in itself, but building up my home into a place I want to come home to, a place I am excited to spend time in, is a whole other story. I spent a lot of time this past year organizing my clutter and adding inspirational design elements to my bedroom, which have made my living space even more harmonious and calm.
  • Embracing happy scents: Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, suggests that happiness can be improved from one of our strongest senses – smell. “Your sense of smell can become dull over time, so if you simply focus on appreciating the scents around you, you can sharpen your awareness.” For me, I try to keep a delightfully scented home at all times. Lavender, Coconut, Gardenia and Plumeria are some of my favorites. They remind me of Summer and are reminiscent of some of the places I have traveled throughout my life.
  • Letting Go: This has been one of the hardest tasks in the last year (or my whole life). Letting go of things can be hard, but if something is no longer serving a purpose for me, letting go is a whole hell of a lot easier than carrying that baggage that weighs me down. This applies to all areas of my life… challenges at work I cannot overcome alone, emotional topics to be worked through, relationships, arts and crafts projects. The first step is being honest with myself, and once I can accept that I have no interest in further pursuing that particular thing, I just let it go and keep moving forward. I haven’t looked back on any of those things since and feel lighter than ever!
  • Live an Active Life: Sometimes it is easy to take for granted something we have gotten used to. In my case, living by the beach is a blessing, but the amount of time I spend at the beach can waiver depending on how involved I get with work. I have made a promise to myself for this year, to visit the beach at least twice a week. Whether it’s for a walk, run, or moment of clarity, the ocean can work wonders on one’s mind and body and I refuse to take for granted the amazing place I live. Additionally, instead of setting concrete fitness goals for myself, I have made a point to incorporate many different activities into my routine. Playing soccer, kickball, and practicing yoga are my latest kicks, but in the new year I would like to try Pilates and get back into Boxing to let off some steam.
  • Creating a Positive Ambiance at Work: This is also a tough one, due to the various factors surrounding me at the office. When I’m not busy writing, taking photos or creating things, I work a typical 8 – 5 job that can be very taxing on my body. Aside from keeping a balanced life by staying fit and in touch with my creativity in my down time, keeping an even keel at work is completely necessary to my own happiness and success. Dressing comfortably, taking necessary breaks, maintaining a mild climate  and keeping the lights less bright all can prevent headaches and help me get through each day with a positive attitude.
  • Learning to Say NO: Looking back at my calendar helped me identify some of the things I needed to let go of. Throughout the year, I am painfully guilty of saying yes to things when I secretly wanted to veg on the couch or just go for a long run by myself. This year, I will continue to be selfish with my off time, and spend it where I want instead of just going along with things as they pop up.
  • Stay Positive: This has been such an omen in my life, the resulting changes are totally visible. From my own quality of life to the people I attract, staying positive not only makes me happier, but makes those I surround myself with much happier too. Keeping a smile on my face, giving a warm hello to the nasty neighbor next door, offering to help instead of telling your roommates to clean up after themselves, are all examples of tiny things you can do throughout your day to keep a warm, positive environment.
  • Get Physical: Studies show that people who are openly affectionate tend to have closer relationships. Taking the time to kiss your significant other, hug your friends and family, give a back rub, shake hands, are all ways to strengthen your relationships and create strong, intimate bonds with those closest to you.
  • Zzzzzz: Being tired takes many forms. Depression, anxiety and anger are all over-diagnosed when all a person really needs is more sleep! For instance, when we got a week off from work, I found it very interesting – and surprisingly natural – that I mostly slept in my down time. Giving myself the rest I clearly needed did wonders for my psyche. I found my thoughts to be clearer, my mind to be sharper, my demeanor to be brighter. Whether it’s taking a cat nap in the afternoon or making yourself go to bed earlier, getting those extra Z’s can be imperative to achieving happiness.

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