I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions—but a new year does always feel like a fresh start in some ways and an opportunity to check in with my big-picture goals: What do I want to achieve this year? Is there anything in my life I want to do differently? Am I as happy as I can be?
For me, happiness is intrinsically connected to living with purpose and meaning. I work with animals every single day because that adds value to my life. My dog, horses and even the shelter and sanctuary animals I encounter remind me the importance of kindness, of mindfulness, of compassion. And of the goodness in this world (which sometimes feels very hard to find). So with the animals as my guide, here are my five goals for a happier 2017:
1. Give at least one compliment each day. Compliments are a beautiful way to share positive energy. They also force us to pull away from our busy, selfish mind and reflect on noticing good things and good people in the world around us. You can either compliment a person directly or show genuine appreciation for something. For example, “Our community is better because you’re in it,” or “You’re always so thoughtful.” Think of compliments as little gifts that don’t cost a thing—though the good vibes benefit both the giver and the receiver.
2. Vow to complain less. Complaining seems to feel good at the time, doesn’t it? But it never makes any situation better—in fact, complaining makes everything worse, including how you are perceived by others and your mental and physical health. Breaking the habit isn’t easy, though, so look to your animals for inspiration: They never complain, no matter the circumstance. This 2017, I encourage all of us (me included!) to find new ways of speaking positively and finding solutions in place of pointless complaints.
3. Be kind. For many of us, random acts of kindness are an afterthought, not a daily or weekly goal. But this year, I’d like to do more small random acts of kindness—for both animals and humans. What if we reframed each day to look for opportunities we might have missed before? For instance, let someone go ahead of you in line at the grocery store; help a lost dog on the side of the road; send paper thank-you notes. For more ideas, get inspired by these lists: 10 easy acts of kindness for animals, and 101 random acts of kindness. Check out the nonprofit Kindness.org, which makes it easy to commit to kindness.
4. Share Reiki with your animal every day. Science tells us that daily meditation improves our health in significant ways—by lowering our blood pressure, reducing stress and boosting our immune system. Take it up a notch by adding your beloved animal to the mix. Animals are meditation masters who teach us how to focus, open our hearts and share compassion. All it takes is 20 of the 1,440 minutes each day gives us.
5. Write in your gratitude journal at least three times a week. The researchers over at Harvard say that gratitude literally makes you happier—in their study, those who mindfully reflected on gratitude exercised more, were more optimistic and spent less time at the doctor. Don’t worry that you need to write in your journal every day, but do check in a few times each week. If you find yourself resisting due to difficult life circumstances, these tips from Tiny Buddha might help.
I’m hoping these small goals will help me embrace 2017 to the fullest. Tell me, what are your happiness goals for the New Year?
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