Restart Your Spring: Personal Fulfillment

Let’s face it: January 1 — the dead of winter — is probably the worst time of the year to turn over a new leaf. Everyone’s exhausted from the holidays, weather’s usually terrible, and the big seasonal foods are hardy greens and root vegetables (which might be exactly nobody’s favorite treats). It’s no wonder that 46% of people who make a new year’s resolution have abandoned it by the time February rolls around.

So this year, why not make a spring resolution. The timing couldn’t be better: as the cold retreats, the light returns, and the first flowers start making their appearance, it seems natural to focus on renewal, personal goals, and ways to get more satisfaction out of life.

Here are some tips for reaching your spring goals around Personal Fulfillment:

1) I want to set aside dedicated family time
“I’m stepping down to spend more time with family” is a go-to explanation for disgraced politicians exactly because it’s one that most of us can relate to. It’s easy for family time to take a back seat to all your must-do tasks: work, school, dishes, laundry, grocery shopping… it can make you tired just to think about it! Here are a few ways to prioritize family time.

Try transforming those must-do items on your list into quality time. Enlist the kids in simple dinner preparation, or make a game of tidying the living room together. Yes, it’s probably faster if you do it solo, but involving the whole family gives you time to catch up and reconnect while you’re also getting things done.

Or create your own family traditions by setting aside one evening a week for a fun treat like seeing a movie, going bowling, or playing board games. You’ll enjoy it more if everyone commits to really being present: make a rule that kids and parents alike refrain from texting, surfing, and phone calls during family time.

2) I want to plan my next vacation

Studies show that, in addition to giving you time to relax and recharge, vacations also improve work productivity. So get going! If you know what kind of vacation you’re looking for, plenty of online resources can help you find the lowest airfare and best-value accommodations, and even tell you when it’s cheapest to travel to your chosen spot.

Not sure what kind you’re in the mood for? Other sites can help you with that. Huffington Post offers some ideas about the best vacation for your personality type, whether you’re adventurous, artsy, or altruistic.

Waiting to be able to afford your dream vacation? Think about scaling back rather than putting it off. Economize by staying with friends, traveling in the off season, or planning a camping trip. If you don’t mind the idea of strangers in your house or apartment, setting up a house swap is another great way to vacation affordably.

3) I want to devote time to a hobby or craft
Does the name Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ring a bell? He’s written extensively about “flow,” the state of energized focus and enjoyment that can come from doing work we love, creating art or crafts, playing music… virtually any pastime that’s challenging and pleasurable. According to Csikszentmihalyi, being in a state of flow results in feelings of genuine satisfaction — reason enough to devote time to your favorite activities. But for most of us, we struggle to actually carve out the time.

One surprising way is to set aside a dedicated space. Having a specific place to work on your hobby can be a daily reminder of the things you enjoy. And it’s easier to dive in if you don’t have to dig out your tools, paintbrushes, or supplies first. Commit to enjoying your hobby once or twice a week: block out the time in your calendar and stick to it.

If you’ve just discovered your love for photography or your desire to refinish furniture, a class at your local community college, adult education school, or arts center is a great way to gain skills and experience, which can make your hobby more enjoyable and build the momentum to keep going. Looking for company or support? Meetup groups can introduce you to other people who share your passion… and if you can’t find a like-minded group in your area, it’s easy to start your own!

4) I want to make regular plans with friends
Do you leave get-togethers promising that you’ll do it again soon… and then don’t? It’s easy to let time slip by, and often, by the time we think to get the gang together again, schedule conflicts mean that everyone can’t meet until two months from next Wednesday. Here are a few ways to see each other more often.

Schedule in advance. Create a standing date — say the third Thursday of the month, for lunch, happy hour, or game night. Not everyone will be able to make it to every event, but with a regular outing on the calendar, it’s not so long until the next time.

Have friends with shared interests? Join a softball team together, get season tickets to the symphony, set up a revolving wine-tasting party, even watch your favorite show together. The more casual and informal it is (pizza and beer anyone?) the easier it will be to throw together.

And if scheduling everyone has you pulling your hair out, turn to Doodle, a free online scheduling tool that makes it a snap to find a date and time everyone can agree on.

5) I want to slow down

As Albert Einstein famously said, “time is relative.” To a kid, summer lasts an eternity, and it seems the months crawl until their next birthday. And to the rest of us? Life seems to fly by, faster every day. The increasing pace of technology doesn’t help, but is the pressure to keep up with Facebook or the news cycle adding anything to your life? And if not, what can you do about it?

For starters, take stock of what’s truly important. It’s a simple task that can help you cut out the things in your life that are stealing time and adding stress without increasing your joy or wellbeing. What do you want to focus on this month, this year, this decade? A clear sense of purpose can help you to say no to things that don’t contribute to your personal goals.

Another way to slow down is to make time for mindfulness meditation. This practice is getting the attention of scientists, and with good reason — studies show that mindfulness can lower stress and calm the mind, and may even have brainpower and mental health benefits.

6) I want to spend more time in nature
There’s something about being outdoors that relaxes us and and gives us perspective, and studies show that it’s good for both mind and body. Luckily, you don’t have to travel far to reap big benefits. Even just having a view out your window overlooking trees or greenery can work wonders. So how do you make it a regular habit?

You’re probably more likely to stick with plans if you get your friends and family in on the action, so make a date to walk at your local park or a nearby nature trail a few times a week. Or check Meetup for groups that walk or hike in your area on a regular basis.

Even better, you can do good for the natural environment as you’re enjoying the great outdoors. Try volunteering for a conservation project through organizations like The Nature Conservancy. Or search for local opportunities with agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.

7) I want to learn a new skill
Remember when you first learned to ride a bike? The thrill of finally mastering pedaling and balancing at the same time, the rush of wind in your hair? Continuing to learn new skills at every age can keep your brain sharp, boost self-confidence, and even give you the impetus to get a great new job.

There are more resources to help than ever before. Old-school groups like Toastmasters can help you learn valuable public speaking and presentation skills. New-fangled online resources like Instructables show you how to make and do all kinds of things — from restoring a vintage bike to making a cardboard ukulele. And local community colleges, arts centers, and music schools offer classes on all kinds of topics from the artsy to the practical.

If you’re trying to teach yourself, you’ll probably stick with it longer if you enlist some help — create a training plan and ask a friend or family member to check in on your progress so you have some accountability.

8) I want to read more
Reading has a long list of benefits: it can reduce stress, help you sleep better, and possibly even ward off Alzheimer’s disease. But with our busy lives and the plethora of entertainment options available on multiple screens, many of us just aren’t reading as much as we’d like.

With a little effort you can get back in the habit. One of the best ways is to join a book group — or start your own. Check with your local library or your favorite independent bookstore. For a virtual literary community, check out sites like Goodreads to see what friends are reading, share book recommendations, and connect with fellow readers from all over the world.

Get in the habit of having a book with you so you can always take advantage of downtime. A whole range of apps helps you easily read an e-book or listen to an audio book on your tablet or phone.

9) I want to reward myself more frequently
Treating yourself for reaching personal milestones can be motivating and help you track your progress, whether you’re working hard toward a promotion, learning a new language, or starting a workout routine.

The key is to break down your goals into small increments so you can reward yourself often, and choose rewards that are out of your normal routine (as opposed to things you might give yourself anyway). When most of us think about rewards, we think about shopping sprees, gadgets, or other tangibles. But you can also reward yourself with experiences, like blocking out time to see the latest thriller, treating yourself to a massage, or taking a vacation day to devote to antiquing, a quick road trip, or trying out that new trampoline park you’ve heard so much about.


Category: Healthy Living