December 31, 2011 in Features

Fresh start

Rethink your resolutions this year and promise to be nicer to yourself
Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz Chicago Tribune
 

After the indulgences of the holidays, in January we repent. We pledge to exercise more, eat less, save money, work harder. Sometimes we even extend these noble pledges to our spouses, sweethearts and kids.

No wonder a third of New Year’s resolutions fizzle before February hits. They are vague. And, worthy goals as they may be, they are bummers.

But self-improvement needn’t be a sad homework assignment demanding prudence and sacrifice. Perhaps we’d be more inclined to follow through if we resolved to be kinder to ourselves, to make our lives easier, to lighten our load.

Wish to be tidier? Promise to hire a maid to come to your house twice a month. Want to be more efficient on the job? Sign up for a class that requires you to leave work by 5:30 p.m.

From work to family to love, a constellation of experts from varied fields offered advice for easing stress in the coming year.

Balance

Get centered before each segment of your day. Sit up straight, close your eyes and take three deep breaths so that you can channel your attention fully into the present moment. Doing this between projects, or as you transition from work life to home life, will help you be more efficient and connected to your purpose within each relationship or experience.

– Terri Cooper, CEO of 305 Yoga & Outreach in Miami and founder of the Yoga Gangsters, a nonprofit that brings yoga to at-risk youth

Make a list of all your commitments and find a few to eliminate. Just send an email explaining that your plate is too full and you can’t commit anymore.

– Leo Babauta, founder of ZenHabits.net

Making your time count

Identify the areas/endeavors in life that mean the most, and work for the “A-plus” there. In the other areas, let a “B” or even “C” work for you. Sometimes “good enough” is indeed just that. Get back to basics and figure out what you love to do, and commit to bringing that passion forward in any way you can. At the minimum, invest one hour a week doing what brings you utter joy and fuels your passion. The more creative, frivolous, exciting, outlandish and enlivening, the better.

– Kathy Caprino, owner of career coaching firm Ellia Communications in Wilton, Conn.

Relationships

Take turns planning downtime. Reciprocity is a great way to strengthen your emotional connection. Each partner writes down a date idea and you exchange notes. Maybe his idea of a fun night out is bowling. Hers might be a foreign film. Balance your time off together by alternating plans. When one partner is always the planner, you can get in a rut.

– Terri Orbuch, marriage therapist and author of “5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great” (Random House)

Kids

Set clear and high expectations without any unhealthy pressure. While we want to be informed parents, we don’t want to tie ourselves in knots trying to do everything just right. For example, you can encourage your kids to eat healthy without turning into the food police. Have a bowl of fruit on the table and a bowl of cut veggies in the refrigerator. To encourage exercise, choose video games that make your child move. We want our kids to learn self-discipline and the importance of effort, but we don’t want to run our family like a boot camp.

– David Walsh, Minneapolis-based psychologist, author of “Smart Parenting, Smarter Kids” (Free Press)

Money wisdom

Take a step back and evaluate how you and your partner interact about financial issues. Do you meet regularly to touch base about the family money? Do you argue about money? Do you hide certain purchases from your spouse? There are five “money personalities:” Spender, Saver, Security Seeker, Risk Taker, Flyer. Understanding your – and your partner’s – money personality takes the mystery and stress out of day-to-day financial interactions. (Find out your money personality at themoneycouple.com.)

– Bethany and Scott Palmer, financial advisers and authors of “First Comes Love, Then Comes Money” (HarperCollins)

Pets

Many people think a walk on a leash is enough exercise for a dog. It’s not. Make the time for a good, hard play session (fetch, tug, “find it”), a hike off leash in a safe/legal place or some other form of canine aerobic exercise. Not only does exercise use up some of the energy your dog might otherwise apply to inappropriate activities (so you can relax without worrying about what he might be getting into), a good round of aerobic exercise causes a release of feel-good mood-regulating endorphins that will help your canine companion be a happier dog.

– Pat Miller, owner of Peaceable Paws dog training in Fairplay, Md.

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