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Skip the New Year's Resolutions: 5 Tips to Have a Happy Life

As another year passes and a new one begins, it is only natural to think about how you can improve your life. Many of us try to start this journey of self improvement by making New Year's resolutions.
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Photo credit to Alyssa Braver

As another year passes and a new one begins, it is only natural to think about how you can improve your life. Many of us try to start this journey of self improvement by making New Year's resolutions. We vow that this year will be the year that we will succeed in keeping them, only to be disappointed yet again. We have all felt this way -- you are not alone.

Behavioral change is hard. We set ourselves up for failure by having unrealistic goals and expectations without having a clear plan of how to execute the change we seek. We often make resolutions because we think we will be happier -- if only we could just lose weight, could just get out of debt, or even just be less stressed. Resolutions that are not kept lead to feelings of failure, yet resolutions that are kept do not necessarily create happiness. So what should one do?

Skip the New Year's resolutions and focus on these lifelong tips throughout the year!

1. Pay attention to the relationships that are the most meaningful. Humans are social creatures. We want to love and feel loved. We strive for intimate connections. Therefore, spend more quality time with family and close friends. Let go of those relationships that are unhealthy and toxic, those that bring you down and drain your energy, or those that don't add significant meaning to your life. The older we get, the faster time seems to fly by. Why not spend it with those we cherish the most?

2. Live according to your values. We are always making choices and our choices have consequences. Everyday, we have dilemmas that we need to resolve. Act from a position of character. Be honest. Respect others. Have empathy. Live generously. Forgive easily. Show humility. When you live a life of integrity, you are creating an authentic life filled with grace and wisdom. Life is difficult at times and there is a fragile thread that binds us all. So much can be lost in a second, but no one can ever take away your character.

3. Live simply. Often times, this is easier said than done, but what does this really mean? It's different for different people. You know what you truly enjoy. Do you really want to buy more things and have more clutter? How do you want to spend your time? Do you want to be "plugged in" by spending countless hours on the computer, your phone, or social media? Carve out time to do the things that bring you the most joy. Unplug from social media and take the time to have a conversation that isn't mediated by bits and bytes. Also, try not taking yourself so seriously. Have fun and laugh at yourself.

4. Be proactive with your physical health. Nothing matters more than taking care of yourself, so that you can enjoy the things you love. Eat right -- include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and consider not eating out so much. Get plenty of exercise, which is good not only for your physical well-being, but also for your mental health. Get enough sleep. Don't underestimate the importance of rest. Lastly, don't do things that are proven to be bad for you. Quit smoking and consume alcohol only in moderation.

5. Be grateful and embrace change. One of the keys to happiness is to focus on what you have instead of what you do not. As a physician, author, wife, and mom to three kids, my to-do list seems endless. Instead of stressing at night about all the things I didn't get to, I choose to focus on all the things I did accomplish. Celebrate the present moment and appreciate what you have. Change is constant, inevitable, and a means to grow as an individual. Allow life to unfold and try to understand what is transforming and why. Things don't always work out as we plan or hope, but by embracing change, we allow ourselves to move forward.

Wishing you all the very BEST in the new year and always! If you have any helpful tips, feel free to share.