Six Intentions To Improve Your Life and The World in 2018
While many often wish for things like losing ten pounds or drinking more water for New Years Resolutions, this year I felt setting intentions would be more meaningful and positively impact my everyday life.
Overall, I ended 2017 with a mixture of feelings - proud of what I have accomplished, excited for the new year, and determined to be the best version of myself possible in 2018.
Below are my six intentions, that upon reflection, I think everyone could benefit from. I have included some research and resources below each intention, to give you a direction to pursue if you wish.
1) Educate yourself every single day.Don't be an ostrich with your head in the sand because you're afraid of the truth of being upset or disrupting your everyday life. This can pertain to your personal life, work life, or what's going on with the government.
While staying on top of politics and understanding the climate of the world (both literally and figuratively) would be my first suggestion, educating yourself in any topic of interest will expand your mind and help you grow as a person. In past years I have avoided reading the news or anything regarding politics because it was constantly depressing and brought me down emotionally. We now live in a world where 1) This kind of approach can be very destructive on our future, and 2) It's becoming harder and harder to discern the truth from lie. Sometimes I wonder if George Orwell's 1984 is more fact than fiction when compared with the direction our political sphere is going (if you haven't read the book, you should really pick up a copy). The only thing we can really do is actively search for the truth, and to not fall into the trap of being passive about our future, both as individuals and as a nation.
2) Discover your flow and make time for it as often as possible.In both my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I researched and published scientific studies on the mental health benefits of flow.
Flow is characterized by the immersion in an activity to the point where you lose awareness for anything else except the activity itself. You are fully engaged, are intrinsically motivated, and the time seems to fly by. People find their flow in many different activities (and you can absolutely have more than one). Some experience flow through playing music, sports, art, dance, and even through interpersonal connection like teaching and relationships.
Now, more than ever, it's becoming easier and easier to lose ourselves in our gadgets - myself included - and mindlessly spend hours on social media. Limit your social media time and invest in a hobby or skill that is scientifically proven to enhance your life, unlike Facebook or Instagram, which as much as we hate to face - has been proven to do the opposite of enhance your life.
The biggest threat to you experiencing flow in your everyday life is your lack of appreciation for doing something you enjoy, regardless of the direct benefit. Many business owners and successful leaders set time each day to do things they love. In turn, your enthusiasm for life and happiness will undoubtedly enhance everything else.
Learn more about the characteristics of flow and how to achieve it in your every day life here and here. You can find my research on flow and happiness by visiting here.
3) Be kind.If I could change the world, I would turn every single person's kindness meter to 10. I truly believe that this world would be a better place if human beings were naturally kind, giving, and empathetic. The reality is, however, human beings are complex, flawed, ebb and flow with their amounts of kindness (and hatred). Rather than thinking kindness is an "you either are or you aren't" sort of deal, a better approach is to set intentions with yourself. When faced with a decision, consider kindness as an important factor. This especially comes into play with relationships and interpersonal communication. If you imagine all communication as energy - never ending - we simply pass it along person by person - you can get the idea as to why spreading kindness can be so meaningful. We all have a choice to react to situations with anger, hatred, frustration. We also have the choice to approach all situations with kindness, compassion, and love. Imagine the kind of world you want to live in, and be an example for not only others, but for yourself. Let's all end 2018 being proud of who we are and how we have carried ourselves through our trails and tribulations.
To learn more about how to become kinder in your everyday life, here is a wonderful article with 40 ways you can practice kindness every day.
4) Give Up Sugar.This is one of the best things you can do for your body, your energy, and your mind in 2018.
Last May, after years of feeling exhausted by 2pm everyday and desperate to not feel so so hungry (and angry) all the time, I decided to join my friend Alison Cebulla's Give Up Sugar For Good detox group. Inspired by her similar tales of exhaustion, binge-eating sweets, and a constant feeling of being starved despite eating tons of (unhealthy) food, I jumped on board for her next six week detox group.
I'm not going to sugar coat it (literally) - it was hard. But, it was the hard-but-you'll-thank-yourself-later-and-be-so-damn-proud kind of hard.
I went through a three week period of detox where I genuinely considered keeping my favorite vice, but to the immense support of my husband, and the Sugar Detox Group (this is what support groups are for, ya'll!), I persevered and gave up sugar completely for the first time in my entire life.
I'm now on round 3 of participating in the Sugar Detox Challenge and have never been more proud of my eating habits.
What are the lasting benefits of giving up sugar, you ask?
I lost twenty pounds and have kept it off. I no longer want to take a nap every afternoon. My moods are significantly more balanced and unrelated to if I've had a high-carb / high-sugar meal. And best of all - my skin has significantly cleared up, the inflammation in my body has gone down, and my gut bacteria is healthy! Other important health benefits include a significant reduction in the chance of diabetes, heart attacks, obesity, cancer, and countless other diseases caused by the impacts of ingesting sugar long term. I have also found I'm much calmer, kinder, and compassionate when sugar isn't controlling the reigns of my brain.
Do yourself a favor and kick the sugar in 2018. Join Alison's next Sugar Detox Group and save your health!
5) Recycle as much as possible.The reality of current recycling standards is horrifying. You can currently find several incredible documentaries on Netflix right now on the topic. There is a literal island in the Pacific ocean made up entirely of plastic bottles and trash. Almost all fish in the ocean have plastic in their bodies, ranging from microscopic (which, you guessed it - gets consumed by us and then in our bodies), to large enough to kill the animal.
In many countries and states, if you throw something into the trash and not recycling, even if it could be recycled, it ends up in a landfill and will not naturally break down. There are rarely standards and companies that go through regular trash to pull out the things that can be recycled.
While we are innovating and continuing to come up with new ways to recycle, the most important step and responsibility is still with each individual person. Throw away your trash in the appropriate receptacle. Use a reusable coffee mug, water bottle, shopping bags, and anything else that allows for a reduction in waste. Buy products that are made from recycled products, thus encouraging and supporting the companies that reuse waste rather than make it. Consider taking in your clothing to recycling stations (which exist in most large cities), rather than a thrift store. Many thrift stores throw away clothes that are unfit for reselling, adding to the mountain of wasted clothing that the world produces every single day. I have personally transition my apparel line with Dirtbag Runners to utilize eco-friendly products, even if they are slightly more expensive.
Here is a list of the top ten ways that you can recycle, and a very detailed website on recycling solutions.
6) Practice daily gratitude for what you have and find ways to help others.Ever feel so overwhelmed with life and your own life struggles that you are engulfed with depression or anxiety?
If you said yes to the above, you're a part of the majority of people living in modern times.
It's sort of a weird combination - oftentimes those with the most blessings end up being the least grateful, and vice versa.
The solution to depression and sadness to count your blessings and do good things for others.
This is a lesson instilled in me from my Grandmother, who lived through the Great Depression and made it all the way to 100-years-old (and one month, to be precise!). She never let me, for a single moment of my life, allow myself to wallow in self pity for more than a few moments before she reminded me to count my blessings.
I used to scoff at my Grandmother when she would toss aside my complaints about the little molehills I thought were mountains as a child. Over the years, I gradually started to understand the message she was trying to tell me.
"I grew up with eight brothers and sisters," My Grandmother would tell me, eyes drifting into the distance and deep into her memories. "We were immigrants. Barely had enough money for food. If we were lucky, every few months we would get a piece of fruit to share as a treat. It took six of my siblings and I to save up money one summer to get our very first radio. We lived in a small industry town in Pennsylvania, right next to the train tracks. As a child, I would watch hundreds of desperate and gaunt-looking men ride the train through town and on to the next, looking for work. Many were starving and had no money. Even though we were so poor that we never once had new clothing or quite enough food, you know what my mother always did? Every day, she would bake an extra loaf of bread or pie, knowing that these men were much worse off than we were. She became known for being the kind woman who lived in the small house by the train tracks, who would give you a bowl of soup and slice of bread if you asked. She never once accepted any money when occasionally they'd be able to offer it. To this day, I think about all of the lives she impacted and it reminds me to be a better person, and that there is always a way to give to others less fortunate."
Her small acts of everyday service enabled her to feel gratitude for the opportunity to help others.
At a loss for how you can help others and practice gratitude? Here is a list of 13 fun and easy ways to get involved in your local community and 41 ways that you can give back.
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This next week, write out each intention on a post-it note, or somewhere that you can look at every day. Start each morning with these intentions in mind, and think about the type of person you want to be and the kind of world you want to live in. It's up to each of us individually to together make this world a kinder, healthier, and happier place.