Yeah, yeah, you made some New Year’s resolutions. And you might keep them–but the odds are stacked against you. Only about 16 percent of people over the age of 50 actually achieve their resolution goals. Our solution? Ditch the old-school resolutions! Instead, try five actions that are fun and likely to increase your happiness.
But first, the uber-resolutions from our friends at AARP: 1) Be specific; and 2) Start small. We’re talking simple baby steps, not the Resolutions Ironman. You don’t want to “exercise more,” whatever that means. What you want is, for example, to go to Zumba class on Monday and Wednesday.
Here are actions for living better in 2018:
- Once a week, do something you really love to do. Your to-do list may be full, but what about your soul? Take time—fifteen minutes, an hour, an evening—for something you love to do. Take an art class, see a play (or act in one), walk in the woods, watch an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer while not multi-tasking, play a fiddle or tap-dance around the living room. Whatever it is, make it something you enjoy that isn’t on the must-do list.
- Go to bed 15 minutes earlier. More than half of postmenopausal women reported waking up not feeling well-rested four days or more in the past week, in a 2017 study by the National Health Interview Survey of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Perimenopausal women were somewhat better off, with 47 percent waking up not-well-rested. However, postmenopausal women were most likely to have trouble falling asleep. Since being well-rested makes the pursuit of happiness so much easier, getting more, better sleep is a worthy goal any time of year. One way to start is by going to bed a little earlier. Say, 15 minutes earlier. Earlier means more time to slow down your mind and body and a better shot at good sleep. For more, check out these tips from the National Sleep Foundation.
- Read one good book every month. Oh, so many reasons to read a book! One is that the focus required for reading an actual book helps keep your mind sharp—and that’s a possible Alzheimer’s defense. But there’s more: reading can fire your imagination, make you better-informed, inspire new ideas and keep you interested in the world around you. Books can make you a great party guest, too. Too busy to read? Start small, with one book per month. Or, an hour per week (see #1 above), which would be enough time to get you through an entire book of reasonable length within a month.
- Spend time with a friend each week. In case you hadn’t noticed, loneliness and social isolation are major health threats. It’s fine—healthy, even—to enjoy your own company, of course. That’s different from spending your time caring for children or aging parents, or spending time with a spouse, but never having the opportunity to share your thoughts or feelings. Conversely, as Midlife Chic observes, some midlife women find themselves feeling lonely because the social interactions associated with child-raising have disappeared as their children have matured. Whatever the cause, the cure is to spend time with a friend. A walk, an art fair, a pedicure, a lunch—feeling connected is usually a positive.
- Be kind to yourself once a day. Let’s assume you’re already kind to others. But what about being kind to yourself? If you are your harshest critic, try flipping the script to become your kindest friend. Treating yourself with the same kindness, care and concern you show for a loved one can make it easier to improve what you want to improve and reduce the shame, guilt, depression and anxiety that go along with harsh self-judgment. But how? Give yourself permission to not do something on your “do” list. Take 15 minutes to give yourself a hug of forgiveness for being so imperfect. Take a walk instead of cleaning the kitchen. And don’t forget #1 above.