Monday, January 6, 2014

Tips for Creating Your Own Happy New Year

By Mike Nitzel, Principal
Thomas Jefferson Elementary School
Rock Island-Milan (IL) School District
Milan, Illinois 

At the beginning of every new year most of us are wished a Happy New Year.  Happy new years, however, don't just happen on wishes and dreams. Happiness takes work-24/7/365.  I don’t pretend to be any kind of expert on happiness nor do I have any big secrets to share with you. What I can share with you are several things that have worked for me that have helped me become a happier and more content person. Here they are.

Surround Yourself With Positive Energy—Nothing can drag you down more than being around what Spiro Agnew called those “nattering nabobs of negativism”. Stay away from them insofar as you can. Put yourself with positive people. They will lift you up. Twitter can be a great place to surround yourself with positive people; my PLN is proof of that! 

Choose Your Attitude—Let’s face it. In spite of your best efforts to avoid them, you’re going to find yourself surrounded by negative people from time to time. Remember that when you are, you have a choice as to how you react to them. You can allow yourself to be dragged down into negativity or you can make a conscious choice to stay above it and stay positive. Find something to think about that makes you smile. For example, when I’m starting to feel negative about this or that, I sometimes think about the song, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s, “The Life of Brian”. It always makes me smile.   

Forget Resolutions and Think Life Changes—The shelf life of resolutions is not very long, unless you’re willing to commit to changing your behavior. Think about “going on a diet”. If you approach losing weight as a diet, the very word implies that it’s temporary. If you really want to lose weight, you’ll determine to make a permanent change in the way you eat and you’ll increase the amount of exercise you do. You will need to make these things habits and habits usually take somewhere around 60 days to form. Once you’ve formed a habit, you’ve made a lifestyle change. True, you can slip back into old habits, but you’re less likely to do so if you view what you’ve done as a permanent change rather than a temporary one.

Determine to Learn Something New—Learning something new keeps your mind active and sharp. An active mind, engaged in an activity you want to do, makes for a happier mind. Maybe you want to learn more about Google Apps; get after it!  Perhaps, like me, you want to learn a new language. Let’s get going! I’m going to work on my Spanish. 

Set Time Aside for Yourself Each Day—Life is so frenzied these days, isn’t it?  It’s easy to find yourself buried under things that you have to do. It is important that you save time each day to do something you WANT to do.  You’re important and the things you want to do deserve your attention.  I reserve the time after 9:00 p.m. each day solely for things I want to do. Some nights I might read. Some nights I might write. Others I might watch TV.  Whatever the activity, it’s time set aside to do something I enjoy and to let my mind slow down a bit before I turn in for the night. 

End Your Day with Wins—We have a tendency to dwell on the negative.  How many times have you tried to go to sleep at night, only to have the negative things that happened in your day flood your mind? Instead, take 10 minutes before you go to sleep and think about all that went right during your day. It’s not meditation, exactly, but rather focused thought. It takes some practice to keep the negative thoughts at bay, but once you get the hang of it I’ve found that it really works. Give it a try! 

Get Plenty of Sleep—Sometimes this is easier said than done. I know. I’ve suffered from sleep onset insomnia for years. I would lie in bed for two or three hours before I could get to sleep. It’s awful. I’ve tried every medication in the book and while they worked initially, after a while they no longer did the trick. And I’m not wild about the side-effects of medication. I’ve found that changing my routines before I go to bed at night has been effective for me in terms of getting better sleep. Spending time at the end of the day doing things I want to do and thinking about my wins before I try to go to sleep have worked to put my mind in a more relaxed state and one that’s ready for sleep. Also, I rarely watch television or work on my computer in bed. The visuals can activate centers in the brain which can impede sleep. 

Healthy Eating and Exercise—I’m feeling like a bit of a hypocrite on this one because over the last couple of years I’ve begun to look more than a little like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. However, I’m going to do better starting immediately. I’m going to change the way I live and do a better job of eating and exercising. To help motivate me I’ve joined the #500in2014 challenge on Twitter; it’s a good support system and I find that goals are more attainable when you work alongside others. My goal is to run 250 miles and walk an additional 250 miles over the course of the year. Coupled with a change in my eating habits (sorry M&M’s), I’m hoping to drop 20 pounds and get back to a healthier weight. I may not run/walk 500 miles every year for the rest of my life, but I am going to establish and maintain healthy eating and exercise regimens that are realistic for me. 

Do Something for Someone Else Each Day—Doing something nice for someone else is the best way in the world to make you feel good. It doesn’t matter how small the effort might seem to you—a short note to someone saying you appreciate them, a treat dropped in a mailbox—these simple things can really work to lift someone’s spirits. It’s not about the “thing” the other person receives, it’s the simple gesture of letting someone know you’re thinking of them that counts.  And something else—whatever you do, do it anonymously and expect nothing in return. Try to do this once a day. 

Save Time for Personal/Professional Development Each Day—Spend some time reading, spend some time on Twitter, do something to grow personally and/or professionally. For example, I try to spend at least 30 minutes a day with my PLN on Twitter.  I ALWAYS learn something from my PLN every time I go on Twitter! 

There are so many other things that you could do to make a happy new year for yourself.  These are simply some of the things that have worked for me.  I would be very interested in hearing some of your ideas!  Please share a comment or two!  Thanks for taking time out of your busy lives to read this.  As always, I genuinely appreciate it!  Oh, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!    

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