Start Simple: A View of the New Year

I love New Year’s. “Regular” New Year, Chinese New Year, Jewish New Year, Indian New Year, whatever New Year tradition there is, count me in. Any reason to start fresh and be given a second chance. How many of us could use a do-over when we mess up? How comforting to know you’ve been given another opportunity to do better. The hope in New Year’s is priceless.

Yet too many people make long lists of New Year’s resolutions and never are successful with any of them. Part of that is trying to take on too much. Your heart is in the right place, but your time schedule is not. Or you write down things you think you should do, but don’t really want to or aren’t quite ready for.

Whether you’re working on self-improvement, helping your child carry through on goals, supporting a spouse, co-worker or friend, it’s the same process. Be honest and start simple. Take one step at a time, bit by tiny bit. Here are 8 Start Simple ideas that are easy enough for kids or adults. Pick one – just one! Once it’s a habit, part of your nature, you can choose another.

1. Keep a Success Log:
Each day write down one way you felt successful or proud of yourself – even if it’s just getting out of bed (which many kids have used minutes before having to leave for school). Tack the paper on your fridge, bulletin board or wherever, and keep adding one a day. In a week you’ll have 7 accomplishments, in a month 30, in a year 365. A great way to keep positive.

2. Make a Gratitude List:
This is especially helpful for turning the tide when you’re feeling low. So make a list. A short list. Even one or three “I’m grateful for’s” can make a difference. If you really want to be generous with yourself, do more. Each time, write the whole sentence out: “I am grateful for this new day.” “I am grateful my daughter didn’t punch her brother on the way to school.” “I am grateful for my work.” “I am grateful I have love in my life.” You get the idea…

3. Breathe Slowly for 2 Minutes:
It doesn’t matter if you breathe through your nose, breathe through your mouth, or breathe in one nostril and out the other – just take 2 minutes (at least to start) to go ‘inside’ and pay attention to your breath. It’s guaranteed to calm and center you.

4. Offer Kindness Each Day:
Do one kind act a day – for yourself – or for another. Helping others gets those feel good juices going. Besides, how wonderful when we take a moment to be kind to each other. Surprise yourself – surprise a friend or family member. Or do something kind without anyone knowing. How’s that feel?

5. Write No Matter What:
In Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, she recommends three pages a day. That idea may be too overwhelming for you or your kids. Start with three sentences. That’s doable. If more pours out – fine – but if not, it doesn’t matter. Write first thing in the morning, last at night, or any time in between. Just write. And write from your heart!

6. Draw Whatever:
Express yourself. Scribble or sketch – whatever’s on your mind or in your heart. Use color. One boy, deeply disturbed by his parents fighting in front of him, didn’t think he had much to express and didn’t think he could draw. That is, till his started scribbling … out came his blue sadness, his red anger, and his yellow feelings of being put in the middle. He scribbled three huge pages of color before he released all his bad feelings and could put them behind and move on.

7. Accept a Compliment:
Next time someone says something nice to, or about you, say “Thank you” instead of “Oh, but…(fill in your personal long list of why you don’t deserve that particular compliment).” Accept love graciously. Take in the good that others want to bestow upon you.

8. Look For the Good:
In yourself… in your family… in any situation. When her Dad became seriously ill (and thankfully later recovered), one teen saw it as a challenge to sharpen her helping skills. She babysat her younger brother, prepared simple meals, and did the dishes, all so her Mom could be at her Dad’s hospital bed. She saw that learning to take on more responsibility was the best of a bad situation. Consider the possibility that the challenges in your life, and the solutions you and your family find, are gifts for growth and development.

This article was originally published on January 4, 2012 by Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D. inPsychology Today for her blog “The Power of Imagination: How Children Can Heal” in the category of Child Development