Get the new year off to a good start with these positive changes.
Step 1: Sign a contract Help a resolution stick by creating a commitment contract: put aside some money with a trusted friend or relative, and resolve to make good on your promise within a set period. When the time's up, if you haven't kept your vow, the money goes to charity. People who used this technique to quit smoking increased their likelihood of succeeding by 30 percent over those who didn’t.
Step 2: Forgive someone Forgive someone. People who let go of past resentments may end up feeling less angry overall and may be less likely to feel depressed. In one study, chronic back pain sufferers experienced marked relief after practicing a forgiveness meditation.
Step 3: Start a diary Ring in the new year by starting a diary. Research has indicated that journal writing may help you identify the causes of your anxiety, increase mental focus and memory, and improve your ability to cope with upsetting or difficult experiences.
TIP: If you made a resolution to lose weight, a food diary can help you stick to your diet.
Step 4: Spend less than you make Make this the year you begin living below your means so you can start paying down any debts and start building up emergency and retirement funds; creating a budget can help. Make saving easier by setting up automatic contributions.
Step 5: Splurge on flowers Resolve to surround yourself with flowers in the new year: one study showed people have less anxiety and are more compassionate in the presence of fresh flowers at home, and they were likely to feel happier even while at work. Buy or plant them for yourself, and send them to loved ones.
Step 6: Take baby steps Break down a long-standing goal into several smaller ones and track your progress, so that this time next year you're toasting your successes instead of making the same old resolutions.
FACT: The early Romans celebrated March 1 as the first day of the year until Julius Caesar moved it to January 1 in the year 45 BCE.