I've never been a big believer in New Year's resolutions. Over the years, I have resolved – with the best intention – to lose 10 pounds (in 2010); to learn Spanish (2009 and 2012); to ban all starch from my diet (2014, lasted three days).
This year, I'm not making a resolution. Instead, I'm going to work on being happy – or happier – every single day. Rather than get bogged down by petty grievances, inconveniences or disappointments that seem monumental at the time (and inconsequential in a matter of weeks), I'm going to make a commitment to seek out the positive, and not dwell on the negative.
Don't get me wrong, I have no intention of becoming this annoying beam of sunshine that puts everyone's teeth on edge. I want to be quietly hopeful. More grateful. Satisfied. Relaxed.
Neil Pasricha, a Canadian author known for his The Book of Awesome series and a TED Talk speaker, says a healthier outlook is attainable, with a little work and discipline. "I've never made a New Year's resolution. They're ripe for failure. Only 8 per cent of people actually keep their New Year's resolutions [according to a 2013 University of Scranton study]. Normally in life, you don't want to sign up for something that has a 92-per-cent failure rate," he says.
Instead, Pasricha recommends a simple system for staying on a happier track. Take a cue card and write down three things: I am grateful for… I will focus on … I will let go of worrying about…
Examples might be, I'm grateful for the picture my child drew me. I will focus on leaving the house five minutes earlier in the morning. I will let go about worrying about finding a parking spot. Just for that day. (And if you skip one, he says don't sweat it).
"It's a two-minute morning exercise," Pasricha says. "It's about taking simple steps to prime yourself for productivity, accomplishing something, and feeling good about it. I also jot down five things I'm grateful for every day."
As your happy meter improves, gratitude also gets easier.