As 2011 winds to a close and we start the new, exciting year of 2012, it's valuable to take some time to reflect on what the past year was about for us, and what we want to create in the new one. It's a healthy practice I've developed over the years. It's a cherished tradition for me, and I wanted to share it with you here.
Since this column focuses on health, I thought we could first focus on, with love and joy, the healthy accomplishments of the year to which we're bidding goodbye.
Here are some suggestions that might help. Grab a piece of paper and a pen (or your trusty keyboard and mouse) and list five things you did this year that you're proud of. These accomplishments can be anything from personal, to professional, from physical, to spiritual. They can be about your relationships, your environment, your healthy habits, or your recreation, whatever you find meaningful and want to celebrate.
If you can't seem to think of anything, try looking back over your Google calendar (or whatever calendaring system you use). Your past appointments may jog your memory and get the ball rolling on your accomplishments list. Who knows? Maybe you'll find, with an enjoyable sense of nostalgia and gratitude, that you have even more than five items on your list!
If you find this process helpful and you'd like to do it again next year (or more often, maybe even quarterly or monthly), you can institute the regular practice of tracking your accomplishments.
When you manage to complete something special, whatever that means to you, find a system to record it. You could use a personal wiki, make a note on your smartphone, use a text file or Word document, or create a dedicated list on Ta-da List, and make an entry with the date.
If you live in email, a great way to track accomplishments is to send messages to yourself with the word "accomplishment" in the subject line and create a rule that filters for that word and files those emails in a special folder you create, so you can look back over them later.
If you want to get social about your accomplishments, use Facebook or Twitter to share your joy when you get something done.
If you make a practice of this, later it'll be possible to look back on all you've done and be amazed at how much you've completed! If you're messing with Ta-Da List, you might want to create a "bucket list" of all the stuff you'd like to do someday so you can have fun checking the items off one by one, and feel secure in the knowledge that you've got a mechanism in place for keeping track of your future dreams.
An awareness of personal accomplishment is healthy, and engenders a sense of self-efficacy that, if nurtured, will help ensure future success.
Healthy New Year's Resolutions
Speaking of the future, after your reflection on the past, start thinking about what kind of healthy life you'd like to create for yourself in the coming year.
Here are some suggestions to get the ball rolling, and some Internet resources to help you grow into the new you that you want to be before the Times Square ball falls next New Year's Eve.
Maybe this is the year to keep that journal! According to artist Julia Cameron, three pages of longhand writing upon awakening each morning helps to de-gunk your subconscious mind. This stream-of-consciousness writing is for your eyes only, and it helps refresh your creativity.
However, there is no way I'm going to write longhand because I just can't stand writing that way. I'm so much more oriented to the keyboard. Luckily, I found 750 Words, a Web site created by kindred spirit Buster Benson for those of us who like to type our morning pages. Visit 750 Words for more information, and get started.
Make it a game
Whatever you're planning to do to improve your health this year, make it a game! Things are a lot more fun when they're enjoyable, and success is more probable if you boost your engagement level.
Another one of Buster's resources is Health Month, the Game. The basic gist is that you can set up a free account and decide on a couple of health-oriented rules for yourself to follow, sign a little contract with yourself, and interact with other players around meeting your goals.
To sweeten the pot, you can decide on a reward for yourself if you are successful, and, if you wish, provide negative incentive by deciding on a small penalty if you miss your goal. This month, I'll be taking a multivitamin every day, cooking dinner three times a week, and exercising for half an hour at least six days a week on the treadmill. If you don't get your month set up before the stroke of midnight, don't worry. You can always join for next month.
For more information on how gamification can spice up your life, visit ZDNet's Gamification.
There are some ideas for you to get started with planning your year. Next week, I'll be making some suggestions and sharing some resources for how to facilitate lasting change in some of the most popular categories of New Year's Resolutions such as weight loss, exercise, getting organized, and getting finances in order.
Cheers to you, and best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year.