All the current research tells us that much of our own personal happiness is in our hands. The following year planner provides you with a month by month breakdown of how to make 2014 your best year yet.
January – Focus on Your Health
With Christmas over, this is one of the best months to overhaul your health. Think about your diet and general health and write down all the things you feel you are doing well – then write down all the aspects of your diet and exercise regime that you need to change. Until you get into a routine, think a day ahead and plan your menu for the day as this will not only help you stick to your plan but will also help you get into a routine.
Once you have looked at your diet think about your weekly physical activities. Begin to increase your daily exercise by getting off the bus a stop earlier and walking to work, taking the stairs, going for a twenty minute walk at lunchtime – it may be cold but that’s a good reason to walk faster and as your body uses more calories when cold there are other advantages too. This is also a good time to start a new exercise class – chose something you’ll enjoy and be creative – dancing can be fun and is great exercise too.
February – Give Romance an MOT
With Valentine’s Day to look forward to use this month to make sure your relationship is all that it can be. Be honest with yourself – is your relationship working or have you become complacent? Do you and your partner talk about what is important to you both or do you simply pass on information? Try new activities together and act spontaneously to keep the fun alive. List all the things you like about your partner and your relationship – if there is very little on the list then this is the time to move on.
March – Think about Family Matters
It’s people that matter and so many people are either estranged from or have difficulties with family members. There are indiscretions you may not be able to forget and there are also a limited number of chances you can give a person without becoming a doormat. For many the original cause of the problem may have been forgotten and all that remains is the feud itself.
If there is such a dispute in the family, then remember that tension, aggression and resentment are confidence drainers and likely to make you feel stressed. No one is perfect, so see if you can resolve your difficulties. Remember that the best type of conflict resolution is that which is “win/win” – if you insist you are right then you inevitably end up with a “lose/lose”. You may never be close again but at least you will be able to be civil at family events, feel better about yourself and diffuse the concern of other family members caught in the middle.
You may have a great family but not find the time to see them – make the time as the more you see of people you love the better you will feel.
April – Time for a Financial Audit
Money won’t buy you love but managing it well does take the worry out of everyday living. With the advent of the new financial year it is a good time to see whether you are getting the most from your money. Do you have a budget – if not, this is the time to start one. Write down all your income and expenditure and see if you are spending your money wisely. See where you can save such as taking your lunch to work, buying water filters (that cost a fraction of the cost of bottled water) or paying your utility bills monthly especially when you are offered a discount for doing so.
Remember to include all credit and store card debts and check the interest rates being charged. See whether you would be better off by consolidating all your debts into one with a better overall interest rate. Get rid of all non-essential credit/store cards or at least do not take them with you when you shop.
Set up monthly direct debits for savings such as clothes, holidays and the like so that you can enjoy what you purchase without worry.
May – Celebrate Your Friendships
A friendship circle is rather like the layers of an onion – the nearer the centre of the circle, the closer the person is to us.
People move through the rings of our friendship circle. As we see more of people and learn to trust them, they move closer to the centre. Sometimes we may find that people change and we find ourselves moving them from an inner position to more of an outer one. Friendships are not static and they do take two to make them work.
Look at the friendships you have and ask yourself what you like and appreciate about a person and his or her friendship and then what you dislike. You may find that there are some friendships that have passed their sell-by-date and others that you have neglected.
Friendship is like a flower – you need to tend it to make it flourish. Why not write a “thank you letter” to your friend and say why you like the person, what they mean to you and thank them for their friendship. It may feel strange but it will deepen relationships.
June – Parenting Skills Overhaul
We always hear about negative parenting so how about celebrating your positive parenting skills. Being a parent is hard and for many women juggling home, work and children this can make us feel we do not do any of those jobs well enough.
Good enough parenting – a psychological term – means just that – a parent whose parenting is good enough to bring up happy, healthy and emotionally robust children.
Make sure you set time aside to listen and to play with your children. No child is ever likely to remember a dirty kitchen floor but will remember almost certainly if mum and dad were always working and never around to be played with. Make sure routines are adhered to as this makes children feel secure. You may not be able to afford designer clothes but love doesn’t cost money and that’s what really matters.
July – De-Clutter Time
Nearly everyone keeps too many items that would best be either given to a charity shop or binned completely. For some reason we seem to live in a “just in case” culture where people will keep pieces of wood in the garage, old clothes and broken crockery as they might come in handy. Clutter is the physical manifestation of emotional chaos, and so if you want to take control of your life then ditch the clutter.
Work through each cupboard and each room and follow the simple rule of asking yourself if you really need the item in question. Get a friend to help you and give them permission to push you on items. If you are not sure then get rid of it – if it was that important you would know you wanted it. When it comes to clothes ask yourself when you last wore the item and if you have not done so in the last nine months then get rid of it.
Why not organise a “swap evening” with your girlfriends where you take it in turns to swap clothes that you have become bored with or never wear.
August – Makeover time
Everyone needs a makeover from time to time, as it is easy to get stuck in a rut. Suggest to your friends that if they want to get you something for your birthday they club together and pay for you to visit a stylist. Alternatively, many larger stores have personal shoppers who can help you try out new styles. Be adventurous and try things on you would not normally wear – you do not have to buy them but you may be surprised at some of the items that suit you.
When it comes to make-up, why not make the rounds of major department stores as many brands of cosmetics offer free makeovers that allow you to try new ranges without any cost. Remember you do not have to buy!
Charity shops in better off areas have some great bargains – many people find hardly-worn designer labels for next to nothing. When things are this cheap you can afford to change your wardrobe on a regular basis. Also, many beauty and hairdressing schools are on the lookout for models, which means new hairstyles for a pittance.
A top-to-toe makeover can make you feel like a new woman.
September – Make Work Really Work for You
We spend much of our time at work and yet many people stay in jobs they are unhappy with, believing there is nothing they can do to change the situation. However, there is nearly always something you can do to take control. For example, if you are bored with what you do but like the firm and the people you work with then ask your boss for more work and show an interest – many people have found unexpected promotions this way. If you want to move on then sit down and list all the skills you have. If you find this hard keep a note of all the things you do in a normal week, as this will give you the information you need.
Once you have a list of your skills visit employment agencies and read the relevant adverts to see what is available. If you recognise a skills deficit is getting in the way of you getting another job then think about how you can fill it. An evening class may fill the gap and this is the time of year when the new programmes begin. 70% of people find new jobs through word of mouth so let all your friends, family and those you used to work with know you are on the look-out.
October – Learn to Chill-Out
Now that the autumn is here take a look at how you manage stress. Knowing how to relax and make the most of the free time you have is essential to your physical and psychological well being.
Start by asking yourself how often in a week you relax and what you do to relax. If you are finding three or more ways of relaxing in a week give yourself a pat on the back and keep on with what you are doing. If you come up with a zero then take action. The easiest way to relax is in a hot bath using aromatherapy oils in a low-lit environment with gentle music in the background. Twenty minutes of this and your body and your mind are refreshed. Alternatively, simply breathing in and out deeply and slowly four or five times can lower blood pressure.
This exercise is best done little and often throughout the day. Listening to music or reading a book quietly all have calming effects. You can minimise the effects of stress if you take a little time and control over your life.
November – Who am I and What do I Really Believe?
One of the biggest keys to happiness is a sense of purpose in life that translates into making sure you live your life according to your personal values. The best way to work this out is to take an area of your life and ask yourself to list five things that are important to you. For example, you might chose friendship and then list honesty, kindness, fun, consistency and support as your top five qualities. Once you have your list, start from the bottom and ask yourself “if I have support would I have consistency” If the answer is yes then move on to the next item on the list “if I have consistency would I have fun?” If one of your answers is no then think about the word till you find one that does “feel right”. This exercise is not about making rational sense but about you finding out what your values for a given area are.
When you have completed this exercise you will know what values you hold about different aspects of your life and can then judge if you are living your life in a way that supports these or not and what changes you need to make. When your values and your lifestyle are in line with each other the happier you will be.
December – Time to Take Stock
The end of another year and time for you to see just how far you have come and what you want for 2015! Start by looking back over the year and listing all the changes you have made. Give yourself time to enjoy your successes and how far you have come. If you still have some areas you want to work on then undertake a life audit. Break down your life into eight areas, Living Environment, Family, Personal Relationships, Friends/Social Life, Work/Career, Finances, Health and Inner Soul/Spirit.
Then break down each area even further into all the things you like and all the things you want to change. Really savour all the things you like and then set yourself a realistic plan for 2015 regarding all the things you want to change. You cannot change everything at once so set a list of priorities – after all, one change a month soon adds up.
If 2014 was great then make 2015 even better!