I know what you’re thinking…this is a New Year’s Resolutions post. Well, maybe that’s partially right, but this isn’t your standard list of resolutions. People often think of a new year as a fresh start and new beginning, and that’s why it’s so popular to choose something to change or work on as a new venture. Following these pieces into your daily living can create a more positive personal and professional life for you and for others around you. This short list is not just about self-improvement. It’s also about making a progressive change in general.

Limiting Electronic Device Usage

You’ve heard it many times. We are too dependent on our devices. For some of you, this may not be an issue, but for the rest, it is. I left my cell phone at home the other day. All day, until I got home, I felt like I was missing a limb. (And, I consider myself one of the less dependent. I could go a few hours without looking at or thinking about my phone.) Our devices have become so much a part of us that just knowing they are around, even if you aren’t checking them, is a comfort. What if someone needs me? What if I need someone? What if I see a Cheetah using the crosswalk in the middle of Center City Philadelphia? It could have escaped from the zoo, it could be the Cheetos Cheetah, or I could be hallucinating, but either way, I need to immediately tell all of my friends via facebook or twitter. These are all very practical questions that we run into everyday, but I think we will survive without the use of a phone or device. We want to have everyone at all times directly attached to our fingertips. Remember that having them at your fingertips means they have you at theirs. You’ll always be accessible. While there’s inherently nothing wrong with that, it sounds a little obsessive and stressful. Sure, it’ll be stressful at first when you don’t check or use your device as often. However, in the long run, breaking this habit might just be healthier. Research shows that individuals who use their devices excessively may experience higher levels of stress, sleep problems and depressive symptoms. How do we start changing this pattern of behavior?

Personally: While driving you shouldn’t be texting, making constant calls, checking emails and so forth. Your number one job is to get to your destination safely without harming those around you. So, even though it isn’t illegal to use your devices in some states, you might consider putting your phone in your glove compartment of purse where you can’t see it until you stop your vehicle. You could also tell people you’re about to drive or set an automatic reply if it will be a long distance. Our listening skills are the least taught in the school system, and we have a real issue with listening to someone fully without wanting to interject our own thoughts. We also find our attention shifting, and that’s without a device to further distract you. Focus on the person or people you are with because if you’re always on your phone, you’re always in that electronic box and never in the moment (as cliché as that sounds, I like the truth behind it.) Make the people you’re with feel worth your time. You know what I realized the day I left my phone at home? When I was engaging with others around me, I was not thinking about my cell phone or any other distractions. I was present in the moment. I know this is hard to do for those of us who carry around our cell phones with us everywhere we go, but maybe take a minute to enjoy what and whoever is around you.

Professionally: I understand that some of us need to take work home with us, but make time for family and friends and turn it off/put it on silent for at least a few hours everyday. On the flip side of the coin, don’t use your devices at work when you should be working. Stop texting people outside of work about that Cheetah. Pay attention to the tasks you have at hand. Overall, where you are, you should be.

Adjusting Your Sleeping Habits

For some of us, it is difficult to get a good night’s sleep. However, without proper sleep, it effects you physically and mentally. You walk around in a fog, often with a headache, sometimes coupled with nausea, drowsiness, and the list goes on for part, if not all, of the day. This decreases productivity at work and decreases the quality of time you spend with your loved ones. So, what can we do to change how rested you feel? Go to bed a bit earlier. In fact, getting into bed about an hour to an hour an half earlier than you want to fall asleep is an excellent tactic to help your body wind down. If you’re in the place you sleep, laying flat, with your head on the pillow, watching television or reading, your mind will start to tell your body it is time to sleep. If reading or television are distractions, close the book or shut the TV, and simply lay in the dark with your eyes closed. You could meditate right before bed, and often times, you may find yourself relaxed enough to sleep easier. Those who mediate before bed were found to have less insomnia symptoms and sleep issues. If you’re the type of person whose thoughts run amuck at night, and that keeps you up, try these other tools. SleepTime Tea by Celestial Seasonings or Sweet Dreams by Bigelow may work. Any Chamomile blend might do the trick. Try steeping for at least fifteen minutes to get the full effect. You can also drink warm milk with a bit of cinnamon. Taking herbal sleep aids found in organic or natural aisles of certain grocery stores may also help, but consult a doctor before trying these. After using some of these methods, it may be too difficult to fight the physical need to sleep and drowsiness. Whatever you do, don’t have those devices with you in bed! Put them away and on silent when you get into bed.

Professionally: Getting good sleep will mean that you’ll be more productive at work. Without sleep, you work at a slower pace because it takes longer for your mind to send signals to your body to type faster, move quicker, and so forth. Your mind will also be clear and focused for brainstorming. If your job calls for creativity sleep is especially essential.

Personally: The quality of time spent with those you care about will be boosted with extra sleep. You can be more attentive, engaged in more thoughtful conversation, and you’ll have the desire to do more activities with them in any context. When you’re tired, the ability to do anything engaging is difficult. NOTE: If you get tired after a long day of work, try taking just a 10-20 minute nap. This has been proven to re-energize without overwhelming the body.

Being a Ray of Light

The world is full of cynical people. Why not try to put happiness into the world? You may even get some back.

Personally & Professionally: Being nicer to people. If you think you’re already nice, there’s always room to be more thoughtful. Open doors. Bring cookies to the office or a get together. Do anything extra that shows thought and may brighten someone’s day. You never know what internal struggles someone is facing or what general stressors may be getting to them that day. It’s hard to be empathetic, the thing where you put yourself in someone else’s position. However, if you can wrap your head around how they may feel or think, then maybe you will better understand their behaviors and the things they do and say. Understanding what their personality is like and the facets about them, really reading into someone, can help you to not take offense or get upset when they act a certain way or say something you don’t like. People often don’t realize how they are perceived, and their intentions aren’t always aiming to be negative. If these people are people you consider friends or family, try using empathy as a tool to help yourself from getting upset and to help them to feel valued.

Professionally: Being nicer at work can mean that you’re looked upon favorably. Maybe you are the first one chosen to lead on a team or a project that you’ve really wanted to get started. When you ask for something or something goes wrong, people will also be more understanding. Are you going to need to leave early for an appointment? Do you need someone to cover your work or shift because you’re sick? Maybe your boss and co-workers will make an effort to help you in tough circumstances if you’ve been kind to them.

Personally: Whether they aren’t you favorite person, they’re a stranger, or they are your best friend, a little kindness can’t hurt. In fact, it can help you in the long run. If you act favorable towards someone, they are more likely to act favorable towards you in the future. Even that cranky bagger at your grocery store may give you a smile and say, “Happy Holidays.” Here’s a fun game that I tried one time. I wanted to start incorporating three acts of kindness into each day. Of course, you can donate to charities, do volunteer work, etc., but the acts of kindness don’t have to take time, money or much effort. Some days, it would be the same act three times, letting someone go in front of me in line, letting the other car go in traffic, telling a person I just engaged in small talk with to have a really nice day, said with sincerity. If you take a second to do small things, the joy does spread.

While some are practical and some are more ethical, I hope that this advice can be useful in all aspects of your life in the coming years. Happy (Almost) New Year!

www.psychologytoday.com; www.sciencedaily.com; www.mayoclinic.com – sources