Setting New Year’s resolutions can be a frustrating proposition. It’s disheartening to look back at old resolutions to see they’ve failed to take hold yet again or to struggle creating a new, exciting idea for self-improvement.
Let science give you some help.
FSU faculty members gave their suggestions for changes that will improve your life and are backed up by research and academic expertise.
Anjali Austin, professor and chair of the School of Dance
Austin teaches ballet technique and other dance courses to undergraduate and graduate students and mentors graduate thesis concerts.
During the holidays, “we can find ourselves expending our energies at remarkable speeds and tailoring our time to the needs of others,” she said. “How might we also garner these energies to invest in the care of ourselves?”
Self-care, nourishing foods and exercise have positive physical and mental effects on the body, which will respond with greater flexibility, coordination and strength, Austin said. Research on the benefits of physical exercise on the brain shows that exercise increases connections among neurons.
“When we take the time to rest and reinvigorate ourselves, it helps us be our best self,” she said. “This may be the best gift we can offer to others.”
Anne Barrett, professor of sociology and director of the Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy
As director of the Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy, Barrett studies gender and aging, subjective aging, ageism and cultural constructions of later life.
At any age, time and energy invested in friendship is well-spent. Because we choose our friends and they choose us, friendships validate our sense of self.
“Studies consistently find that friends are just as important to our well-being as family,” Barrett said. “In fact, they improve our mental health more than any other relationship except spouses. Supportive friendships also enhance physical health and cognitive functioning. They are especially important in later life, as widowhood and retirement can shrink our social networks. The number of friends is far less important than simply having someone you can confide in and call when you need support.”
Paul Conway, assistant professor of psychology
Conway studies the psychology of morality and justice — how people think about good and bad, right and wrong and whether to help or harm others.
He has advice for people who find it hard to stick with their resolutions when they’re tired or faced with temptation.
“Research suggests it helps to try adopting an ‘abstract mindset’ to stay the course,” Conway said. “Think about not just what you are doing but why you are doing it. What kind of person do you want to be? Envisioning your future self who is succeeding at your goals helps remind people why they have set their goals and helps provide that extra motivational ‘oomph.’”
Remember that human beings are not perfect, and mistakes and failure are likely as you work toward your goals.
“It helps to expect this at the outset and try not to let it change your vision of yourself,” he said. “You can still work toward achieving your ideal self even though there are sometimes a few setbacks.”
Mark McNees, teaching faculty in the Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship
McNees specializes in social entrepreneurship and innovation and is the founder of a coffee company and a church in Tallahassee.
Healthy, happy, productive entrepreneurs live by S.E.A.S., he said:
– Sleep: Many people are tired because they don’t get enough of the right sleep. Best practices are to turn off your screens at 8:30 p.m. and be asleep by 10 p.m.
– Exercise: Exercise is good for the mind, body and soul. Find something you like to do and make it part of your daily routine.
– Agua: Many people walk around dehydrated, which affects their health, happiness and productivity. To ensure you are getting enough water, carry a travel mug with you with the goal of refilling it every two hours.
– Service: The secret to happiness is living a life of generosity. Do something every day to make someone else’s life better.