That’s my dear friend, Lindsey, up there. She climbed to the 14,000 ft summit of Mt. Sneffels in 2013, and in this photo, she’s totally at peace, happy and wild and free, in her element.
As we begin another new year with open minds and hearts, it marks the perfect time to work on becoming better people. Rather than mustering up some quick-fix resolutions on how to be happier and more successful (turns out that’s a real popular Google search), I suggest we spend the whole year on self-improvement and making room in our hearts for ourselves and the people who love and need us.
Happiness and success can only be born in a whole, happy heart!
That being said, I’ve decided to share some steps I plan to take (or have already taken) to open my heart wider, and I encourage you to join me. I would love to hear what your goals or resolutions are for the new year too, so please share with everyone in a comment.
(This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and buy something I’ll get like 4 cents for it. The product recommendations in this post are my very own).
1. Observe Your Moments and Offer Yourself to them Completely
Not to be confused with “live in the moment,” because, what a mundane thing to suggest we all do! Living in the moment is a great concept but the delivery lacks a lot of glam and really misses the point. If there are 100 of us in a room together living through the exact same moment, not a single one of us will experience it the same way as another. The beauty of this perspective is that your moments are yours and no one else’s.
In order to recognize your moments, you have to be there for them. So slow down. Instead of driving, take a bike or better yet, walk. Observe the trees and the flowers, feel the wind on your face, listen to the rustle of leaves, the buzzing of bees, and discover what it is about that moment that makes you happy.
Fully allow yourself to be happy in your moments. Completely give yourself to them. And realize that your moments are always there for you to go to whenever you need a safe, sane place.
2. Figure Out What Moves You and Then Go Be That for Other People
Do you possess an inner light? Why is it there? Where does it come from? What makes it shine brighter? And do you radiate it out to other people in a helpful, loving, inspiring way?
Perhaps you don’t know how to answer these questions. Maybe you’ve never imagined your inner light before, or you don’t subscribe to a particular religious or other-worldly belief system that helps facilitate where it should come from. Regardless, we all have a place inside of ourselves that shines brighter when we’re around some people and some places and it tends to dim in others. When we shine our brightest, that’s when we inspire other people, make new friends, and attract positivity in every aspect of our lives.
Ask yourself a few questions to help discover your inner light:
- – From where do I derive hope?
- – Where does my head go in times of sadness, worry and doubt? Do I speak or pray to something?
- – Where does my head go when I’m extremely happy? How do I express gratitude for everything wonderful in my life?
- – What particular place makes me feel safe and whole? Can I access this place on a frequent basis or should I find a new place where I can go to recharge my light?
3. Start Something New and Reap All the Benefits Solely for Yourself
Most of us will spend the majority of our adult lives working for someone else and giving all of our time, energy, creativity, patience (and sometimes even our precious inner light) to help achieve someone else’s dream. We do it for a paycheck and we do it to live. But I encourage you: This year, this month, this week – start something new that is for no one else but yourself. Not your spouse, your children, your friends, your boss. This one thing is for YOU and you alone.
You are not allowed to feel selfish or bad about the time you’re devoting to yourself, or that this thing that is your own is done in vain. Because it’s not. Because when you have something that is completely yours and no one else’s, you will discover yourself and become a better person, and emerge with far more gratitude and self-love through the process.
So what is your “something” of self-love and exploration going to be? It could be a new hobby; something you’ve always wanted to learn how to do or make. It could be the website or blog you’ve been thinking about starting for the past five years. Maybe it’s special time you set aside for self-care – a new fitness regime, a cleanse, yoga and meditation. Maybe you grow a garden this year and become more in tune with Mother Earth (Here’s 6 reasons why you should do that anyway). Whatever it is, the key is to make it yours, and allow yourself to reap all the glorious benefits of spending your own precious time with you.
4. Unpack Your Baggage and Deal with Your Emotions One-On-One
The first time I heard the phrase “unpack your baggage,” it was last summer and I was in my car listening to Brene Brown’s audiobook, The Power of Vulnerability. I highly recommend listening to this – Brene is incredibly inspirational and the comedic goddess of love, kindness and acceptance. Unpacking my baggage was something I had partially done by the time I heard Brene put it this way. I love the phrase so much that I’ve chosen to use it here.
Emotions come in and out of our lives, some like long-lost friends we’ve badly missed, others like that nosey neighbor across the street who just will not lay off your business. When we take the time to understand and deal with the latter, our understanding of ourselves significantly improves.
Unpacking your emotional suitcase (my advice, but I still suggest you listen to Brene):
- – Invite your emotions in and take care of them like helpless children in need. Sit down with them in a comfortable, warming place (maybe in your bed with a warm blanket and light some candles – whatever makes you most comfortable). Ask your emotions why they’ve arrived and what they need to get better. Realize they have a place in your life, they’re there for a reason, and you have control in understanding your own emotional patterns.
- – Set boundaries with your emotions (You can hang with Worry and Sadness for a little while, but they need to leave by 6:00 so you can move on with your day).
- – When Anger arrives, allow him to stay up to 5 minutes but no longer. Give your attention to Anger and try to understand why he is there, but realize that the morning’s going to be dreadful and super awkward if you let him stay overnight.
- – For women, it is incredibly helpful to track your feminine cycle and gain understanding of how your emotions fluctuate during the month. I realized this about myself by journaling. I tend to write in my journal only when I am deeply disturbed or unhappy over something, so by going back and reading my entries, I recognized a pattern of emotions, particularly around ovulation. Being in tune with where you are in your moon is incredibly important for understanding why and when you come down with extreme emotions.
I have a handful of people in my life who suffer from diagnoses that include severe depression and anxiety. This “emotional unpacking” may make it seem easy to manage our emotions when in fact that is just not the case for a lot of people, and I want to recognize that these suggestions are not meant to seem lighthearted but can, in fact, be very helpful for those who are not clinically diagnosed.
5. Reestablish Your Relationship with Nature
“When we honor the Earth, we honor ourselves” – L.M. Wilde
We belong to our planet – not the other way around – and we are deeply connected to the ecosystem we live in. Nature wants you and needs you to care about her… How amazing does it feel to be wanted and needed? I know that I appreciate and need that feeling.
Harboring inner peace and feeling like your heart is swaddled in a warm, fuzzy, happy blanket is so much easier to achieve when we spend time in nature. Just try it. When we’re outside in the sunshine breathing fresh air and spending time with slow-growing plants, it helps us realize that life isn’t a race. And that everywhere, there is magic.
If you live in a city like me, it can be hard to find nature on a daily basis, so you need to plan for it. Here are some ideas:
- – Look up your closest State or National Park and plan a day trip of hiking and picnicking in the spring (or maybe even try to visit all the closest parks you can!) The AllTrails app makes it fun to track where you’ve been and the amount of miles you’ve hiked.
- – Take naps and read books under trees on the weekends – having a hammock helps.
- – Learn the names of the trees, shrubs and flowers in your yard or on your street. Plant identification requires you to get up close and personal with plants – touching, smelling and sometimes even tasting them.
- – Plant something new every year in your yard. It could be a fruit tree, a new wildflower, a medicinal herb, a few raspberry canes, a free hosta you got from your neighbor, anything!
- – START A GARDEN. THIS YEAR. See my post for advice: 4 Steps to Planning Your Organic Garden.
- – Forage for wild edible plants – A great book to reference: Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods by Thomas Elias.
- – Become a bee hunter! No, really. – Read this first: Following the Wild Bees: The Craft and Science of Bee Hunting by Thomas D. Seeley.
6. Get Your Tendencies for Mindless Consumption Under Control
If you happen to be at home while reading this, take a look around (or just imagine yourself at home in the busiest room in your house). How many things can you count that are just “there”? Meaning, they serve no useful purpose nor do they bring your soul any sort of joy when you look at them or hold them. Or, when was the last time you went shopping and bought a bunch of junk you didn’t need because it was on sale? (Target dollar spot what)
I’ll admit, I have these things. But the truth is, we waste so much money, and so many of our planet’s precious natural resources, on things that serve no real purpose in our lives.
In order for us to live with whole, happy hearts, we must purge the distractions and excess from our lives. Maybe this takes the form of people who suck the life out of you – in that case, it’s time to move on. Or perhaps you just have a ton of possessions that seemingly fill a void but really don’t. It will feel amazing to get rid of all that crap.
Every time you go to a store, be it for groceries, clothing, or even shopping for fun, ask yourself several times before you buy something, “Why do I want this so badly? Do I need this? Is this thing speaking the language of my soul? Is this thing good for my health?”
I highly recommend reading this book: The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard. Beware though because it’s the reason I now try to thrift nearly everything I own.
7. Discover Your Relationship Patterns
I have a lot of unique people in my life that have inspired my realization of relationship patterns. One friend, in particular, has so many people in her life that love her and “best friend” her that it can, at times, be overwhelming for her. She happens to be one of the most selfless, caring, loving people in my life. I have known other people who have spit poison into every one of their relationships, be it with family, friends, co-workers, you name it. There’s always a problem and it’s because, more often than not, they are instigators and all around have sh– for attitudes.
What is the overarching theme for the relationships in your life? Start by making a list of your most important people and write down keywords that define how you feel about your people and your relationship with them. Your results may not sync across the board, but you’re guaranteed to discover something you might be doing too much or not enough of. Recognize the way you feel when you think about the people in your life. Look for your patterns. Don’t hide from those patterns. Deal with them and you may find closure in some areas and you might just open doors in others.
Happy New Year! Peace & Love,