The new year is upon us, and that means a fresh start.  This is the perfect time to reassess where we are going in life, where we want to go, and how we are going to get there.  Here are some ways to improve your quality of life in the new year.

1.  Set better boundaries.

Setting limits is one of the most courageous things we can do.  It is a challenge to let people know what you will and will not tolerate.  Be aware that setting boundaries may result in others being upset with you.  But the people who are your true companions in life will respect your boundaries.  Consider setting boundaries and saying “no” about:

  • Being asked to do things at the last minute.
  • Being spoken to in a way that is not kind or respectful.
  • Being unfairly criticized.
  • Being told you need to be someone different to be acceptable.
  • Peer pressure and competition to have the best clothes, house, and car.
  • Doing activities that are unhealthy for you, or make you not feel good about yourself.

2.  Get more sleep.

Humans need 8 to 10 hours of quality sleep every night.  Teenagers need 10 to 12 hours.  Note I said “quality sleep”.  When you get quality sleep, you wake up feeling refreshed.  If you are waking up and never fully feeling restored, you may be suffering from sleep deprivation.

If you have consistently poor sleep, consider doing the following:

  • Get a sleep study done.  There are sleep study centers that are stand-alone clinics, and ones that are connected to hospitals.
  • Have the same sleep/wake time, even on weekends.
  • Sleep in a completely dark room. Light-blocking curtains are available online and in home furnishing departments.
  • Have background noise, whether it is a hypnosis recording or soft music.  Background sound blocks out extra noises that can wake you up at night, like the house creaking or a branch tapping on your window.
  • Shut off your electronic devices at least an hour before bed.  A study found that backlit devices inhibit melatonin release in your brain.  Melatonin is a hormone your body produces to get ready for sleepy time.

3.  Exercise daily.

Exercise has been found to be an effective treatment for anxiety, depression, ADHD, When you exercise even for 20 minutes it helps boost your brain chemicals – dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and GABA.  If you have depression, anxiety, or ADHD, these brain chemicals may be naturally low – so exercise helps treat your symptoms.  The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends 1 hour of exercise per day – and only 40% of people in the US get that recommended amount.  Remember, taking the stairs instead of the elevator counts as exercise – so does parking further away from your office and walking in.  Look for little ways to include exercise in your daily routine.  If the word “exercise” is a turn-off for you, call it “fitness” instead.

4.  Write down your goals

Studies have found that if you write down a goal, you are much more likely to achieve it.  In addition, tell as many people as possible about your goals.  When you share your goals with others, you are more likely to fulfill them.  This is due to a principle called social consistency.  As humans, we want to look good to others, so we do what we told others we would do.  In fact, if you are setting resolutions for the new year, tell as many people as possible about those resolutions.

5.  Establish priorities.

If you could only do three activities for the rest of your life, what would they be?  Start paring down the activities that are bringing you down.  Take a hard look at where you spend your time.  Are you getting a return on your investment of your time, money, and energy?  Or are you reaching a dead end?  We outgrow activities and even people as we have more life experiences.  It’s not good or bad, it just is.  If you are having a difficult time saying “no” to people or activities that no longer serve a purpose for you, see #1 on this list.

Have a great new year!