Every new year millions of people vow to finally get it together and improve themselves—from health factors, to relationships, to overall happiness in life. Yet statistics show that fewer than half of them will have stuck to their resolutions even six months later. Are humans so weak-willed? Or are our tactics of self-improvement flawed?
To be sure, self-improvement requires effort and discipline, and the latest diet and lifestyle crazes are often cocktails of unsubstantiated claims and promises. Yet science has identified a variety of methods that can help us to live better lives. In this special issue, we explain what the latest research has discovered about attaining professional success, finding contentment in life, and increasing physical and emotional wellness.
Considering that five days a week most of us spend more than 50 percent of our waking hours at work, the occupational environment can be a great place to start. Beat stress using a 10-pronged approach that includes building a support network and reinterpreting negative events. Cultivate creative thinking by breaking your normal routines and habits. Also, increase your overall performance by completely disconnecting from work on a regular basis.
At work and beyond, learning to control your emotions can lead to a calmer, more balanced existence. On the home front, focusing on positive experiences with your partner can enhance the joy in your relationship. To boost your mood, try out a 10- to 15-minute meditation to improve your focus and attention. And if you need a creative spark, try opening your mind by engaging in novel pursuits. You will look at the world in a whole new light.
One of the simplest ways to power up? Get moving! Beyond burning calories, consistent cardio and weight routines charge the immune, endocrine and neurological systems. In fact, a large health trial recently reported that regular workouts can stave off dementia, even in people older than 60. In addition to exercising, don't forget to eat well: the right diet is good for both body and mind.
Finally, whatever the year brings, remember to take it easy. Mounting evidence is showing that adopting a policy of self-compassion reduces stress and bolsters resilience, whether or not you achieve your goals. So give yourself a break and handle your own heart with care. It might be the ticket to happier living.