The Anti-New Year’s Resolution List
The purpose of making New Year’s Resolutions is to benefit you in the long run. Unfortunately, the chances of failure are high. Research shows that, “six weeks after people make their New Year’s resolutions, 80 percent have either broken them or couldn’t remember what they were,” according to M.H. Gonzales, Associate professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota. What starts out as a good intention ends up destructive, leaving you feeling defeated. Maybe it’s time to try a different approach. Resolutions usually require giving up something. This year, instead of taking away, let’s add things back to your life, beginning with more joy and happiness.
You might be thinking, “Give me a break, Bonnie – joy and happiness? Really? I feel most of the time that life is a race and I’m running around trying to cross things off my endless to do list. I don’t have time for joy.” You’re not alone. Most people arrive at the end of their day feeling unsatisfied because they didn’t accomplish everything they set out to do. The next morning they continue the marathon. This race has no beginning and no end and it certainly doesn’t have a medal waiting for you at the finish line. What you get operating at a high level of stress is burned out and robbed of your moments of happiness and joy.
As actors, it is important to set goals and create plans to attain your goals. I’m sure that you can make a list of five things right now that will move your career forward; that part is easy. But are you aware of what you need to increase the quality of your life? Author, Diane Ackerman wisely noted, “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” Are you focused too much on the length and not enough on the width? All of your striving may get you ahead in life, but it won’t improve your happiness. You are just trying to get through your day instead of enjoying it. Being an accomplished individual doesn’t mean that you have to put your happiness on hold. You can be an accomplished, happy person.
Life is never as black and white as you think. Look for the variations by expanding your view. When a sculptor creates his work, he walks around it, seeing it from different angles. Step back and get a birds eye view of your life, don’t stay stuck at the tip of your nose. Your thoughts have a big effect on your view and your view effects how you feel. The average person can have from 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day. If you cling to negative thoughts, how do you expect to feel happy? It’s impossible! Nurture your joy, it is the best antidepressant out there. In addition, you will reap the rewards of having meaning and purpose in your life. If all you do is continue to keep running, trying to catch up, you will eventually end up with another year of feeling stuck, depleted, and unhappy.
Living your life in survival mode also has a negative impact on your body when it activates your fight or flight response. That’s when you tend to perceive everything in your environment as a possible threat to your survival. Chemicals like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol are released into the bloodstream. This causes a number of dramatic changes in your body. There is an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate.
This state of alert bypasses our calm, rational mind–where our more well thought out beliefs exist–and moves us into “attack” mode. When fear is in the forefront, it exaggerates our view of the world and distorts our thinking. We can start to overreact to the slightest comment; e.g.: that casting director is out to get me, my agent is trying to get rid of me, my boyfriend/girlfriend is going to leave me. This built-in survival mode is great when you are face-to-face with a Bengal tiger in the jungle, but it works against you in your daily life. You can begin to see how impossible it is to make good choices with positive long-term effects when you are stuck in short-term crisis mode. You just live from crisis to crisis with no relief in sight. When life overwhelms you with excessive stress you lose the ability to relax and enjoy the moment. You have a choice. Do something different. Stop living your life as if you’re in a race and start adding more joy to it in 2013.
Let’s look at how you can add back moments of joy and begin to feel happy.
- Slow Down and let your happiness catch up to you.
Sometimes it’s not a matter of creating happiness, but noticing it when it’s right there in front of you. In order to calm yourself down, feel more relaxed, and boost your mood, try this two-minute breathing exercise. Breathing mindfully will help ground you and reverse the effects of fight or flight mode. The mind is telling the body that everything is okay, no need to panic, you can stop and relax now. When you are calm and have an open heart, you are able to appreciate and take in good moments when they arrive. You are setting the stage for happiness to arrive and be noticed.
- Unlock the power of self-acceptance.
Remember Mister Rogers? He was a beautiful man who loved and cared about children. He said, “As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is. Each of us has something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression. He would end each show by saying, “You’ve made this day a special day by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you. And I like you just the way you are.” Remember those words when you are tempted to beat yourself up for making a mistake. Self-acceptance will make you a lot happier than self-criticism. Can you do things better and improve yourself? Sure you can, but you don’t need to tear yourself down in the name of self-improvement.
Make time for family and friends. Researchers say social connections contribute to overall well-being. We are hard-wired for connection, we need it the way we need food and air to survive. According to Amy Banks, M.D., director of Advanced Training at the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute at the Wellesley Centers for Women; instructor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, “ Being pushed out of social relationships and into isolation has health ramifications. In fact, there was a book done by health advocate Dr. Dean Ornish, called Love and Survival. There has been study after study done on the positive impact of loving relationships. What he had said at the time in that book was that if we had a drug that did for our health what love does, it would far outsell anything that has ever been made. The efficacy is that potent. But we downplay the importance of love and connection in a culture based on the success of ‘the rugged individual.’ People in our culture need to understand that healthy connection can reduce pain on all levels. I think we need to get back to the real basics of having relationships be at the center of our meaning. Our greatest gift is to connect, and we function better in connection as individuals and as a society.” By adding back meaningful relationships into your life, you will be happier. If you have difficulty being in long-term relationships and social arenas, understand the root causes with a professional. Group therapy is also a wonderful way to practice relating in a safe and helpful environment.For more support and free tips on well-being visit bonniekatz.com
There’s no need to wish you good luck, because making change is not about luck, it’s about being kind and compassionate with yourself as you embark on your journey of growth and happiness.
So I’ll wish you an awesome and beautiful journey this year!
Los Angeles actors may pick up the journal at Paper Chase Press.
For more inspiration, listen to Janeane Bernstein’s “Get The Funk Out.” A radio show filled with stories of inspiration and change, new creative directions and surprising twists and turns in this crazy roller coaster ride called life.
Bonnie Katz is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice. She understands the unique demands and challenges of the acting profession because along with her experience as a psychotherapist, she has been a part of the acting community for the past 39 years. This unique combination enables her to have a deeper understanding of the struggles of actors. Her skills and training as a psychotherapist and mindful meditator enable her to work with clients in an atmosphere of warmth and understanding. For more information on Bonnie’s psychotherapy practice, visit her website. I invite you to follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Click here for a free brochure on mindful meditation.