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2018: Five ways to be happier

PHOTO: IndianExpress

Tunde Ajaja, Beyond the merriment that accompanies the dawn of a New Year, it’s like a ritual for people to wish for, pray towards, hope for and draw up a plan to have a better year than the previous one.

At a popular bar on Sunday, the eve of the New Year, some of the men who had come to revel began sharing their New Year resolutions. As can be imagined, the resolutions people have for themselves in the year range from the truly inspiring to the downright laughable.

But, according to psychologists, having a better year goes beyond drawing up a good plan or making pleasant wishes. Thus, the following are some of the practical ways people could have a happier year:

Have a SMART resolution:

It is customary for people to have New Year resolutions, often aimed at self-improvement. In fact, in certain circles, people who don’t draw up a plan of action stand the risk of being seen as unserious. But findings have shown that there is a measure of joy and fulfilment people derive when they accomplish their targets. But in spite of the huge importance people attach to this activity, reports have shown that people rarely keep to their resolutions. A report by the Statistic Brain Research Institute in the United States found that only about 9.2 per cent of people who make New Year resolutions keep to them. It also found that only 72.6 per cent maintain their resolutions through the first week; 68.4 per cent make it past two weeks; 58.4 per cent make it past one month while only 44.8 per cent make it past six months.

But what is the solution? Experts have advised that people should make their resolutions specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. They say people should write their resolutions down where they can see them regularly; people should be specific about the goals, by breaking them down into step-by-step plans, like cutting down on fries and going to the gym every Thursday to lose weight and not just plan to lose weight.

Also, experts say people should be patient with themselves, in spite of the need to make quick changes. Such goals should also be shared with close and trusted allies to also serve as watchers because self-control may not be enough.

Speaking on the need to have a workable resolution, a psychologist, Prof. Oni Fagboungbe, said people tend to fail when they refuse to plan. He said, “People would go to places of worship on December 31 and make resolutions and before the end of the first week in January they would have forgotten all they said. That is why we advise people to write their resolutions down, without sentiment. Look at the variables in your environment and make a plan. Number them and assign time limit. Then, start doing the things that would make it possible to achieve those goals. Start marking them one by one to know if you’re making progress.”

Take stock and improve:

According to a sociologist, Dr. Franca Attoh, there is no hard-and-fast rule about how to be happier in the year, noting that happiness is a choice made by the individual. She said what people should do is to reassess their positions, take stock of what happened to them the previous year, reappraise the situation to see where they fared well and where they fell short.

According to her, if there were places they did not fare well, they should strategise on what they would do to ensure things get better for them.

She said, “For me, I don’t really believe in some of the resolutions people make because some of them don’t work. But it depends on individuals. Christmas and New Year are a cycle and they enable us to sit back and do introspection on how far we have gone. If we believe that we are falling short in certain areas, we can take stock and improve on what we didn’t do well. Identify the things that made it impossible for you go beyond where you found yourself and then determine what you can do about it.

“Life is holistic. You can grow materially but if there is no emotional and spiritual balance, the individual would still be unhappy. That is why you should take stock.”

Have a financial plan:

It might appear somewhat unrealistic to have a workable financial plan at the beginning of the year, especially when people do not know the kind of expenses they would incur in the course of the year. But findings have shown that it is quite possible. Fagboungbe said having a financial plan helps people to become disciplined. Beyond that, it has been found to give people rest of mind, keep their anxiety in check and have a control over their finances.

“That is the problem with many of our people; they don’t have financial plans. They just spend money as it comes, usually on frivolities. It is at the end of the year that they discover that they have done nothing with all the money they made during the year,” he said.

Fagbohungbe was also quick to add that one of the things people waste money on in this part of the world is ceremonies like weddings. He noted that they often feel compelled to spend so much in the name of following the dictates of culture and tradition.

He said people should always do things within their means. Also, according to economists and financial experts, having a financial plan goes beyond planning to save more money. Rather, it helps when people specify what certain percentage of their income they want to save, invest, or set aside for miscellaneous and spend on family, a particular project, in-laws, etc. It should be noted that when people expend their resources as planned, by the end of the year, they tend to be more fulfilled.

Plan to live healthy:

One of the things that tend to mar people’s experiences in the year is poor health, which is sometimes a product of lifestyle and how much attention people pay to their health.

According to medical experts, it is important for people, especially adults, to mind what goes into their system (feeding habit) and go for check-up from time to time, especially the moment they notice anything untoward about their system.

It has been found that the chances of reducing the complications resulting from most ailments are avoidable if they are diagnosed on time and treatment commences as and when due. But due to lack of adequate attention and optimism, people take things for granted.

Thus, from what people eat to what they drink, the kind of weather they are exposed to, the things they do with their bodies and the kind of stress they subject themselves to, experts say paying attention to them plays a role in how much they would enjoy themselves in the year, which in turn influences their productivity and happiness.

Stay positive and have fun:

Inasmuch as people tend to have a goal they are working towards, they are also advised not to forget to have a life and stay positive.

Even though a lot of reward comes from multitasking and doing many things to boost one’s income, sometimes it could tell on the health of such persons. Thus, people are advised to work hard, create time for fun, spend wisely, give to those in need, which creates a feeling of fulfilment on its own and stay positive.

Fagboungbe said having a positive mentality is a motivational factor that could drive people in the pursuit of their goals.

“That is why you need to have a target or a goal you are working towards,” he added.

By Tunde Ajaja

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