How to Start the New Year Strong

Wake up earlier.

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I know it's painful when that alarm clock goes off. I know the feeling. But somehow, the feeling gets worse the later you set the time. I have a more difficult time waking up at 8:45 than I do at 5:30. And the amount I'm able to accomplish on days I'm up early is astonishing. Now that I spend so many days up before daybreak, I'm often ashamed when I sleep past 9 and the fresh morning sun has escaped me. I'm not saying get up at 5:30 every day. Find the balance that works for you. Maybe it's 7am, which is just enough time for you to check all your emails, maybe do a quick morning run, or drink your coffee slowly and deliberately. Give yourself the New Year's gift of a couple more hours each day. You really can do amazing things with just a little more time. 

Pursue your passions.

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We all hear this echoing every day, off of every surface, and from every person we know, it seems. Sure, it's the most important part of reaching your goals and dreams, but it's so daunting. How do you even approach pursuing your passions? Where do you start? I'm still not even sure. I think the first key step is to fully identify what you're passionate about. Not even in the long run, just what you're passionate about now. Then take small steps. Maybe set goals towards incorporating your passions into your life a little more. Think of how you could turn your passions into profit, even if it's not a career right away. Just because pursuing your passion may be a daunting task doesn't mean each step to get there has to be terrifying. It's not about the destination, it's about how you get there.

Forgive and forget.

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2017 was full of wrongdoings and mistakes -- by you, me, and everyone (not even going to mention those in our nation's spotlight). Whether you were wronged or you were the wrongdoer, allow yourself to move on. Don't hold grudges for too long because in reality it only brings negative thoughts with you into a new year. Especially if those negative feelings are in regard to something you're mad at yourself for. Always forgive yourself, because you are the one person you cannot avoid. If you spend your new year dwelling on your words or actions from last year, you're bound to be less happy than if you were to allow yourself to move on. 

Don't undersell yourself.

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The key to succeeding is making others believe you can succeed. Even if you don't think you can. Think about when you were applying to colleges -- you never thought you'd get into your dream school, but you never dared let those college admissions officers question your confidence that you belonged there. The more strongly you believe in your ability to do something or to be somewhere, the more likely it is that the members of that community will see you as a vital component and will need to bring you along. Don't let your insecurities stand in the way of you reaching major goals. 

Eat more veggies.

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At risk of sounding like your parents, it really is amazing what vegetables can do for our wellbeing and health. They pack in so many nutrients and health benefits it's a shame they're not more wildly popular among the American public. Veggies come in every single color of the rainbow, so if you're bored by the idea of them, come up with some artistic creations to make eating them more fun. Also try some fun recipes that emphasize veggie flavors and make them so much less boring than people tend to think they are. You'll be feeling so much better in the new year if you focus on your veggie intake. Only good things can happen if you eat more vegetables!

Drink more water.

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You probably hear this more often than any other on this list, but the importance of staying hydrated is often overlooked by the busy millennial lives we all lead in this crazy world. We don't always have extra room for that 32-ounce reusable water bottle that guarantees we don't forget to hydrate. But maybe forget some of the less important items you always throw in your bag that you may not use on a daily basis. You'll be surprised how much drinking an extra bottle or two of water each day can impact your life. You'll feel so much better you'll wonder why you hadn't always focused on hydration.

Walk every day.

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Depending on where you live, this can be a tough one. Some of us already have necessary walking built into our daily routines, while others of us can't physically get from place to place on foot within a reasonable amount of time. I, personally, spend way too much time in my car and would prefer to walk a little more, if only my horse weren't 20 miles away from my house. That's why I like to make time later in my day to walk my dog or walk to the grocery store or something of that nature to make sure I get some steps in and get myself outside without having to fight traffic and stoplights. If work or a daily task is within walking distance, try walking there. Maybe it'll take up more time than you're used to, but it could really be a nice lifestyle change for the new year.

Stretch every day.

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This is something I strictly abide to and tend to execute many times each day. After falling in love with yoga several years ago, I've come to adore how good it feels to get some truly good stretching in, especially after a workout or right before bed. If you're unsure what some of the best stretches are for you in particular, try taking a slow-paced yoga class and see which poses bring you the strongest stretching sensations. For me, it's lizard lunge, pigeon, and triangle pose, three of which I try to incorporate into my everyday routine. I also like to drop into a forward fold or a backbend whenever I can to work on back flexibility and strength. I've felt myself become more and more flexible over the years simply as a result of more yoga and my daily stretching. It also gives me time to just relax and breathe, and is a more active form of mediation for me, since I have a hard time sitting still and focusing on my breath. 

Find fun ways to exercise.

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Some of us thrive on exercise, but some of us find it a little harder to enjoy. If that's you, try something new this year and see if you can't find something you love that keeps you fit. There is such a wide variety of exercise routines and classes nowadays that it's hard to believe there isn't something out there for everyone. If you hate cardio, try yoga. If you get bored running or just doing the elliptical for a while, give something like 9Round or Orange Theory a try to keep your focus and give you more direction. Maybe a class isn't your style and you've gotta get yourself moving in another way. Try something active but exciting like hiking or kickboxing. The list is endless for interesting ways to get more active, so give multiple things a try and find something you really enjoy doing. That will make your efforts so much more worthwhile in the long run. 

Think more positively.

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And more than just, "2018 will be my year!" I mean turn every thought into something positive. Every time you feel the urge to complain, think about how the situation may lead to something positive, or at least have some positive light hidden somewhere. Strive to become the "glass half full" type this year. No one likes to be around negative thinkers; they just bring everyone else down with them. Elevate yourself and others with a new positive spin. Encourage yourself with daily positive thoughts right when you wake up, and continue echoing these thoughts until you go to sleep at night. This is a guaranteed way to slowly incorporate more happiness and pleasure into your life. If it seems daunting to avoid complaining altogether, start by just expressing or writing down three things you're grateful for each day. 

Set goals.

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Goals can be great for so many reasons. First of all, they provide motivation. If you're working towards a goal, you're so much more likely to progress in that area than if you didn't create concrete substance to work towards. Maybe your goal evolves as you do; a goal doesn't have to stay the same throughout the entire process. Goals also provide structure to help give us a better idea of where we're headed, rather than work aimlessly. Goals help us to identify what we truly want out of life. But beware of setting goals that are too large, because it can end up just being frustrating if you're feeling like you're nowhere near accomplishing anything. Start with smaller goals and let them evolve into bigger ones as you make progress and complete milestones. The key to self improvement can be the goal-mentality, so try to set a few at the beginning of this year (like small resolutions, maybe?) and see how it changes your work ethic and inspires you.

Set aside time to think.

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In today's world it's a foreign concept to create time to do nothing. All our time has to be filled with productive and meaningful work in order to complete as much as we can in a day. But there are so many important topics and life lessons that go on just within our own heads, and we have so much to learn from these thoughts we rarely allow to speak. Allot time to listen to the voice in your head. There are so many times your inner thoughts will be trying to tell you something but you're too busy trying to keep up with the world around you that you don't take the time to listen. Choose the setting that works best for you. Maybe it's a park bench on your walk home from work, maybe it's your bed right before you get ready to fall asleep, or maybe it's a local coffee shop where you can look out the window and people watch. Let your thoughts run wild and don't try to stop them from leading towards what's really on your mind. If you don't set aside time to do this frequently, you'll miss important queues and may end up unhappier with yourself and your situation. 

Find a balance between yes and no.

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Some of us always have a reason to say no. But on the flip side, many of us also struggle with saying yes too often. Each can be both a beautiful and a harmful tool in our English vocabulary. If you're the type who always says no and comes up with excuses to avoid commitments or doing favors, try and sneak yes into your repertiore more often. If you say no to everything, people will stop asking you to be a part of their plans or will learn you're too unreliable to depend on. There are always reasons to turn something or someone down. Maybe you feel swamped by all the work you have to do, or you're just mentally exhausted after a long week, but by saying yes, you can open yourself up to more opportunities, more positive interactions, and much less guilt as you begin to realize how much people admire your ability to say yes. For those who use yes more often than they should, find the beauty in saying no when it's necessary. If you truly have had too long a week or have way too much on your plate to donate more of your time to someone asking for a favor or for your presence at an event, there is power in saying no. This applies especially to those who don't turn people down often. If people depend on you for always saying yes, your chances of being taken advantage of are higher. People will lean on you when they need something, or if they need someone to accompany them and stay by their side. Life is a beautiful struggle between yes and no, so find the perfect balance that works for you. Don't overcommit yourself but also don't avoid great opportunities and quality time with others. 

Reward yourself for hard work.

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If you can get started on even a few of the items on this list, you're off to a great new year already. Celebrating the new year has always been so focused on how you can be better than you were last year. I don't think you need to be better, because that would imply you weren't good enough last year. You're always good enough, so treat yourself that way. Don't get stuck in the endless battle between doing kick-ass work and getting enough sleep. Find time for you. Give yourself time off. Admire yourself for the hard work you do and encourage yourself by thinking positively about how much it will pay off one day. The moment you start to pity yourself is when you should make a life change. This year is going to be a great year for you. But so is every year if you keep that attitude, especially if you recognize how hard you strive and reward yourself by celebrating the small victories and seeing the value in everything life brings you this year.

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Tori BilasComment