Isn’t it wonderful? Every January 1, we get to have a fresh start. Ring out the old. Ring in the new. We can change something significant about our lives.
New Year’s resolutions are a statement of hope. We make them, not to scold ourselves, but to hold out the possibility that we can change something. So we swear we’ll finally lose that 10 (or more) pounds, that we’ll quit bad habits we enjoy, or we’ll hit the gym more often. Never mind that studies show that almost 90 percent of such resolutions are broken within two weeks of New Year’s. Our intentions were good. Oh well.
I think we break those self-promises almost as soon as they’re made because they are too ambitious. We ask ourselves to take on something that has been a long-term issue and then feel too discouraged or overwhelmed by the idea to really take it on. Then we feel even worse about ourselves because once again, we didn’t do it. So we have another piece of chocolate or another cigarette and promise that maybe we’ll go the gym tomorrow.
I think I have a better idea: Make those resolutions of good intention if you must. But I have something far simpler and more doable in mind. I would like everyone in the world to resolve to be a little more generous every day. Instead of trying to stop an old habit, why not try on a new one? Promise yourself that you will be a little more open-hearted and open-handed this year.
Generosity is good for you, the people around you and the planet. A University of Michigan study showed that people who are generous live longer, are generally healthier and less stressed, and have a greater sense of purpose and meaning in their lives. Men who regularly did volunteer work had death rates 2.5 times lower than men who didn’t. Other studies show that people who actively participate in their community through acts of service and kindness have a higher level of self-esteem than those who don’t.
Generosity doesn’t have to be grand, although it can be. It doesn’t have to take a whole lot of extra time or money. It doesn’t require you to clean your house or organize your closets. It doesn’t require a membership in a self-help group or a gym or a club. All it takes is a little more thoughtfulness every day.
Below are five ways to put the resolution to be generous into action: