I love second chances and, in my mind, New Year’s gives me one. It’s so appealing to start fresh, getting another chance to make life easier. This is the part I love: If your life is grand already, you can hope that it continues or maybe tweak it to make it even better. But if your life has been in the toilet, it gives you the chance to improve things. “Hope springs eternal”, a phrase coined by Alexander Pope in 1733, describes this basic human condition. No matter how bad circumstances are, we can’t help hoping that better things are coming. Why else do we keep buying lottery tickets?

I’m more determined than ever to keep improving my life, so I scribble a short list and tape it up next to the computer. I notice that for the past five years it starts with the same reminder–lighten up. In fact, why bother putting it on the list anymore? It’s now a given. I realize I take everything much too seriously, but my knee keeps jerking up in the same direction whenever strong emotions are triggered. (Politics set both my knees going this year) Reactions aren’t quite as strong as they used to be, but they still take over my brain for more time than I want.

Making a List Forces You to Re-evaluate

Sometimes I have to trick myself. This end-of-the-year list FORCES me to re-evaluate things because my circumstances, like everyone’s, change year to year. There’s bound to be changes in health, families, relationships, jobs and, most of all, viewpoints. But even if my annual list has to shift accordingly, this reset at the end of the year helps keep me flowing in the right direction. Below is my short list of good intentions for the coming year:

• Improve diet. More water, more veggies, less sugar.
• Walk more. Walk the three miles to town and back, at least once.
• Simplify: Continue culling, keeping only the things that make me smile.
• Shut up. Spend more time listening, less time blabbering.
• Start 3rd book. Ideas are still swirling around.
• Sleep better. Turn off TV, computer and phone one hour before bedtime.
• Have fewer poopie days. Start every day with a smile and gratitude.
(Smiling was easy when I saw my children race out in their pajamas on Christmas morning to capture photo ops in mom’s  backyard.)

Watching-children-interact-brings-joy.

My children(photo fiends) race the sun to capture icicles on weeds.

Really, I just want to be like my new neighbor, who greets me with a huge smile and enthusiastic, over-the-head wave every single time I pass his house. Now that really says “I’m enjoying life.”

SECRET
In that five minutes before you get out of bed in the morning, turn the corners of your mouth upward even if you don’t feel like it. Then think of at least one thing you’re grateful for. If you do it then, you won’t have to make time for it later. The physical act of smiling automatically lifts your spirit and sets a positive tone right off the bat.