1. Connect with other people: In the age that we live in it is a lot easier to communicate via phone call, text or social media. As wonderful as these things can be, they don’t compare to having a face-to-face conversation with another person. You can’t hug over social media, you can’t wipe away tears through a text message, and you can’t look into another person’s eyes in quite the same way through a Facebook post. Laughing so hard that you are crying & can’t breath just doesn’t have the same feeling as saying “Lol” on Facebook. Texting and social media can result in the illusion of connection; however, how much are we really able to connect with people we love while sitting in our rooms alone? Call a friend up and get coffee, invite your neighbors over for dinner, or try a new fitness class with your girlfriends.
2. Listen more: Have you ever been sitting in a room with another person and they were so immersed in their phone that they didn’t hear anything that you said in the conversation? Have you ever done that to someone else? Have you ever heard another person’s opinion or side of the story, only to shoot down everything they said without truly listening and processing what they had to say? I am guilty of it all. I’ve found that the less distracted I am and the more intentional I am, the better listener I am. The more that I listen, the better I can communicate, and the stronger my relationships are with my friends and family.
3. Give Back: When I think of volunteering the first thing that comes to my mind is a church youth group volunteering once or twice a year at a food pantry just to feel good about the good deeds that they have done. Growing up I just didn’t volunteer anywhere much at all. There didn’t seem to me much need around me, and I was really only concerned with my own needs. Once I became a Christian, I began to see that much is required to me because much has been given to me. I think one of the biggest keys to volunteering is to do it with an organization that you are passionate about. For example, I am not naturally inclined to volunteer at nursing homes, and that’s completely okay. I do, however, feel lead to volunteer at places that work to minimize food insecurity, share Jesus with other people, and meets the needs of women who have gone through abuse, addictions, eating disorders, and a variety of other things. When you consistently volunteer you can begin to build connections with the other volunteers and the people that you are helping. Most of the time when I volunteer, the experience teaches me and helps me more than I feel like I am helping the organization. If you like animals, consider volunteering at your local animal shelter! Passionate about food insecurity or the homeless? There are usually many local rescue missions and food pantries that desperately need volunteers. Crazy about sports? Volunteer to coach a youth YMCA team or get involved with local high school and collegiate teams. There is something out there for everyone
4. Be quick to show grace: No matter how much you care about your friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers, it doesn’t change the fact that relationships are messy and people are imperfect. In my struggle with perfectionism I failed to realize that not only was I placing impossible expectations on my own life, but also on other people around me. I didn’t want to ever hurt anyones feelings or mess up. I didn’t want anyone to mistreat me, upset me, or hold a grudge against me. I wanted perfect harmony, joy, laughter, love, and peace in every relationship. This desire isn’t inherently bad, it is in my heart because this world isn’t my home. However, it can be really harmful to myself and my relationships when I don’t embrace imperfections and expect something that is unrealistic. When someone offends me or hurts my feelings, I remind myself of the continuous grace that God lavishes on me. I ask myself if lack of forgiveness and grudge holding will help or hurt the relationship, & then I try to show the person the same type of grace that I would want to receive. It’s hard, it’s messy, & it takes prayer through the power of the Holy Spirit, but it is one of the biggest ways that we can show love to the people we care about.
5. Educate yourself: My generation is really, really bad about knowing what they believe but not knowing why they believe it. We believe what we believe because that’s how we were raised, or because it’s what our parents tell us to do. When I got to college I noticed that this was especially true in my own life, and I set out to do research and form an education opinion about what I believe. Whether it’s your religion, political party, health and lifestyle, beauty products, or really anything and everything else, you must know what you believe and why you believe it. It’s all important. Our world needs a generation of people who understand what is going on around in the nations, are aware of the problems and needs around them, & are willing to step up and lead to make a difference. Start reading the local or national news papers, research journal articles about the latest new health craze or surgical procedure, dig into your bible, & form educated convictions and opinions. The media is too deceptive for us not to form our own opinion. Just because it is on the internet, on the news, or even in the newspaper, it doesn’t mean it’s true. Being educated will help you make better decisions in the future for yourself, your family, and the world.
6. Practice Self-Care: In the culture we live in today it almost seems like a sin to take care of ourselves at times. If we aren’t 24/7 busy, busy, busy, than we are lazy, unproductive, and off track. If we aren’t involved in every possible school, community, work, or church activity, we have reason to believe that we could be doing better. One of the biggest things that I have learned in recovery is the importance of taking care of myself, & sometimes saying no when I needed to have less on my plate or just a night on my own. We can’t pour into people effectively if we don’t have anything to give. Be intentional, and set out time each week to read your favorite book, take a hot bath, take a nap, walk your dog, or whatever helps you become recharged and re-energized.
7. Surround yourself with people who make you better: This one is pretty self-explanatory: we become like the people we hangout with the most. It’s natural for us to model our behavior and decisions after people that we admire or respect. For example, I love working out with Josh because he always pushes me to give it my all. He is in a lot better shape than me, so everything that we do together helps make my body stronger. He doesn’t let me cheat on any of the lifts we do. He encourages me to use lighter weights to have good form, rather than hurting myself using a weight that is too heavy. He confronts me when my exercise is a too excessive, and he encourages me to the workouts that I love. He makes my exercise more enjoyable, challenging, and healthy; If I workout by myself, someone who is out of shape, or a trainer that pushed me until I threw up, it is less likely that I would have a healthy, happy, & balanced relationship with exercise. Life is too short to be surrounded by people who drag you down. Find the ones who lift you up & cling to them.
8. Get in the Kitchen: If you truly want 2017 to be a healthier and happier year, it’s time that you get your hands dirty and spend some time in the kitchen. By preparing meals at home, you often save money & also cut out a lot of unnecessary calories, fat, and sodium that you get when you visit a restaurant. Let’s be real, learning how to cook healthy meals at home is a more sustainable and healthy change than going on a crazy diet, joining weight watchers, or starting a juice cleanse. If you feel like you don’t have time to cook each night, meal prepping on Saturdays or Sundays can be a life saver. Dieting often leads to binge eating and eventual weight gain. Cooking can also be a social activity if you get your friends and family involved. Share recipes, step out of your comfort zone, & try something new. You don’t need to make immediate crazy changes; these won’t be sustainable. Choose foods that you & your family enjoy to eat.