The Healthy Family Connections Podcast
Episode 091 · Duration: 00:13:50
The One New Year’s Resolution You Need To Make And Keep
Here we are in the year 2019 and it’s time for our New Year’s resolutions. There’s really only one resolution we need to make.
I spoke before about the painful social climate in the United States: looking for scapegoats, name calling, and demeaning whole groups of people. This toxic rhetoric makes all of us, especially young people, people of color, vulnerable individuals of all kinds, feel anxious. The mental health of the whole country is negatively impacted. And many countries are experiencing similar social and emotional stress.
I want to think that the horrible experience we’re having is something we can learn and grow from. I hope that we’ll come back from this and be more thoughtful, honest, respectful, humble, compassionate, self-sacrificing and less divisive.
I'm hoping that we will embrace the reality that we have limited time to mitigate the long-term impacts of climate change. We are warming our planet and changing coastlines, weather patterns, farming, animal life, plant life and more.
My New Year's Resolution
Where is the New Year’s resolution in all this? Neither you nor I are going to change much of this but we don’t want to sit around and be victims of it either. That’s where a New Year’s resolution can help. When we feel empowered, we feel better and we can make a difference. If we change ourselves we impact everything else we touch from our families and our intimates to our friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even chance encounters with strangers.
The resolution we can all embrace is a mindset of kindness. I know that sounds vague and not actionable and you might even be thinking heck if I were any kinder I’d be the poster child for codependent of the year.
Be Kind to Yourself
But let’s take a closer look and start with kindness towards ourselves. There are many ways. We can’t be authentically kind to others unless we can be authentically kind to ourselves. I’ll offer up a couple of ideas:
Number one is to eat less often and eat less sugar. It’s not from the position of “I’ve got to lose this damn weight”, but from the position of “I deserve good health.” Out of self-kindness and an empowered self, we can make decisions that our very best friend would encourage us to make. Other ways to treat ourselves kindly would be to take up or renew an old enjoyable hobby such as drawing or painting, playing a musical instrument, exercise, and maybe create reading time.
For some of us, being kind to ourselves could be getting more organized. This could mean organizing our space or finances. Are there some old friendships that have been on the back burner that you need to renew and check in with?
An aide for self-improvement from a position of kindness is a book by my colleague Laura Honos-Web which I referred to in an earlier podcast. It's called Brain Hacks, life-changing strategies to improve executive functioning. Whether you need help with planning and organization, focus and attention, cognitive flexibility, emotional management, or impulse control, the book is fabulous and I promise it will prove helpful. I bought several copies both for myself and to share with clients.
Be Kind To Your Kids
Let’s think about empowered kindness and your family. I’m not saying do more for your kids, I’m saying whatever you do, including setting and enforcing limits, even taking away privileges that are not being earned, can all be done from an attitude of kindness and not anger or accusation. Try noticing and commenting on kids’ positive behaviors and attributes. And yes even when the kids are doing things that are annoying, you can love them, hear them, listen to them, validate them and their feelings. You can care about what they think and feel. If you are asking them to do something, rather than getting louder as your frustration builds, get closer, keep your tone kind and repeat your request. Kindness isn’t weakness; it reflects confidence and personal empowerment.Click To Tweet
Be Kind To Your Partner
How about your spouse or partner? Do not take for granted how important you are to them and how important your love and your kind thoughts and words and touches are to them. Are you waiting for a kind word from them? While you’re waiting, offer a kind word to them instead. I call this oxygenating the pond. You and your partner are a very small ecology like a pond. You are a small social ecology and you represent half of it so when you offer kindness into the pond you’re making a big splash. Even if you are concerned that your relationship is in trouble and your partner is not meeting your needs, you can set limits, tell them what you need that you aren’t getting, even let them know that you won’t stay in the relationship without important changes, and keep your kind mindset.
Being Kind To Others
How about a random act of kindness? I was deeply moved when recently a young man who took my food order bought my lunch for me when he realized I was struggling emotionally after visiting friends who were in declining health. I was so moved by this it brought me to tears. Where I live in Santa Cruz, California, there are a lot of homeless people and many are panhandling. I don’t want to encourage panhandling so I give my dollar a day to the local homeless services center. But once in a while, if I’m going into a shop around lunchtime, I’ll bring out an extra sandwich for a homeless person and the response I get is that I just made their day. That act isn’t eliminating a social problem, but the act of kindness is as rewarding for me as it is for the person who just got lunch. Use your imagination, the possibilities are unlimited, everyone needs an act of kindness.
Be Kind To the Environment
How can kindness reverse global warming? How can you or I make a difference? Any change we make as individuals, won’t register in the big picture. But it will register with us, and when we are conscientious about the environment we’re going to feel better. If we all take a small action maybe we will make a dent. Yes, we need to get off of fossil fuels and get on to sustainable sources of energy, but what can you and I do? Maybe you can walk to the grocery store instead of drive, switch lights to LEDs, and participate in a local carbon reduction effort of any kind. You are doing something, you are being kind to our beloved Earth, and don’t you feel better? When we approach our lives with kindness, our lives are richer and we feel better.Click To Tweet
Be Kind in Certain Situations
Let’s think about what a kind attitude might look like in some other instances. When you see someone driving too fast or recklessly, rather than thinking, “What a jerk!” how about, “Wow, that’s dangerous, I wonder what’s going on with that guy.”
A kind attitude might be that we notice our own prejudices. You’re a white person and you notice a couple of black men walking in your direction and you feel uneasy; instead of switching to the other side of the street, notice your feelings of unease and acknowledge the men as you pass each other.
You’re concerned that the school isn’t meeting your son’s needs. He’s active and maybe has ADHD or a learning disability, and they are taking a punitive attitude towards him. Of course, you want them to meet and create a change. Maybe you need to be firm, but kindness would encourage you to assume they are doing their best with what they know, and that they care about the kids. So rather than engaging them with demands and legal threats, maybe say something like, “I realize that you’re struggling with Jeffery and Jeffery is struggling to be successful. I’d like to talk about how we can all work together to help him feel and be successful with you.” In some cases, you may need legal representation, but you can still have a kind mindset.
So kindness is my New Year's resolution, and I invite you all, to join me in it. Changing our mindset will take consciousness and practice and over time it can become our default way of thinking and being. In practice, it will mean something specifically different to each of us. But any change we want to make will be best served and most sustainable if we approach it with a mindset of kindness.
Happy New Year to us all.
And with a mindset of kindness, please take care of yourselves. You Need It, You Deserve It, You’re Worth It. Bye for now.
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Thanks, Wendy, I really appreciate hearing that. I might recommend that you set aside a little time with your daughters to listen to the podcast, if they haven’t already, and discuss together how each of you might want to apply it in your life; no judgment, just thoughtful introspection, and sharing.
Happy New Year,
This is beautiful, thank you. I just shared it with my two teenage daughters and I’m hoping they’ll set aside a little quiet time to listen. Best wishes for a year that treats you kindly.