My brother became a parent 10 years before I did. My sister-in-law and he have raised two awesome daughters. It was he who first told me that toddlers and kids don't hear the negative part of commands. If we say, "Don't climb on the table," they hear, "Climb on the table." So it was my brother really who planted the notion in my head that we should tell our children what we do want, rather than what we don't want.
And who are we really, as grown-ups? We have the same brain we had when we were kids, but we've managed to throw a whole bunch of impulse control and will power and the like on top of it. Which is why, in times of stress, that our impulse control and will power can go right out the window. Which is why it's hard to stick with New Year's resolutions that require copious will power and self-control.
New Year's resolutions are designed to make us happier in some way, right? The solution then is to create resolutions for positives. Things we like to do but of which we deprive ourselves. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't stick to your diet and exercise regimen, but it does mean losing the regimen part, which totally connotes pain and suffering. Kids run and jump and play and never kvetch about having to exercise. How can you make healthy living more fun? Could it be that you seek out and create a new healthful recipe to try each week? Could it be that you take walks in picturesque places that make you want to return again and again? Maybe it's as easy as doing a Leslie Sansone walking DVD -- it's hard not to feel good after you've done a couple of miles with Leslie's perpetually upbeat coaching on the tube.
Or maybe you can add a declaration to increase your happiness in very doable ways. Here's More Magazine's list of 20 films that can boost your mood. And here's a list of feel-good novels, included in a national British mental health promotional strategy. Watching more movies or doing some recreational reading as a New Year's Resolution? Cool! Or maybe your resolution can include helping others, either by formal, organized volunteering, or by keeping an eye out for ways to help others in little ways on a regular basis. Cultivate a hobby, take a class that interests you... It doesn't have to be expensive or stressful. Check out Coursera for free, quality on-line educational opportunities on all kinds of stuff and you don't even have to leave your house. It is good for your mental health to regularly get together with friends though, so maybe pick a class and do it with one of your family or friends.
However you approach the New Year, I hope it is one full of promise, optimism and warmth for you and your loved ones. As for me? I think I'm going to pick something from all of the categories above -- maybe a monthly or quarterly approach to various happiness-promoting activities to keep things fresh and interesting, with something new and cool always just on the horizon.