It’s time to put your brain in the right mode for the New Year. So take a moment to reflect back on the past year, not to examine and dissect all that went wrong, but because you have a real opportunity to strengthen your brain’s resilience and willpower. Think about the following questions, and you’ll enhance your abilities to follow through on New Year’s Resolutions, and boost your serotonin in a key region of the brain. As you think about your answers, your brain might have a tendency to slide into the negative, focusing on your mistakes and shortcomings, but if it does, just guide it gently back to the task at hand.

Did you help anyone this year – perhaps a friend or a co-worker? Did you thank anyone who helped you? When was the last time you tried to make someone feel better, even if it was just with a smile? Did you forgive anyone for his or her mistakes?

And changing gears briefly, what was your favorite moment from the year? What was the last fun thing you did with other people? Were there any holidays you particularly enjoyed – St. Patrick’s Day, the 4th of July, Thanksgiving?

These questions are designed to help you focus on (1) your positive qualities, and (2) your happy memories. Several studies have shown that reflecting on your positive qualities is a type of self-affirmation that actually strengthens your abilities to change bad habits (Armitage 2008; Epton 2008; Cohen & Sherman 2014). On top of that, thinking about happy memories boosts production of serotonin in the brain (Perreau-Linck
 2007). Enhancing the serotonin system can help increase positive emotions, and give you greater impulse control. Lastly, this whole thing was a mindfulness exercise that gave a workout to the prefrontal cortex. Strengthening the prefrontal cortex improves your ability to set goals and follow through with them.

Good luck with your New Years Resolutions, and if you run into trouble in the New Year take a moment to reflect on your positive qualities and your happy memories and you’ll be back on track.

If you liked this article then check out my new book — The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time

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