This is a time of year when many people make resolutions. Any change is beneficial. I remember talking to a fellow residing at an inpatient treatment facility who didn't want to work out because he wasn't strong and couldn't do much. I assured him that effort is what strengthens. This holds true for behavioral and spiritual changes as well. Any positive change is beneficial. If you don't want to put forth much effort, choose one or two of the following suggestions that strike you and try them out. If you want major change, try to apply all of them. Hopefully there is something for everyone.

Practice Kaizen: Kaizen is a Japanese word that means self-improvement. This refers to setting time aside daily to improve yourself, both intellectually and physically. This includes most of what is below, or any other form of self-improvement out there.

Live with discipline: Do things you know are best for you, despite not wanting to. Get up early to meditate, even though your thoughts may say to skip it. Do the chores you'd rather put off. When you live with discipline some of the time you are improving your self-esteem.

Exercise: The benefits of exercise are well established. Exercise releases endorphins and creates an overall sense of well-being. It also works toward building self-esteem and reducing stress. You don't have to become an Olympic athlete. Simply begin some sort of exercise for even a few minutes a day several times a week.

Meditate: Meditation has been proven to reduce stress and can be integral to inner peace and insight. It is also helpful with the suggestion that follows:

Gain control over your mind: Monitor your thinking, replace negative thoughts with positive ones. This is similar to cognitive challenging, a therapeutic technique I advocate, practice, and highly recommend. Simply monitor your thoughts, or think about your thinking. Challenge the negative ones and replace them with more optimistic and positive thoughts. The power of positive thinking is well documented.

Use a mantra: Having a short mantra is helpful. For example, when encountering poor driving, simply think "compassion." When worrying about finances, try: "I am surrounded by abundance." Using a mantra can calm your nerves and, if you believe in the law of attraction, help attract what you want into your life.

Remember others are just trying to find happiness: This is a Dalai Lama suggestion, and is geared at revitalizing compassion. Remembering others are human, they make mistakes, and that they also just want to be happy can go a long way in bringing about a compassionate outlook for others.

Respect life: The important thing is to respect life. When eating respect the animal that sacrificed its life. This is a practice in some Buddhist religions as well as in Native American spirituality.

Be mindful: Mindfulness refers to being completely present in what you are doing at that moment, whether its washing the dishes (Tich Nhat Hanh reported washing the tea pot as if he was washing the baby Buddha or Jesus), taking a walk, having sex or simply taking a shower. Mindfulness is a big step toward enlightened living and is easy to begin.

Savor something: This is similar to being mindful. Simply take your time and really enjoy something, whether it is a meal, a beautiful day, or your partner. Prolong the experience, savor it.

Create a purpose: Work toward discovering, creating, and practicing what you decide to be your purpose. Create the meaning for your life. What do you believe your purpose is? Whatever it is, making art, raising healthy children, helping others, or simply enjoying life, make a point of doing it and remembering that this is your purpose.

Find a hobby: Research indicates when one loses oneself in something they love doing, they report being happier than those who do not. Hobbies have also been demonstrated to reduce stress and enhance enjoyment in life.

Respect time: Most people kill time on occasion. Make use of your time, and realize your time is limited. One way is to live by a deathbed philosophy. From "Life's Little Instruction Book," comes the suggestion: "No one ever wished they had spent more time at the office when on their deathbed." Make time for the things that are important: family, loved ones, nature. Know that your time may end at any moment.

Serve others: When you help others, you help yourself. There is evidence that indicates helping others contributes to personal happiness. It is also a tenet of religious or spiritual practices.

Embrace the present: Too many people hamper the present with regret or baggage from the past or worries about the future. The present is all we have.

Relax: We live in a crazy busy culture. We seem to be too overwhelmed, too worried, and too stressed. But the truth is things generally work out. Answer this question: Can you remember what you were worried about five years ago? Chances are you can't. Most worry is unnecessary and unproductive. Sure, a little anxiety can help motivate you to get what you need done or to be more prepared. Beyond that, worry is completely counterproductive. Having faith that things will work out and everything will be okay brings peace and serenity. Relax, its going to be okay.

Remember, habits of behavior are hard to change. It is unlikely change will be easy, but keeping at it will make it a healthier new habit. Expect that you will fall back into the old behavior, but remain mindful of your goal and do not be overly hard on yourself when you slip back. This will make getting back on track easier. Take it easy on yourself. It is your life, do with it as you wish.

All the best in the new year.

Copyright William Berry 2011

Photo Credit: Alexi Berry

Model Credit: Ian Berry

Find Counselling

Get the help you need from a therapist near you–a FREE service from Psychology Today.