If you make resolutions or not January 1 is a time of reflection for most people. We look back, wonder where the time has gone, look ahead and think of what's in store for the new year. Some of us will do this in great detail, some of us will be content just shrugging our shoulders.
In general I don't think people usually do everything they hoped to do.
If thinking "what to do with my year", maybe think waaaaay forward, and look back. This may seem morbid but think of yourself on your deathbed and think of what you'd have wanted to do more of and less of.
Do you think you'll wish you watched more Netflix, or will you be kicking yourself for not flossing, or not connecting more with friends and family?
Thinking about your final days may seem morbid, but try to think of it as empowering. It can clarify your life, that clarity can take out a lot of stress from your life. When you have clarity deciding what to do and not do can become less stressful. I'll come back to this at the end but having an aversion to thinking about death is a big problem. People can have lots of regrets, families can be put under a lot of stress making decisions on your behalf. One advocate for planning suggest we think of our lives as a book, and says we should not fear the end just like we don't fear the final pages of a book. He suggests instead that we focus on writing a good story.
Looking to the internet you can find many articles on deathbed regrets to learn from others. You can probably guess what they are. Things such as; live your life not the life others wanted for you, don't work so hard, courage to express my feelings, a wish to have been closer with friends and family, and to have let themselves be happier. A paramedic says, the dying need to know their life had meaning.
With so much potential these days we are often stressed out that we aren't enough. This is illogical, we can't all be Mark Zuckerberg. Try hard, enjoy the process but don't feel like a failure if you're not a billionaire. The biggest factor in a start-up's success is timing. Something largely out of their control.
So if you're really thinking long term, like how to live today for your future self, should you eat healthy or work out. There is a lot of research showing that your sense of purpose and your relationships are more important to living longer. Eighty year olds with a spouse they feel they can count are less affected by their ailments than those that don't feel they have anyone their to help them. In terms of eating/living healthy many of these people have cues to stop yourself from eating when you're 80% full, schedule time to downshift from hectic life.
So if you're in the self reflecting mood...
Think of your purpose, over the month of Jan try to nail one down you like. Feel free to modify it as you go.
Over the year, make a resolution to schedule 1) time to unwind and 2) spend time with friends/family.
These should be easier than the typical resolution, but like anything, to be successful sticking to it long term you need to have a compelling reason. In this case the studies show if you do these things consistently over your life you are more likely to have a longer healthier life!
The amazing thing about these things that can extend happy healthy years to your life can also be good for the environment. A doctoral candidate at Berkeley suggests that if you invite friends over more and if you find time to unwind/sleep more, these activities have a low impact on the environment compared to other leisure activities and can help the environment.
5 Common Deathbed regrets
Live Happier (and More Energy Efficiently) by Sleeping More and Inviting Your Friends Over
Blue Zones Study TED Talk
For those of you interested enough to have kept scrolling....
Above I said I'd back to the topic of thinking about our final days and how it can not only be empowering but it can also make that time significantly less stressful. Below are all the references that helped me write this, the section below titled thinking about death in an empowering way is where you'll find the relevant reference.
What changes today will be most beneficial to my future self
- celebrate old people not young people
- they stop eating at 80% full
- they get put into groups of 6 friends for life
- they have a word for the reason for getting up in the morning, they have a reason for living
- move a lot but don't bother with the gym
- take time to downshift
- faith based community adds 14 years to your life
- density, social cohesion (kitchen party), isolation is big risk
- social cohesion lends to wariness of strangers
- chatting with strangers is the biggest factor
- loneliness kills
- marriage without affection is very bad for your health, worse than divorce
- old people in pain weren't as bothered by it if they had a partner they knew they could count on
- On Monday's and Thursday's he does what he would do if he got news that he had a terminal illness
Living for my Resume or Eulogy
- Our life goals often don't align with our daily activities, and this helps reflect on why
- Tips on if you want a good obituary
Not being too hard on yourself
- too much potential stresses us out
- Don't take your place in life too personally, try hard but understand we can't all be Bill Gates
- biggest factor is timing
Thinking about death in an empowering way
- Thinking about death is one of the most empowering things you can do
- No one is planning for death, but we should. Dying in ICU is not a good option
- Helping people have the end of life they want
- We need to change from seeing dying as failure, or we'll all be failures. We need a heroic narrative for death
- Think of life as a book, and don't fear the covers, don't fear the final page. The only thing that matters is that you make it a good story.
An "Auto-Obituary" full of advice
- The dying need to know their life had meaning
- You don't have to wait until you are dying to clean up your relationship
- Deathbed regrets summarized. The links below are other variations on this theme.