Why My New Year’s Resolution Is to Laugh More
It’s that time of year when we scramble to develop a New Year’s Resolution before the ball drops at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Statistically speaking, most of us vow to lose weight, save money or become healthier. And research shows that most of us abandon these resolutions well before kickoff at the Super Bowl in February.
Why does this happen? It’s because most resolutions are punitive in nature, the product of self-criticism. It’s like saying to yourself, “You need to lose weight because you’re fat and hideous.” Or, “You need to save money because you’re wasteful.” When we’re mean to ourselves we become depressed, or, worse, we become rebellious and do the opposite behavior.
So after many years of setting unsuccessful New Year’s resolutions, I think I’ve developed a better approach for 2015.
The one question I’m asking myself this year is, “How can I make myself happier in 2015?”
To figure out what will make me happier in 2015, I examined what made me happy during 2014.
- The vacations that I took with my kids because we laughed so much.
- Athletic competitions that I did with my friends because, again, we laughed so much.
Instead of focusing on my weaknesses, I want to focus on making decisions that will make me happy. On some level it seems like an absurd method for developing a New Year’s resolution. One voice inside my head is cackling, “What kind of moron would need to vow to have more fun?” The other voice in my head is snarkily saying, “Oh, right. You’re so busy and important that you need to resolve to laugh more?”
But somehow, left to my own devices, I consistently do not prioritize myself or my happiness.
As the divorced mother of two daughters, I am nothing if not task-oriented. I wake up at 5 a.m. to exercise, I sign permission slips, I pack snacks, I arrange for appointments, I shuttle between school and activities. I am continually updating my calendar as I try to squeeze flu shots in between chorus concerts. I run my household and my kids’ activities like a military unit, and I’m generally pretty successful. I am efficient and responsible, and I take pride in my organizational abilities.
If happiness was the product of having a fully completed to-do list, I’d be grinning from ear to ear. But folding laundry doesn’t make me laugh. And cooking healthy dinners has never cracked me up. The obvious casualty of my rigid system of task completion is my social life—my “me” time. The energy required to maintain a career, a household, a schedule of activities, and cooking often leaves me depleted on nights and weekends. When I receive invitations to socialize, I often feel ‘talked out’ and unwilling to peel myself off the couch in order to go out. My social life, in many ways, has become my friends at CrossFit, Flywheel or Main Line Health and Fitness. On my more pathetic days, I might even include the cast of The Real Housewives as close friends.
My resolution this year, and I’m loathe to make it public, is to socialize more, because socializing makes me happy. See? I’ve already regretted saying it. I’m already picturing the dirty laundry that will pile up if I divert one minute away from my precious “system.” And even worse, I’m imagining all of the episodes of The Real Housewives piling up on my DVR with no one to take care of them.
The purpose of a New Year’s resolution is to enhance your quality of life. By reflecting on both good and bad decisions made in previous years, we can identify ways to make ourselves happier. In my case, I need to learn to see the forest instead of the trees.
When I feel consumed by the mountain of items on my to-do list, this will become my mantra:
- Laughter is more important than laundry
- Vacations are more important than an organized pantry
- Every season of The Real Housewives follows the same (delicious) storyline of gossiping, backstabbing and fashion changes, so really, I’m not missing anything.
Here’s to having more fun in 2015!
Lauren Napolitano, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist on staff at Bryn Mawr Hospital and in private practice in Bryn Mawr, PA. To learn more about her practice, go here.