The only thing that makes me happy about Christmas being over — taking down the decorations, listening to “regular” music again and my husband going back to work — is the fact that it means a brand new year has just begun.
I love making New Year’s resolutions. I love imagining a “better” me and the idea of having 12 fresh months to make that happen. Inevitably around March or so, I’ve either fallen back into bad habits or forgotten what my resolutions are — as studies predict would happen. But last month for book club we read “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin, and her dedication and approach to setting and achieving goals make keeping resolutions actually possible.
“People are more likely to make progress on goals that are broken into concrete, measurable actions, with some kind of structured accountability and positive reinforcement,” she says.
While Rubin picks 12 things she wants to improve upon, focusing on one goal a month and then adding a new one each new month, I decided to just pick a few things I’ve been wanting to work upon. Twelve seemed far too daunting a number for someone like me who sometimes struggles to finish projects. Just take a look at my nursery-turned-linen closet.
I separated my goals into four categories, and this is what I came up with:
Goals: Sit less. Eat a variety, cutting back on sugary foods and dessert.
Something strange is happening this pregnancy. Every time I eat sugar, I get a horrible aftertaste in my mouth that is similar to sucking on a lemon. Chocolate has given me terrible acid reflux. Dairy products — particularly milk and ice cream — have made me miserably bloated. So because I actually feel worse after eating “bad” foods, I’ve naturally cut back. It’s amazing how mental eating junk food is. My brain still craves Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups crumbled on a huge bowl of Breyers Natural Vanilla, but my body, and poor husband, know I’ll be in for a rather long night.
I seem to always make the same foods over and over again, mainly because I’m sick of throwing food away that my boys won’t eat. So I’ve decided to try and broaden our tastes by cooking at least one new meal each week for a year. I received the “Our Best Bites: Savoring the Seasons” cookbook by Sara Wells and Kate Jones for Christmas, and have already made two amazingly delectable dishes that surprisingly the whole family enjoyed. (Try the “Stuffed Shells with Sausage and Mushrooms” on page 228. You won’t regret it.)
As far is my goal to sit less goes, I’m almost eight months pregnant and sitting is kind of all I can do right now. But I’ve tried not to be so lazy about down time. Even if I’m sitting, I try to move around while putting together puzzles with my boys, or crawl around and make forts out of pillows. Maybe sometime in the next few months after the baby comes, I can walk into a store like Athleta and actually be excited about buying ridiculously cute but chokingly expensive workout wear, and choosing to exercise without worrying I’ll pass out.
Goals: Connect more with God, self and others.
For me, this means choosing to fill my mind with uplifting books and media so I can be more in tune with what feels right for me and my family. Daily prayer and scripture study are on the list, as well as getting out of my comfort zone and serving others. One of my favorite new books is “For Times of Trouble,” by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.
Goals: Be more patient. Play with my boys more. Don’t freak out.
Funny, as I write this, both of my boys are crawling behind me on the couch, jumping into my back, trying to cram onto my lap and kicking the computer. It’s really trying my patience. I don’t really feel like playing the “jump” game with them right now, and not having the amount of time I want, or even a specific corner of the house to myself to work makes me a little panicky. But taking time to just “do nothing” and play is one of my goals. I’ve said I never regret the time I’ve spent playing with my two boys, even if it means letting another thing on the to-do list stay unchecked.
Goal: Date night once a month. Anything different from the normal routine.
On our anniversary this year, my husband and I stayed at the Little America Hotel. As we sat at a little table in our quaint room nibbling on chocolates and drinking apple cider, I realized something: it was very quiet. And not just because we were childless. It was quiet because we were quiet. When we did talk, it was mostly about the kids. We had a great time, but it got me thinking: We need to take more time for just us. Even at night when the kids are asleep, my husband’s usually studying and I’m usually writing or reading. Date nights are few and far between, and will become even scarcer in a few months after the baby arrives. I want to make dating my husband more of a priority. I know lots of couples that do a once-a-week date night. Realistically, I chose once a month. We can definitely make time for that.
I’m excited for 2013 and the new opportunities it holds. Every time I feel myself getting overwhelmed or straying from my goals, I need only remember this saying from my new Mary Engelbreit calendar this year, for the month of December. It reads:
Instructions: Put one foot in front of the other.
Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.