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New Year resolution: Be happy in 2015 focus on your values

Sarah Bateup, clinical lead at Ieso Digital Health, says true happiness comes from aligning our behaviours with our values.

Welcome to 2015 and the “New Year, new you” frenzy. This is a time of year when many of us think about how we can improve ourselves and get fitter, thinner and happier. Have you ever caught yourself saying: “I’ll be a better person if I gave up chocolate?” Or, “I’ll be happier when I drop a dress size?”

Stop and ask yourself, deep down, whether those things are truly important. If you died tomorrow, what would you like people to say about you? Would you like these things written on your headstone?...

“Here lies Ann. She did not eat chocolate.” “Here lies Jane. She was a size 10.”

Most of us would not wish to be remembered in this way. The New Year is a chance to think about what you would want to be remembered for and what you want your life to mean.

We all have a different idea of what is truly important in our lives. Some people will think about loving relationships, friendship and being a good parent. Others will consider things like being creative, making a difference, or spirituality. Cognitive behavioural therapists call these concepts, values. Our values can motivate us to make meaningful changes in our lives. Values are different to goals, in that we cannot just tick the box when we have done them. If you value being a loving partner, for example, it is not a one off action. A value is an ongoing process.

We can choose whether our actions and behaviour move us towards our values. Have you noticed how it makes you feel when you are not behaving in accordance with what you value? If you value being creative and you stop using your imagination because you are too busy – how do you feel? If you value being a loving partner and you stop making time for them, how do you feel?

You may notice that when we divert from our values we tend to experience emotions like guilt, sadness and distress. So what are your values? Here is a list of some common domains;

  • Intimate relationship
  • Friendship
  • Parenting
  • Family
  • Employment
  • Spirituality
  • Creativity
  • Health
  • Culture
  • Nature/animals/environment
  • Sport/activity
  • Education/learning
  • Exploration/travel

Choose the ones that mean the most to you and ask yourself, how you are doing in these areas of your life? What mark would you give yourself out of 10 and how does that make you feel? Choose one value that you would like to work on. What would you be willing to do, this week, to move towards your value? Try and keep in mind why you are willing to do this.

As baseball coach Yogi Berra famously said: “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

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