Tag Archives: new year resolution

New Year Resolution for 2017

Can’t believe it’s been a whole year since my last post! Somehow it feels way shorter than that – I still remember writing the post on people stealing my laptop at the coffeeshop like it was yesterday. It reminds me of my time at MIT and Boston, and also the many amazing things that have happened afterwards in 2016. What a year it has been – the ups and downs, the old and new, the things I’ve learned about myself, about people around me, and about the world are simply too much to recount in this one post. They have undoubtedly shaped how I view and approach things in life, so I’m sure their influences will be seen in my upcoming posts. In other news, I’m going to start writing this blog again! Still focusing on applying psychology/behavioral economics research into daily lives. 

In the last 5 months, I’ve deliberately tried to be less type-A about things. So in an effort to continue doing that, I’m going to refrain from making a list of things I’ve accomplished and learned in 2016. I also debated as to whether I should make New Year Resolutions at all this year because it also sounds quite type-A to me. However, I think of it more as “Improvements I want to make”, which can really be implemented at any point in time within a year, but complementing it with the Fresh Start Effect (Jan 1st is a good boost in motivation), makes January 1st a great day to implement changes you want in your life. Two years ago, I wrote about how to set NYR without actually posting about them, which means I didn’t really follow my own advice of telling others about your resolutions. So, I’m going to do that this year.

The biggest resolution of this year is to be kinder to myself.

This is broken down into the following 3 actionable items – 

#1 talk to my heart kiddo every day
One of the most eye-opening thought I heard last year was that “you can go to sleep to rest, but your heart never stops beating for you and it never gets to sleep and rest”. Isn’t that amazing? I’ve never really thought about my heart this way, or thought about my heart at all…unless something went wrong with it. So this year, I want to be more grateful for my heart and be nicer to it. I’ve also found it easier to be nice, soft, friendly, and understanding to people other than to myself. So I’ve created this “kiddo”, a little baby girl character (think: Inside Out), that represents my heart. Someone who I can talk to in my imagination and be naturally softer to because it’s a tiny human (and you don’t want to be mean to tiny humans because they’re fragile). It’s like talking to another person, even if it is still me. This coming year, I’ll have a brief conversation (my plan is to say good morning to her) with this kiddo every day. 

#2 one alone day a month
Two years ago, I set a resolution of doing an alone day/”me-day” once a month. The idea was that I won’t talk to anyone that day and also do things that I want to do for myself. It’s a day dedicated to me. Little did I know it was a preview to my 10-day silent meditation retreat this past November, from which I’ve learned and gained a tremendous amount, including resolution #1 above. The retreat helped me refine the definition of alone days. In addition to not talking to my closest friends that day, which in effect only meant I spent the day checking emails, writing blog posts, going to a coffee shop, and being equally busy and thinking equally as much, I want to stay away from all communications (phones, computers, conversations, etc.) on my alone day. By getting rid of distractions, I’ll spend this day doing nothing and thinking about nothing, which I’ve found to be incredibly difficult. Let me know if you want to join in on this one!

#3 stop eating when i say “i’m full”
This resolution is also recycling from previous resolutions, not because I failed on them previously, like you’d imagine the cliche “lose weight” and “exercise more” resolutions to turn out (again see how to set resolutions), but because they’ve been so successful that I want to keep them top of mind and continue to work on them. This one was refined in collaboration with my younger sister, Sharon, from the previous “stop eating when full” to “stop eating when I utter the words I’m full” –  a subtle difference that not only seemed to keep her happy but is also quite profound. The advantage of this subtle improvement is that pinpointing when I said the words “I’m full” is much more concrete than just saying i’ll stop when i’m full, which leaves a lot of room (no pun intended) for negotiations. When am I full? One can easily convince themselves that they’re not that full and can still eat another bite of that fish tacos even when they’re stuffed to the brim. With the current resolution, once we’ve said the words “I’m full”, we have to stop eating. [confession: we ate grapes after saying i’m full during our Jan 1st dinner :3]

So that’s it! My 3 new year resolutions for this year. They all feed into being kinder to my body and my mind, which both honestly need a little bit more love from me. My prediction is that 2017 will be a year of understanding, letting go, rebuilding, accepting, exploring, risk taking, and more. Very (very) looking forward to this coming year – for the new job, new city, new relationship – and if one thing can be certain, it is that I don’t know what this year will bring, which in itself sounds exciting to me.

What are your resolutions? Share them in the comments below.

With Love,
Steph

On Happiness

In honor of one of my new year resolution in 2015 to write a new blog post every week, this will be my last weekly post of 2015. It still does not feel like the end of the year came and went. Ever since my friend asked me about my reflections this past year (which I admit I have completely forgotten to reflect on), I have been doing more thinking and formulating my new year resolution for 2016. No doubt, I will be revisiting the post I wrote last year for some guidelines.

But today, I want to write about happiness. It always amazes and sometimes confuses me how researchers can study this topic. Inherently a subjective matter, happiness is a fluctuating, hard-to-verify measurement unlike other more steady cousins, such as income or GDP. This disadvantage has led some major fields, including Economics, to stay away from tackling this so-called “fluffy” measurement. At the same time, it has intrigued many Psychologists and prompted subfields such as positive psychology.

Lottery Winners and Accident Victims 

In a study by Philip Brickman, Dan Coates, and Ronnie Janoff-Bulman, they asked a bunch of lottery winners and paraplegics about their happiness levels. The hypothesis is that those who had won the lottery will be much happier than others, while those who had lost a limb will be unhappier than others. Not a crazy hypothesis.

People were asked to rate their happiness on a scale of 0 to 5 (a 6 point scale) of how positive or negative the event (lottery/accident) was. Surprisingly, the ratings of happiness between the two groups, lottery winners and accident victims, were not that different from each other. Don’t get me wrong – in statistics terms, they were significant, but not by much, considering their difference in magnitude. The average happiness rating for lottery winners was 3.78, while for accident victims it was 1.28 (reminder: this was on a 6-point scale).

Now, the measure used in this experiment is a pretty bad one using only one question and a self-reported survey. People are pretty bad at defining something as broad as “happiness”, everyone interprets the word differently, and self-reported measures are not always honest. So, it is better to compare within subjects, meaning we get the same person to answer the questions so that it’s at least a comparable definition of “happiness”. With this, they found another interesting fact: the happiness level did not increase or decrease after winning the lottery OR after being paralyzed from below the waist.

Wait what? what happened? This is because people adapt to situations extremely quickly. Before we win the lottery, we think that our lives will change dramatically afterwards and we will be super happy. However, a few things happen after you really win the lottery. The usual activities you used to do are less enjoyable now; fun things now feel boring. Secondly, habituation occurs and having lottery cash becomes your new baseline. The same effect goes for paraplegics in the opposite direction.

This paper is one of the more famous experiments showing that happiness is all relative to our baseline. To me, it also remarkably shows how easy we adapt to new environments. For example, you might be convinced that working towards that huge promotion next year will make you happier, but you’ll quickly adjust to it – so don’t spend your whole life in the office and enjoy life! You might think that breaking up with your loved one means you’ll never be happy again, but you’ll adjust to a new norm and soon be happy again.

2016 looks like a year of changes and uncertainty for me, but I’m certain with humans superb adapting ability, it will be a happy year regardless. I wish you all great happiness in 2016! HAPPY NEW YEAR 🙂

With love,

Steph

Source: Brickman, P., Coates, D., & Janoff-Bulman, R. (1978). Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative?. Journal of personality and social psychology, 36(8), 917.