For the first time in years as Christmas neared this 2011 I thought of making a few New Year’s resolutions. In the past I’ve always avoided it as I tend to dream pretty big and I didn’t like looking at that list at the end of the year and feel bummed I hadn’t learned three languages or surfed Jaws yet. As 2012 neared I still had nothing on paper. Then a week in January went by…still nothing. And then I not-so-suddenly realized that the problem I’ve always had with resolutions is that they go absolutely against what I think we really should be doing to lead joyful lives. 1) They focus on the past or future (instead of the present) and 2) they tend to be totally self-focused. “I want to…”. Three words filled with all kinds of treachery. If we humans could live a little more in the present, and be concerned with our surroundings and fellow man a little more than ourselves…well that’s pretty much what mystics and spiritual leaders have been saying since the dawn of time right? Maybe they are onto something!
So I’ve come up with a short list of things that are easy to do that I think make a big difference. I’m no spiritual leader and I’m certainly no mystic. These are just things that seem to bring a lot of joy into my life, and I thought- why not share? I’ve tried to break it down into four things that are pretty essential to living well: education, health, community, and environment. If you agree with these, let’s do them together. And if you agree with them- let’s share this list with as many people as we can. You just never know where it could lead…
1) Subscribe (for free!) on iTunes or Spotify or whatever mp3 player you use and listen to TED TALKS. Their tagline is “ideas worth spreading“, and trust me- they are wonderful, incredible ideas on every topic you can imagine by the wisest people on the planet. Take a Ted Talk with you on your commute or on your morning jog and get addicted to filling your brain with wonderful ideas. Subscribe here. Follow TedTalks on Facebook.
2) Read ODE magazine. Their tagline is “for intelligent optimists“. This magazine is wonderful. It will make you laugh and make you think and it will do all kinds of little positive things to brighten the hours of your day. Give a subscription to anyone you know who is a little too pessimistic and watch it work wonders.
3) Watch these three terrific documentaries: “Bagit” http://www.bagitmovie.com/. “The Inside Job” http://www.sonyclassics.com/insidejob/. and “180 degrees South” http://www.180south.com/. Now isn’t this great- you get to watch movies as part of your resolution! Cool.
4) Sometimes to be happier we have to give things up. Here’s an easy two, that the planet will thank you for: NO MORE BOTTLED WATER, and cut down on ONE USE PLASTICS. It’s just tap water in that bottle. A few little shocking facts: 17 BILLION barrels of oil are needed to create (just create- not ship) the water bottles in the US alone. In the US, we consume 1500 bottles of water EVERY SECOND. While you’re at it, give up the plastic bags, the To Go coffee cups (lined with plastic those Starbucks cups!), and all those little plastic containers like shampoo, soap, sunblock… (use refillable glass instead). Take the pledge here.
5) Join a food co-op. It’s SUPER fun and SUPER healthy- for you and the ecosystem, and you’ll be surprised how all the side benefits will add up (ie getting to know your neighbors, building a sustainable community, feeling really good eating all that great fresh food…). Monoculture industrial agribusiness is filthy, destructive, viciously cruel to animals, unfairly subsidized and one of the largest CO2 contributors on Earth; but if enough people eat organic and support local farms- it will end. It takes just a few minutes to sign up: http://www.localharvest.org/.
6) Outside magazine just featured a study that showed people who spend time outdoors are happier, healthier, less stressed, and automatically become interested in wanting to do good to the Earth. There is no doubt that spending time in nature helps raise awareness of not only of ourselves, but of our incredible surroundings. And what it does for our kids? Don’t get me started! So this one is REALLY easy! No matter where you live, make 2012 the year when you spend a little more time looking up at the sky. Take the pledge– for you and your kids.
7) I say forget “losing 10 pounds by my birthday” and other such silliness. I’ve got an easier way to accomplish whatever it is you want to get done this year: Cut your TV time in half- or better yet, cut it out totally. A friend of mine decided for his 40th birthday to learn the piano and surf Mavericks. You know how he did both? He stopped watching TV. Those minutes and hours in front of the boob tube add up. Put those hours into something, anything that interests you (outside of TV of course!). Need some help with this one? Go here.
8) No fast food, no drive-ins. This one makes you feel WAY better, makes the planet feel WAY better; and makes your community feel WAY healthier because if enough of us do it- the fast food chains take a hike.
9) Our society puts a lot of emphasis on “self” and “independence”. But we are in fact group animals. And strangely, the more “rich” we become it seems the more privacy and isolation we want and even demand. But I’ve researched this a bit, and the experts seem to think this is not a wise move. As we’ve gone from open-door communal living (the kind that still exists in most developing countries) to fences and private drives, our connection to others gets more and more stretched. Which leads to loneliness, depression, and a myriad of other ills. So how about this year we all join one cool group? Take your pick: gardening, singles, biking, sewing, chess, french, cheese-making…
10) I know of no one who knows more about community than the great anthropologist Wade Davis. Watch this Ted Talk and give some thought to the Ethnosphere. It will change the way you view the world, in a very good way:
11) OPTIONAL: Join the The Cabrinha Quest for the next 5 years!
Happy 2012 everyone. Let’s make it a great year.