Thursday, December 22, 2011

Beyond Christmas

Unless you have had your head in the sand, you are probably aware that Christmas is nearly here. For the kiddies, this joyous season means excitement, anticipation, school vacation and fun. For the rest of us, Christmas means a lot of things, too -- including gift shopping, gift wrapping, tree trimming, cookie baking, visitor greeting, card addressing, rushing around and finally time to relax. Once the ribbon and wrap has been gathered and the tree removed, we can then face the new year, a rather daunting opportunity to start fresh.

Recently when a friend and I were discussing the new year, I expressed frustration about subjects which required action but were not in my control. I wished change was an option. One of us used the phrase "making ripples" and that phrase seized our attention. Sometimes we have to start with incremental changes in order for progress to occur. Although they begin small, eventually ripples expand until they reach many others.

Small gestures can make a significant improvement. Take eating habits, for instance. People tend to think of diet as a penalty, something imposed against their will and which must be followed indefinitely. They don't realize that small changes in eating habits can add up over time. The final results are often surprising.

We should face the new calendar eagerly and resolve to make improvements. Here are some suggestions that we could follow to get started:

1. Get healthy. Lose a little weight. Become more active and fit. Park farther away from the shopping mall. Skip dessert occasionally. Walk after dinner instead of collapsing in a chair. Take your dog for a walk. Find an exercise partner/buddy.

2. Watch the budget. Most of us waste money on frivolous items. Avoid adding to credit card balances. Before you buy something, think about it at length to prevent impulse shopping. Watch prices for necessities and shop during sales.

3. Decide what to do each day. Make a list of things that you want to accomplish. Prioritize the chores. Then try and do as many of them as possible. At the end of the day, carry those items over to the following day so you will work on the unfinished list first. You will be surprised at how quickly this resolves procrastination.

4. Find something to do with spare time. Have you always thought about pursuing a hobby? Do you enjoy cooking? Crafts? Reading? History? Watching old movies? Photography? Nature walks? Sports? Working with animals? Chances are there is a group in your community with similar interests where you could work with others toward a goal. Ask around. Network with other crafts, photogs, cooks, etc.

5. Consider volunteering. Groups are created in nearly every town and borough to work on community projects - park beautification, helping the less fortunate, tutoring students. Ask around and get involved.

Keep in mind that when you make ripples, the result is far reaching.

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