Home All Thoughts for Starting the New Year

Senia Maymin and Kathryn Britton are the senior editors of PositivePsychologyNews.com. Together they have edited two books in the Positive Psychology News series: Resilience: How to Navigate Life's Curves and Gratitude: How to Appreciate Life's Gifts. Kathryn co-edited the third book in the series, Character Strengths Matter, with Shannon Polly. Their co-authored articles are here.

Senia Maymin, MAPP '06, is the coauthor of Profit from the Positive. Maymin is an executive coach to entrepreneurs and CEOs. Her PhD is in organizational behavior from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Full Bio. Her solo articles are here and her articles with Margaret Greenberg are here.

Kathryn Britton, MAPP '06 also co-authored Smarts and Stamina on using positive psychology principles to build strong health habits. Blog. Full bio. Her solo articles are here.

Positive Psychology News has a tradition of pulling together thoughts for the New Year, remembering that many people are taking stock and making resolutions. As you look ahead, perhaps the ideas below will help you find ways to make your life more happy and healthy. We also recommend that you follow Alicia’s lead and look back at 2016. What worked especially well then? What do you want to make sure you do more of in 2017?

Kathryn Britton: Remember that approach goals are easier to achieve than avoidance goals, so express your resolution in terms of something you want to move toward rather than something you want to move away from. If you really want to get away from something, set up an implementation intention: “If I start wanting to do X, then I’ll do Y.” That way you can keep your mind from running around and around what you want to avoid like a mouse in a treadwheel, basically reinforcing thoughts of the item you want to avoid. So instead of “I want to avoid cake,” think “If the idea of cake comes to mind, I’ll go drink a glass of water (climb stairs) (eat a carrot).” Might as well put the urge to work reinforcing a behavior that you want to develop. Check out Emily vanSonnenberg’s article,

This is Your Brain on Habits.

Elizabeth Elizardi:

The beginning of the year is a good time to think about the way you relate to your children. Here are my suggestions:

  • Watch, Ask, Adapt. Use responsive care giving tools that respect the rights of children and build meaningful relationships between parent and child.
  • Create more FLOW experiences with children using loose parts.
  • Conscious Discipline- let children feel negative emotions.

Want more ideas? Check out

my series about building PERMA in children.

Margaret Greenberg:

Even in the darkest hours, there is always hope. I remembered this article Doug Turner wrote when PPND was first launched. It was so poignant that a decade later I was able to draw upon it for my own family. Thank you Doug!

Responding Well by Doug Turner

Orin Davis::
If this year has taught us nothing else, it’s that we must be active consumers of information. We cannot just read and accept — we must think about it! This holds double when it comes to our personal development.

Making Self-Help Effective

Lisa Sansom:

Let me share my advice to myself for 2017, and maybe it will help others. 2016 was extraordinarily busy in all sorts of ways, and I got used to it and now I find it hard to relax, hard to sit back, hard to enjoy the moment. Yet even though I’m so busy, I really enjoy everything that I do. It’s not easy to just drop the miserable things. It’s hard to pick and choose.

So for 2017, I’m going to focus more on me. I’ve signed up for a mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) course, I’ve signed up for some Pilates and Yoga classes, I went back to dance lessons. I haven’t done those in 30 years. I’m dropping some of my extra work: I resigned from a Board, I am done teaching, and I’ve finished a few other smaller projects.

I want to craft a new lifestyle for myself, one that is still full, but meaningful in my focus. I want to read more, exercise more, be present more, and learn how to resist the call of emails and work outside of working hours.

2017 will bring new adventures, and I want to be there for them. I have never been good at sticking to New Year’s resolutions, so this isn’t a resolution. Instead it’s a life shift. It won’t be easy. I have a lot of bad habits to break and good habits to acquire. But even a small step in the right direction is still forward motion.

What is your forward motion? What is your intention? Start the way you mean to end. What lifestyle do you want for yourself? Are you living it now? If not, what is the small step in the right direction that you want to take first?

Want more? Read my review of

How to Have a Good Day

Louisa Jewell::

Both 2015 and 2016 have been difficult years for me. I thank my lucky stars I have been trained in positive psychology which got me through. I think sometimes because we practice this we believe we need to be up and positive all the time. That is just not the case. We have to show ourselves compassion and allow ourselves to embrace our imperfections. Use the power of this amazing community to help you cushion your falls. It is a soft place to land!

Editor’s note: Louisa reminded us to collect stories that show the generosity of the human spirit in

Believing in Santa Claus

Louis Alloro:

Be calm and choose love. Then choose it again and choose it again. There’s a polarity between judgment and mercy that requires exquisite mindfulness. You’ll find your well-being increased when you can pay attention and inquire in an appreciative way.

Mindfulness in the Morning is More than Meditation

Marta Velazquez Gil:

This is a reminder to have self-compassion. People usually are too hard with themselves and want to do everything perfectly. Breathe. Your self-worth is not tied to achievement, productivity, or compliance. The best way for you to move forward from critical thoughts is by being kind to yourself. Turn those negative voices into positive ones. If you are compassionate with yourself, you are more likely to be compassionate with others.

If the year ahead appears difficult, you might also be interested in the idea of Sisu, the spirit and strength that enable people to persevere through difficulties despite feeling they have reached the end of their physical or mental capacities.

Sisu: Beyond Perseverance

Aren Cohen:

As we enter into the New Year and this strange new political climate, don’t forget the value of gratitude. In particular, one very concrete way of exercising gratitude is in the form of writing thoughtful thank you notes that demonstrate appreciation and care to others.

Positive Psychology and Thank-You Letters

Senia Maymin:

Choose one thing that’s important to you and do it every weekday. Maybe it takes five minutes every weekday. It doesn’t need to take long.

One of my earliest PPND articles is about using good constraints to make good behavior come automatically:

Create New Habits: The Good Constraints

Elaine O’Brien:

The advice is to be brave in going deeper in relationships, and yet on the other hand, to lighten up. Beyond the superficial, I’m curious to go beyond the surface in order to create a better understanding between and among people I care about, or would like to know better.

Also, I love the quotation, “Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.” The transcendent strength of humor shared is a real gift, helping to build bridges, positive connections, and better health. Authentically priming depth and lightness in ourselves and our relationships can boost our whole health and well-being.

Want to think about ways to use humor? Try out Laura L. C. Johnson’s article,

Humor in Psychotherapy

We have been collecting ideas about starting a new year since 2008. If you would like to hear more wishes for your well-being, suggestions, and wisdom about resolutions, check out the articles listed below. These ideas never grow old.

Happy New Year, everybody.

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New Year Fireworks courtesy of davidyuweb
Sprouting acorn courtesy of pfarrell95
Oak sapling courtesy of cogdogblog
Slender oaks courtesy of cod_gabriel
Majestic oak courtesy of he_boden

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Judy Krings 4 January 2017 - 5:37 pm

Hi, Senia and Kathryn, Your positive psychology applications and ideas are like gifts that keep on giving as we pay them forward from ourselves (and thanks you!) to others. Happy New Year to you both and to all your readers. What a community you have created. I am forever grateful to you. Peace and calm, yes, but also vibrancy and zest to know you are blessed!

Kathryn Britton 9 January 2017 - 3:26 pm

Thank you, Judy!

You are a positive mirror reflecting back the best of what we do. That’s another gift, not just to us, but also to others who can see how important appreciation is and how to do it in a way that resounds.

Happy New Year.

Judy Krings 9 January 2017 - 8:03 pm

I am humbled, Kathryn, and many thanks. Love your metaphor. Our community is like a shining mirror ball of sharing our learning. Happy 2107!

Alicia 11 January 2017 - 6:07 am

Kathryn & Senia: Thank you for this! The examples you have gathered echo many of my own fleeting about what I can do more…or less of in the coming year. Here are those ideas assembled in a clear and attainable way with the voices I admire from the MAPP community. This is something to tuck away and return to in six months for continued inspiration.


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