WITH ONE MONTH OF 2017 officially under our belts, many of us are approaching that all-too-familiar point where the promises we made to ourselves for the New Year begin to fall to the wayside. It’s no surprise; New Year’s resolutions come by their bad reputation honestly. They’re hard to start, more difficult to maintain, and they often exceed the limits of what we’re capable of. Which is to say that I can make a New Year’s resolution to climb Everest, but I will die, guaranteed, if I try to step up to that task without proper preparation.
I’ve written before about making your New Year’s resolutions ones you can actually keep, and other writers have guides to sticking out your declared plans for the year, but no guide can prepare you for preparing. Prep is a necessary period that should precede any resolution-tackling effort, but it’s where many in the “new year, new me” crowd stall out. It’s easy to get bored and give up, or to get so stuck in your prep work that you become wary of moving on, lest you do something wrong.
But there’s an easy New Year’s resolution that’s cheap, takes next-to-no preparation, and can: make you happier, help you sleep better, calm your overactive mind, foster creativity, maintain your mental acuity, improve your communication skills, and ease the burden of hard times. I’m talking about writing.
Making a resolution to write this year is as simple as picking up a pen or creating a new Google Doc. You can do it almost anywhere, and it — probably — won’t clutter your house or car. It’s free and stuffed to the gills with psychological benefits.
Best of all, your writing resolution is fully customizable to your goals. Obviously, if you want to be a professional writer — a novelist or journalist, say, or even a money-making blogger — you should write as much and as broadly as is humanly possible. But what if you just want to get more in touch with your feelings, or make your days a little less stressful? Maybe you just want to explore what you can write and how. Whatever your goals are, a New Year’s resolution to write can be tooled to meet them.
Here’s why you should make a resolution to write this year.
1. Writing Makes You Better at Your Job
According to a study from Wharton professor and Originals author Adam Grant, “when people doing stressful fundraising jobs kept a journal for a few days about how their work made a difference, they increased their hourly effort by 29% over the next two weeks.” That’s a huge bump in productivity, and it’s likely caused by the other psychological benefits of a writing habit.
2. Writing Helps You Sleep Better
When you write things down, you are no longer under any obligation to actively recall them in your mind, which frees up your brain’s RAM for other tasks, like focusing on your job. Spending a few minutes writing down whatever is lingering in your mind before bed each night can help you relax and sleep better. Be sure you do this kind of writing by hand, or with a blue shade, though, because exposure to the blue light of your laptop or tablet can prevent you from falling asleep on time.
3. Writing Maintains Your Mental Acuity
If you want to keep your mind healthy as you age, you have to think of it as a muscle. Without putting your brain under the right kind of strain, you run the risk of stagnation and decline. Doing crossword puzzles, reading the newspaper, and puttering in your garden will all produce similar results, but why do that when you could write instead?
4. Writing Improves Your Communication Skills
Let me start off this bullet point by saying that I do not, under any circumstances, believe that you should use your New Year’s resolution writing as a vehicle to beat yourself up. Your personal writing does not have to be perfect, and agonizing over each and every semantic choice will only lead to a stall in your habit.
With that being said, writing a lot will improve your business and interpersonal communication skills, and writing in private will give you the space to explore new techniques and discover your unique “voice.” After just a few weeks, you’ll be able to identify the words you overuse, and the areas in which your grammar and vocabulary need improvement.
5. Writing Makes Hard Times Easier to Endure
Writing before bed works because it allows you to sort out your feelings before you try to sleep on them, but you don’t have to be between the sheets in order to reap the emotional benefits of a writing habit.
If you journal, take each entry as an opportunity to explore your feelings about the day’s events through an open dialogue with yourself. Ask questions, then answer them. Play devil’s advocate and examine things from a different angle. Don’t focus on making your writing sound good, but on making it work well for your well-being.