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At this time of year, we all seem to look forward to the new year with New Year’s Resolutions in mind.

I read an article online lately that really touched home. It was about five life-changing new year’s resolutions for 2021. It talked about how making New Year’s resolutions has always been a tradition many of us have been doing for years, which we all know. We find flaws in our lifestyles and come January 1 we vow to change ourselves by losing weight, saving more money, stopping that procrastinating, among many other things.

But committing to the goals we come up with can be really hard, and it leaves us feeling defeated if we don’t reach those goals.

As 2020 comes to a close, most of us are already defeated. We just experienced a year that has brought us so much loss. We could all use resolutions for the new year that focus on the good and lift us all up. So, what kind of resolutions are those? I say they are the ones that not only bring happiness to ourselves, but also bring happiness to others!

The article I read listed five New Year’s resolutions for 2021 that will help us better ourselves – while helping others as well. Those are:

5. Do a random act of kinds for a stranger every day. You’re less likely to cross paths with strangers during this COVID-19 pandemic. We will pass by each other in places like grocery stores and parks, but with masks and social distancing, connecting with each other is tricky. There are still ways you can be kind to strangers. You can:

• Let someone go ahead of you in store lines.

• Pay for the person behind you in a fast food line.

• Drop off a warm meal to a neighbor you haven’t met.

• Make cards for your local essential workers.

In Bear Lake, we seem to almost know everyone, so a “stranger” could be someone in a mask who doesn’t look familiar. They might just be someone you haven’t seen for a while, so they don’t look familiar to you because they’re wearing a mask. Even just waving to one another – since our smiles are masked – can help someone who might be experiencing hardship feel a bit more hopeful. Your kindness will bring you happiness, too. It’s a win-win.

4. Find a cause you care about and discover a way to take action. The number of global catastrophes we’re facing can be hard to wrap your head around. People around the world are at risk of issues that threaten their livelihood, health, and happiness.

But when you do find something you want to fight for, whether it be climate justice, trafficking prevention, or food security, your action gives you a sense of purpose and helps create positive change for others. You can donate to a charity, become and activist, virtually volunteer, and much more.

Unsure where to begin with humanitarian work in 2021? There is a quiz at action.planusa.org/what-kind-of-activist-are-you-quiz/ where you can find out which global issue you’re most passionate about and could make the most impact in.

Don’t want to go global? Find a local cause and donate to it. The Bear Lake Senior Center is always needing help to feed older people who are stuck at home and can’t get out, or to feed the people who come to the Center. The City of Montpelier is looking for donations for Christmas lights because they are using the old original lights. There are many local causes that would love to have your kind donations as well.

3. Write letters or send cards to people who feel alone. This is about one of the most isolating times in our lives. Elderly people who live alone are some of the ones who really need to feel connected now. Also, those in the nursing home who can’t see their families are very vulnerable and lonely at this time. Grandparents who have been isolated from their grandchildren and children need to hear from someone.

A hand-written letter is so much more personal than an email or text. Think about some of the people in your life who need to feel less alone, and aim to write them one letter a month.

If you want to write letters or cards to children in need, you can do that with Plan International USA by becoming a child sponsor. You can sponsor a child and form an incredible friendship.

2. Make time to learn. So much is happening in our world. If you feel a bit overwhelmed and want to educate yourself, the best way to stay in-the-know is to carve out time each day to spend reading news or books, listening to podcasts or audiobooks, or taking an online course.

By listening and learning, you’ll be motivated to wake up every day and effectively participate in the world around you. You’ll feel more confident and more in control of what you can do to create change. And, through self-learning, you can inspire the people around you by sharing your knowledge with them.

1. Express gratitude. As we have mentioned before, expressing gratitude has been scientifically proven to improve mental and physical health, help you create more relationships, increase your self-esteem, and enhance empathy. Changing your brain chemistry with gratitude doesn’t come at a cost or require much time. It will keep you going throughout the whole year and let the people in your life know how much they matter to you. So, no matter what 2021 may bring, you’ll be prioritizing to focus on everything you do have.

Some of the ways you can express gratitude are:

• Keep a gratitude journal and share your gratitude with others. Use social media for this as well as a written journal. It’s a great tool we have to utilize now. Use it!

• Don’t hold back on compliments.

• Be someone’s support system.

• Always, always say thank you.

In this time of turmoil and tempest, with the unknown of what 2021 will bring, it is important to plan ahead and try to do things that are positive. We don’t know what the next year will bring, so we can only hope for the best and try to take the best into 2021.

Let’s make the best and most positive New Year’s resolutions we can that will not only help ourselves but the people around us. Lifting up others will only lift ourselves up in the end. And like they say, “What goes around, comes around.” We can only benefit from doing good to others. Let 2021 be a year of helping out those around us who may need a little lift, a helping hand, or just a smile to brighten their day. You never know what you’ll get in return…or maybe nothing. But you will know you have done something good. And that is enough.

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