Although I had a self-improvement resolution in mind before the holidays, it wasn’t until yesterday that I found one word of intention to sum it up. My plan for 2019 is to keep a Kindness Journal in which I write at least five kind things that people have done for me each day. This is a variation on the familiar gratitude journal, but with a specific focus on seeing the world as a kinder place.

Our culture gives us so many negative messages about random cruelty and never-ending strife, it’s not always easy to notice the small, everyday acts of kindness all around us. Just one rude or grumpy person can put us in a bad mood, even if we’ve heard nothing else but pleasant conversation the entire day. When we’ve been told many times that the world is a cruel and unsafe place, we subconsciously give more weight to events that fit the expected narrative.

This works both ways, of course—when we expect kindness, we’re likely to find more of it and to feel safer in the world. So, by keeping a Kindness Journal in 2019, I plan to shift my mindset toward seeing other people as generally kind and helpful, which should in turn reduce subconscious fears of being randomly targeted for something nasty. Those fears don’t have much basis in present-day reality, but just saying so isn’t enough to banish them. Instead, a different and healthier story needs to take root in their place.

While I could explain all that in three paragraphs, trying to condense it down to one word of intention for the New Year was more of a challenge. “Kindness” didn’t seem accurate because the focus is on being more aware of others’ kindness, rather than on being kinder myself. “Awareness” was much too general. I couldn’t find anything that felt right, and Christmas came and went without further inspiration.

Then, on the morning of New Year’s Eve, I woke up with one word in my thoughts: “Sublime.”

In the original Latin, this is a compound word that literally means under the limit, or under a boundary or threshold. Figuratively, the word means “as good as it gets.” Modern-day English has two distinct forms of the word. One is an adjective that means excellent or awe-inspiring. The other, a verb, is a chemistry term that describes a phase-transition process in which a solid substance transforms into a vapor without first becoming a liquid.

Sublimation occurs, for example, when the polar ice caps on Mars get above the freezing point. There isn’t enough atmospheric pressure on Mars to keep water in its liquid state, so it changes (sublimes) from ice to vapor. Even right here on Earth, unusual weather conditions can sometimes cause snow to evaporate directly into fog without first melting.

Fog rising over snow and trees.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Also, there are some related terms in psychology, like “subliminal,” referring to subconscious mental processes and effects. The primary meaning that I have in mind for my 2019 word of intention is closer to the chemistry term, though. I want to create a low-pressure environment in which my old fears evaporate and blow away on the wind—directly, without first melting into muddy, icky puddles of stagnant emotion.

And then, maybe—after the fog has lifted and the sun has come out, bright and clear in a deep blue winter sky—I’ll look around and discover an internal landscape that is excellent and awe-inspiring.

For the past few years I’ve made—and mostly kept—New Year’s resolutions aimed at cultivating a better mindset. I visited a positive blog every day of 2014 and chronicled these virtual travels on my Random Kindness Blog Tour page. Then, in 2015, I resolved to get my days off to a cheerfully silly start by saying “Yay!” each morning to my shiny new red toaster, so that I would begin every day with a smile.

My resolution for 2016 turned more serious, as I wrote daily notes reflecting on how my past thoughts and actions had coalesced into present-day circumstances. Although I hadn’t set out to dig up old stressful memories, but wanted only to gain more insight in general, some unpleasant stuff surfaced anyway. I went into 2017 feeling drained of mental energy, as if I now had empty, dimly lit spaces all through my mind where heaps of old garbage had been taken out; and I resolved to write about gratitude for the empty spaces.

Toward the end of the year, though, I lost interest in writing daily gratitude notes. I felt intuitively that it was time to let go—to set aside the self-imposed obligations and the burden of always pushing myself to do more. I still wrote an occasional note every week or two, as they came to mind, but their tone had changed. Instead of expecting to discover profound life lessons on a regular schedule, I found myself writing notes that spoke of stillness and trust. I had planted new gardens in those fallow fields of the mind and left them to grow in peace, rather than behaving like an impatient child and digging up the seeds every day to see whether anything had sprouted yet.

Newly planted field in autumn.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

As another year begins, my resolution for 2018 is simply to allow myself to be present in the moment. I haven’t created a schedule obligating me to practice mindfulness on a regular daily basis or to meditate at certain times, nor am I keeping a journal about it. I can’t see a need for all those layers of abstraction. Occasional short pauses, however they may happen, are what I have in mind—noticing the brightness of sun reflecting from snow, the stillness of bare trees without any wind moving through their branches, and the smooth wood grain of the kitchen table.

Presence, and nothing more.

When I thought about making a New Year’s resolution for 2017, there was a little voice in the back of my head telling me to choose wisely. Last year’s resolution seemed harmless enough at the time: my word of intention was Coalesce, and I set myself the tasks of reflecting daily on the patterns that had been created by my past choices and writing down a question about them.

As planned, I kept notes—they weren’t really detailed enough to call a journal—in which I wrote both an observation and a question for each day. I expected that this would help me to recognize subconscious patterns and to make changes as appropriate. Well, it did, sort of; but I hadn’t foreseen some of what came bubbling up. Smoldering old anger, feelings of being trapped and unsafe—basically, all the stuff that gets stomped down in the mental garbage can and flattened to make room for more subconscious garbage.

After inadvertently letting those nasties loose, I spent much of the year feeling like all I did was clean up after them, without much energy left for writing or other creative pursuits. When would I reach that happy place I had imagined, free of old limiting patterns and bubbling over with spontaneous, joyful inspiration? Was there such a place? I kept on peeling away layers of old junk, expecting to discover something better; but I saw only quiet, empty spaces curving away into an unknown future.

Empty railroad tracks going around a curve.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

That was how I came into December, with my creative energy more depleted—or so it felt—than when I started trying to sort things out last year. I didn’t feel much inspired to write stories or to start new projects. Sometimes I noticed little signs of a positive shift, such as my face in the mirror looking more relaxed and rested. I was sleeping fairly well, and a few small health issues had cleared up. Still, I felt tired and unmotivated by comparison to past years, and far from where I wanted to be.

Although I kept telling myself that I should feel glad of the empty spaces because I now had plenty of room for something good to show up and fill them, I couldn’t make myself feel it. So I decided that my word of intention for 2017 would be Gratitude, but not in the usual sense of looking around and counting one’s blessings—I know that I have many. The kind of gratitude I need to cultivate this year is a healthy appreciation for the lessons I learned from taking out the mental garbage. I’ll do that by writing about them in my daily notes, along with the possibilities that are unfolding.

Even if I can’t feel it yet, writing each day about the potential for good things in those empty spaces ought to attract positive energy to take up residence there. I don’t yet have to choose from among the many possibilities; it is enough, as a new year begins, simply to recognize that they exist.

Many of us choose words of intention and make resolutions as a new year begins. This is only my third year for both, I must confess. Before that, I hadn’t thought much about the process of creating an intentional life through small everyday choices. Although I had plenty of persistence and generally managed to follow through on whatever I decided to do, I lacked the patience needed to go along with it. All too often, I stressed myself out trying to cram every ambitious idea, plan, project, and expectation into the present.

Whether it is magic as some would say, or just the ordinary workings of the subconscious mind, whatever thoughts get the most attention are the ones most likely to find their way into real life. This doesn’t mean, however, that it is necessary or even possible to discipline every thought and clearly visualize every detail of a long-term goal in order to get there. Everything that we encounter changes us, even though it may be in tiny, almost imperceptible ways; and thus our intentions are always in motion as we move into the future, the details shifting and coalescing to form new patterns like the bright sparkling colors of a kaleidoscope.

Floral kaleidoscope image, mainly in blue shades.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

I have decided that my focus throughout this new year will be on mindfully appreciating the little details in the present that mesh with the intentional life I am creating. Rather than trying to force everything into a precisely constructed life plan, which strikes me as an unrealistic expectation (and one that wouldn’t be much fun even if it reasonably could be accomplished), I move forward trusting that the patterns will fall into place in due course.

My word of intention for 2016 is Coalesce. I’ve resolved to keep notes each day on whatever I happen to encounter that is a product of my past intentions, along with any questions that may come to mind and any images that seem relevant. Keeping a journal of this nature will give me a better sense of what patterns are in motion right now, as well as identifying where changes are needed and settling doubts about how they’re going to work out. I don’t need to foresee everything that will happen in the future—after all, my life would get pretty boring if I did!

A very happy New Year to everyone, full of wonderful wishes that come true! I began setting my intentions for 2015 way back in October, when I bought a fairy figurine (shown in this post) as a symbol of releasing my dreams to fly free in beauty. I didn’t have a word or a New Year’s resolution in mind until Christmas, though, when one of my presents turned out to be a new toaster.

New red toaster with display screen.

A toaster certainly doesn’t need to have bright red side panels and a display screen that shows the settings and the time remaining. It’s just more fun that way! And the plain old toaster it replaced was still working just fine, as good as new—but “new” was 1986, when loaves of bread were narrower and people wouldn’t even have thought about putting a bagel in a toaster. I had been putting slices of wide bread in the old one sideways and toasting bagels in the oven.

So I decided that the new toaster would be my visual reminder that the world is full of fun stuff to enjoy, and that it’s perfectly fine to replace things even if they are not worn out! My New Year’s resolution is simply to say “Yay!” every morning when I go into the kitchen and see the toaster. (Not out loud though, as that would be a bit much to expect my husband to deal with!)

Because saying “Yay!” to a toaster is so silly, it will make me smile and laugh, which is a good healthy way to start the day. And my word of intention for 2015, meant to bring positive energy and to celebrate abundance, is also Yay!

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

‘Tis the season when many of us start thinking about changes we want to make in the coming year. We talk over potential New Year’s resolutions with our friends and family. Perhaps we focus on improving our personal lives, such as by resolving to eat healthier, get more exercise, and clean up a cluttered house. Or we plan to get involved in volunteer work—serving meals at the homeless shelter, for example, or teaching adult literacy classes at the library. By talking about our plans with others, we give the details more clarity in our own minds and become more determined to follow through.

But the idea of making long-term changes can be discouraging to us, especially in today’s busy and complicated society. It’s hard enough to keep up with everything that’s changing around us—advances in technology, reorganizations at work, and so forth. When we consider how many things need improvement, both in our personal lives and the world in general, we’re likely to feel overwhelmed. It seems like there’s just too much going on that we can’t control. Why even try? It’s easier just to fall back on our familiar comforting habits, even though they may not be good for us in the long run.

I recently had an email conversation along these lines with a friend who described her perspective on changing one’s own life and the world:

Sometimes I feel like all I can do—in a world that can sometimes seem so filled with strife—is continue to be positive in my own life and with my own situation, and then hope that my positivity can radiate out to others and uplift them as well (even if it’s just a smile I might share with a stranger). Lately when I meditate, I’ve been sending bright energies out to envelop Mother Earth. I wish there was something I could do to make everything okay for everybody. And that thought always leads me back to the saying “If you want to save the world, all you need do is save yourself.”

After I’d had a few days to reflect on her words, I thought more about positivity in the context of the Internet—and blogging in particular. There are plenty of blogs whose authors write cheerful, kind, uplifting material, but they don’t get much traffic. Although we may browse their blogs on occasion, we may feel that we haven’t got the time to visit more regularly or to write meaningful comments. Meanwhile, political bloggers stir up anger and often have long comment threads full of arguments. This skews the Internet toward negativity, even though most blog owners just write about everyday life.

So—my New Year’s resolution for 2014 is to radiate positivity by making time, for an entire year, to visit a different blog each day that focuses on random acts of kindness or other positive themes. I’ll write a detailed comment on each of these blogs, describing why I enjoyed it and thanking the author for creating it. At the least, this will make 365 blog authors happier, as well as improving my own mood by giving me positive reading material daily. And I’m hoping other bloggers will join in, which would magnify the effects exponentially! If you’re interested in participating, please visit my new Random Kindness Blog Tour page.