5 Things Spouses Should Do in the New Year

Kylie Wathen, a USO volunteer, organizes event calendars and brochures at a USO center at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. (U.S. Air Force/Teresa J. Cleveland)
Kylie Wathen, a USO volunteer, organizes event calendars and brochures at a USO center at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. (U.S. Air Force/Teresa J. Cleveland)

Every January, the magazine covers and talk shows are jammed with tips and tricks for making this the year those New Year’s resolutions finally stick.

But maybe we’re going about it all wrong. Instead of aiming for radical life changes or checking something off the to-do list, we could make the choice to explore new experiences. As military spouses, it is easy to get so caught up in handling the curve balls that our life inevitably throws that we forget to enjoy the place we’re in right now.

5 Things Spouses Should Do in the New Year

1. Set Goals You Want to (and Can!) Reach.

While the beginning of the year is the traditional time to make resolutions about life changes, they don’t have the best track record for getting done. This New Year, resolve to act. Instead of saying you want to lose 30 pounds before next Thanksgiving, set a goal for getting to the gym at least twice a week. The goal is in the action instead of the result, giving you a much better chance of sticking with it.

2. Discover and Learn Something New

Long after we’ve finished with school, there are distinct benefits to intentionally learning something new. Perhaps you have always been interested in the history of Australia? Make this the year you read a book and learn about it. Or, take a class on graphic design or creative writing at the local college. According to Gary Marcus, cognitive psychologist, “research suggests that the greater sense of purpose and personal growth associated with [learning something new] correlates with lower cortisol levels, better immune function and more efficient sleep.” I’m pretty sure every single one of us could stand to be better rested.

3. Cross an Item Off Your Bucket List

Every January starts off with a clean slate, and, usually, a long list of goals and desires we want to check off, but never get around to actually doing. Before you know it, five Januarys have passed us by, and we’re still dragging our feet. This year, DO. DO something. DO something you’ve been putting off because you didn’t have time, or money or courage.

Now, I’m not encouraging you to run off to the Caribbean to become a dolphin trainer like the heroine in that book you read in 4th grade. But, if you’ve always loved marine life perhaps there is an opportunity closer to home through a local college or an aquarium’s community outreach program. It could be as simple as cooking classes or playing tennis in a local adult league. Small regrets about not following through with something weigh us down. This year, cross something off the “I wish I’d done” list.

4. Give Back

I know for many of us, volunteering is its own full-time job. Yet, this year, as you plan your time, think about the time you most struggled with the military lifestyle and resolve to reach out to others in the place you once were. I’ve been an active volunteer for as long as I’ve been married to the military, but this year I’ll be helping out new moms in our military community. Though my son is long past the infant stage, I remember the overwhelming feeling of holding a baby, waving goodbye to my husband and wondering how I was supposed to stay happy, healthy and sane enough for two.

When you volunteer and work from a place of understanding and sympathy, there is a unique connection you feel from those you help; they will feel your sincerity.

5. Take Care of You

This seems like the place traditional New Year’s resolutions fail: quit smoking, lose weight or getting out of debt. It is. It’s important to keep these old standbys around, because so many times throughout the year, military spouses put themselves on the back burner. Our partners deploy, the kids need to be taxied here and there and everywhere, and you find yourself committing to a full course load at school or extra responsibilities at work. By the end of the day, we fall exhausted into bed, and all thoughts of eating healthier, exercising and journaling disappear.

Remember to care about YOU. You are loved and valued, and the people in your life want you to be both happy and healthy. Whatever your specific goals might be, taking a walk three times a week or running a marathon, ensure that something on your list works toward a healthier you.

Now, advice about recommendations is always much easier said than done, but this is one that I plan on applying to myself:

I have a list of goals to reach over the next eight months, including running a 10k.

I’m also going to be learning to play the piano with my 6 year old (much to my very-musical-husband’s dismay).

I’m crossing something off my bucket list by going on a trip to photograph wild horses and experience the daydream of my elementary school years.

I’m giving back by providing support to military spouses experiencing what I found to be the most challenging part of military life.

We hope this is your best year yet!

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