This year, why not strive to be a better citizen to your planet, culture, country, city, and social sphere? Here are a number of ways to be a more mindful, productive and conscientious American, as well as human.
Listen more. Let people talk about themselves. It’s an easy way to make more friends because most people are happy to tell others all about their lives, and the subsequent serotonin rush makes them remember you fondly. Meanwhile, new people have a lot they can teach you if you only pay attention. If it is something they are passionate about, nothing would make them happier than helping you or teaching you. We should all be open to progress a la the scientific method of reverence to factual examination, even if it means we must admit we may have been wrong about something. If you value the ambition of truth and consensus, humility does not need to be painful or difficult.
Share positivity and progress on social media. We spend a lot of time curating our lives on social media, why not direct our friends’ attention to good causes, calls to action, inspiring successes, good deeds, big ideas, and local events? The Internet’s global connectivity is a force for mass democracy like never before, so this year try tp participate in more meaningful ways. Share everything your friends do. Instead of spending money on designer products from already rich celebrities, buy your friends’ artistic creations. Shopping local helps you by helping all the people near you.
Publish yourself. There are a lot of people in your town as well as your planet. Stand out artistically and aesthetically, and make an imprint on the people around you by making them think, smile, laugh, or just sit quietly considering what you’ve said, made or done. Settle on an idea and commit to it until you’re satisfied with it, and then show people. It’s easy—paint a sunset; write poems about your most profound memories; shoot a short film with your phone; articulate your soul.
Start learning again. Read a book a month. Let one of them be a biography, and don’t forget to find a few works of nonfiction. Reading literally develops empathy, caring, and intellectual curiosity, so don’t be one of roughly half of America who haven’t finished a book since middle school. That’s a statistic that needs to change. Read—in the bathroom, before you go to bed, while driving—whatever it takes. And why not start learning a new language? With language apps it has literally never been easier in human history to learn a new language from without immersion. Learn five new words a day. What better way is there to be a better citizen in this global world than being able to communicate with more of its people?
Don’t talk, do. Words are worthless, action is everything. If you’re talking to people about your goals or dreams, you’re not actually doing them. It’s an existential reality that if you’re not doing it right now, you don’t want it bad enough. Imagine if instead of telling everyone ahead of time that you intend to lose weight, you just post a picture of yourself online that makes people say “Holy shit you lost a lot of weight.” Be the person that surprises others with your determination and perseverance, not the person always making promises that everyone knows you won’t keep.
Anything worthwhile doing completely is also worthwhile doing a little bit. Brushing your teeth for fifteen seconds is better than not at all. Ten pushups a day is better than none. Straightening up your house makes you feel better even if you’re not deep-cleaning. Only eating fast food when you’re drunk is better than also eating it sober. Writing one paragraph of that book you want to write gets you further along than nothing. Donating $1 to a good cause is still a worthy contribution to charity. Little things add up, so start adding.
Eat healthy. Food is not supposed to make you feel bad. Your body should be able to handle digesting and being conscious at the same time. Cut out impulsive sugar, and cook more for yourself. Baking a sheet full of cut up vegetables for 15 minutes is faster, easier, healthier and cheaper than fast food. Meanwhile, the bacteria in your digestive system don’t take long to begin craving the new foods you choose to start eating more. Phase out soda and replace it with water and pretty soon you won’t have any desire for it at all. Skip meat once a week and then twice a week, and protect the environment with smarter food choices. Stop cooking with so much butter. Start buying more foods that don’t have months-long shelf-lives. Make 2020 the year you break the bad eating habits that are slowly killing you right now.
Follow news from many sources. Various people and political groups want you to believe wrong and sometimes even terrible things. Don’t let them brainwash you. If something is illuminating your bullshit detector, look it up. Before you post or share, fact-check yourself. Don’t be a dupe, and definitely don’t share purposefully and malevolently erroneous information simply because ignorance of context can be blissfully unchallenging. Unlock and escape your political echo chamber.
Fight hate and fascism wherever you come upon it. Trump has reawakened demons in our national psyche, and our country’s personality is flirting with xenophobic hatred. Resist this. Stick up for the oppressed, wherever sexism, racism, homophobia, islamophobia or any other divisive, unAmerican social phobia bubbles up to the surface in your daily life. If someone’s getting racist in line at the grocery store or on the subway, stand in between them and their targets. Especially if you’re a cis, able-bodied, straight white male. Use any social privileges you have to make damn sure no one is discriminated against or bullied while you’re around. Always stand up to fear and hate, it is a civic responsibility.
Stop believing every conspiracy theory you see in a Youtube video. If in six minutes a video titled in caps lock with a trio of exclamation points ties together the JFK assassination, the Rothschilds, 9/11, chemtrails, the gold standard, a Holocaust denial, the reptilian elite, the Crusades, Middle Eastern dictators, climate change scientists and FEMA camps into an impossibly powerful and omnipotent global conspiracy of a New World Order super elite, congratulations: you didn’t receive enough information about any one of the subjects individually to be adequately informed about the proposed gestalt. Look shit up and learn complex topics you don’t understand. Particularly because surrealist governmental paranoia in people tends to come accompanied by democratic apathy and electoral inactivity, which ironically assists the possibility of an actual elite reptilian oligarchy taking over.
Don’t be a herb. Follow a principle or two, and try to be altruistic occasionally. Be the best, self-actualized person you can be. Improve yourself daily. Learn to love yourself so you don’t have to get your kicks making other people feel bad to distract yourself from your own shortcomings. This year, try not to be: pedantic, hyperbolic, needlessly dishonest, segregative, a downer, a moocher, a copycat, a fundamentalist, a rapist, a hater, a bad tipper, a self-destructive drunk, a lazy parent, an irresponsible dog owner, a litterer, or a thief at house parties. Please don’t change lanes right in front of people and fail to accelerate. Give money to street musicians. Stop sending unsolicited dick pics. Don’t pee on people’s cars. Make people feel happy in 2020; not antagonized, discriminated against or insecure.
Start thinking that everything you’re experiencing is the best ever. Manufactured positivity becomes authentic immediately, so go ahead and just start telling yourself that the apple you’re snacking on right now is the best apple you’ve ever had; the coffee you’re sipping is the best ever, the friends you’re having lunch with or going out with tonight are the best. Life is too short, rare and existentially unnecessary not to find momentary appreciation everywhere you can.
Honorable mention: Poop when and where you have to poop. Not sure who needs to hear this, but life is much too short to keep yourself uncomfortable holding in bowel movements because you’re embarrassed that people might think you are doing what naturally happens after you eat food and digest it. Everyone does it, so stop pretending that your body is a magical excretory outlier. If you take a few minutes in the bathroom no one will care, and those who still cling to fecal taboo will envy you for feeling better, lighter and freer. If you gotta go, go.