Last week I wrote about the importance of celebrating your progress. I encouraged you to celebrate the New Year by celebrating your 2012 progress. And I promised that this week I would share a list of some of my 2012 areas of progress.

If you’ve been reflecting on your progress on a regular basis throughout 2012, making a list for 2012 won’t be hard. But if you haven’t been doing so, maybe you don’t know where to begin. That’s the primary reason I am sharing my list— in the event you don’t know where to begin, my list will serve as an example of the kinds of things I’m talking about regarding new habits from 2012.

You may not think you made progress in 2012, but if you think real hard, you can probably come up with something. It’s worth your time to make the list. As I said last week, making time to regularly list positives in your life is a proven happiness strategy.

Celebrating your progress is not only a good thing, it’s also an important thing. Most of us have a tendency to ruminate on the negative things in our lives—the failures, frustrations, and problems. Proactively celebrating your progress helps to balance out, or even better, to overpower, the negative thoughts.

Here are some of my new habits from 2012:

Meditation—I’ve read a lot about meditation and have given it a lot of thought. This year I finally got into the habit of daily meditation. I’ll write more about this in a future blog post. I do it for less than 10 minutes each morning, but all of the instructions I have read tell me not to beat myself up over the short time I am doing it, so for now I am sticking with this. I would like to kick it up a notch. Or maybe more meditating would be better described as kicking it down a notch. 🙂

0% Plain Yogurt—This is one of several new habits (more to follow below) relating to my big goal to cut down on sugar. Sugar is the enemy-du-jour of the health experts. After working to make the switch from sweetened yogurts, I fell in love with Chobani 0% Plain Greek yogurt. I love eating it with cereal and fruit in the morning. For a food with no fat, it’s incredibly rich and thick. I’ve even used it on a bagel the way people use cream cheese.

Less Sugary Cereals—I took on two new habits over a couple of 21-day periods. I gave up Honey Nut Cheerios (or the Trader Joe’s version) and then I gave up the granola I was eating, in favor of Grape Nuts, All-Bran, and Bran Flakes.  If a cereal tastes like dessert, it probably is, and the Honey Nut cereals and the granolas I was eating were great snacks, but not the best choice for daily breakfast food. (I tried regular Cheerios, by the way, and they just didn’t do it for me.) I know there are some more healthful granolas that I could find if I went to some specialty stores, but I’m good with my new selection of cereals. (Note: One thing that helped make it easier to form these new habits was that my youngest two kids went off to college. That became evident when one of them came home for a mid-semester break and said, “Dad, the cereal here sucks.”)

Fooducate App—I’ve read food labels since I was a kid and I’m proud that I taught my kids to do the same. I talk about reading food labels in my book—it’s something I strongly believe in. Now, I have a tool to help me do so. When I’m unsure about a product (such as the many breakfast cereals that appear to be good for you), I whip out my smartphone and scan the product’s bar code with the Fooducate app. Fooducate rates the products with a letter grade. Many of the cereals I was eating were a “B-”. Now I’m eating cereals that are “A-”. I’ve arbitrarily chosen to eat as few foods as possible that fall below “B-”. It took me time to get into the habit of remembering to use Fooducate. Like every other new change I make, by sticking with it, it became automatic.

More Self-Control with Nuts—I eat a lot of nuts, but found that I was having some stomach issues because I was eating too many. I kept ignoring the problem until I finally decided to focus on it for 21 days. To stop myself from eating too many I decided that the new habit would be to eat nuts no more than twice a day. I often eat walnuts in my breakfast cereal, so on many days that’s one of my two portions. That leaves me a snack of nuts later in the day—perhaps some almonds from the can I keep in the car or as an evening snack. If it’s an evening snack, the key is that I pour out a portion to eat, rather than eating them straight from the can.

Reusable Shopping Bags—It took me a while to get into this habit, because I kept forgetting to bring the bags with me into the store. I finally began to keep a bag in the front seat of my car as a reminder, rather than in the trunk.

Not reading while eating—This was a by-product habit of my focus on being a more mindful eater. You can read more about my experience here.

Regularly making lists for happiness—While I’ve long done it informally, I got myself back into the habit of writing down lists of: my accomplishments, my progress, and things about which I am grateful. I settled on a catchall phrase, “What Made You Smile This Week?” for myself and I began to post a reminder on Facebook each week (if you “Like” the Six Simple Rules Facebook page, you’ll get the reminder each Saturday.) After doing this for three weeks, a wonderful by-product is that anticipating my weekly list got me thinking about it daily. And that is very cool.

Adjusting to the empty nest—When our twin daughters went off to college in August, Marcie and I became empty-nesters. There were a bunch of new habits we adopted in order to best enjoy our new life stage. I talked a bit about that in this blog post.

Not texting at a red lights—I do not text while driving, but I used to text (or do other smartphone activities) when my car wasn’t moving, for example, when I was at a red light or stuck in traffic. You can read more about why I stopped that habit here.

Post-Sandy habits—After the power returned, I found myself being more conscientious about turning off lights around my house. The gas shortage got me thinking more about carpooling and other strategic use of my car. I wrote more about “new habits after Sandy” here.

I could list more, but as I said, the point of this was to give you a sense of the kinds of changes I made in 2012 so that you can celebrate your own 2012 progress.

Please take a moment now and share some of what’s on your list in the comments below…

Best regards,