Monthly Archives: December 2010

New YOU Resolutions

Every year we all sit down and make New Year’s Resolutions – but how many of us actually keep them? Furthermore, how many of us achieve our goals, and feel good about ourselves throughout the process? I have thought for a long time that “New Year’s Resolutions” are failures waiting to happen. Why? Because we use the momentum (and often the guilt) of the holidays to make our decisions on what we would like to change in our lives or about ourselves. It’s not realistic to set goals and expectations from a space that is already heightened. It simply isn’t.

So, this year, I’ve come up with a new approach to the New Year’s Resolution issue. Instead of ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ how about New YOU Resolutions? If you think about it, it makes more sense. Why would you limit good changes to a year only? Why would you use the start of a new year to dictate and guide the changes you wish to make? It simply doesn’t make sense. So, here’s how it works:

To begin with, set aside some time for yourself this week. In other words, make a date with yourself. Do something fun: a movie, coffee, a good book – whatever will take you out of “holiday” mode and into “me” mode. Make that date, and keep it. It can be an hour or more, but give yourself a minimum of an hour. We’ll use the hour-long date as the example. In that hour, plan to spend 45 minutes relaxing or doing the enjoyable task you’ve chosen, setting aside 15 minutes at the end for the New YOU Resolutions. Now, what do you do in those 15 minutes?

To begin with – you always start with gratitude. Thank yourself for the lessons, experiences and growth you’ve done this year. Acknowledge the hard work and the changes you’ve already made from last year at this same time. Then reflect on the joyous times you’ve had, both as a result of these changes, and that occurred naturally. (It’s always good to make a point of remembering joy.) Once you’ve experienced gratitude and joy, it’s time to reflect on those things that would continue to bring you joy and gratitude in your life. This is why we focus on them first. It gives you an idea of where you’re coming from, and where you can use existing momentum to continue. This is key. Why? Because it’s coming from a space of positive affirmation, rather than negative criticism. It’s the difference between saying, “I’m fat, and want to lose weight,” and saying, “I don’t feel my best, and know I could feel better – I’d like to make healthier decisions.” Both may contain the goal of “losing weight,” but one is positive and the other is negative. The energy they carry is different.

And that’s the main difference between New Year’s Resolutions and New YOU Resolutions. The former is usually created from a space of shame, guilt or negative self-perception. Whereas the latter is created from self-love and a desire to be the best version of yourself you can be, with joy and gratitude.

So, once you’ve gotten a short (it must be short) list of where you’d like to go, i.e. the things that will continue to bring joy and gratitude into your life, you can then set reasonable goals to get there. An example is: I would like to be healthier, with the goal being: I will eat fruit in the morning when I first wake up. This will allow my body to feel better, have some instant fuel, and the fruit will be more easily digested, since it is eaten on an empty stomach. Plus, I’ll be getting vitamins and nutrients the old-fashioned way, not from a pill.

This is a simple change. I’ve done it myself, and I feel much better. More importantly, it’s a reasonable goal. It’s realistic, attainable and thoughtful. So, what New YOU Resolutions can you create this week?

p.s. Write them down; a goal always becomes more achievable when it’s given the attention of simply writing it down.

Breathe.

Do you breathe? That is to say, do you breathe properly? Of course we all breathe, but most of us don’t breathe properly. I’ve noticed this in myself whenever I get a little more stressed. It’s actually become one of my barometers for how stressful a situation is. Because I tend to have an unusually high tolerance for crises and stress, I’ve learned to notice my stress levels in physical ways: if my jaw is clenched, for example, or my shoulders raised. But one of the best gauges I have to monitor (and diffuse) my stress level is the quality of my breath.

Especially with the holidays now in full swing, and stress levels on the increase, this might be a good tool for you, too. But first you need to know what is proper breathing. For that, let’s look at our four-legged friends: dogs and cats. I have a dog, so I will use him as an example. When I watch him breathe, it has a calming affect on me. Why? Because he’s breathing naturally. He’s not “sucking it in” or sticking out his chest. He’s simply breathing. As such, his abdomen extends and contracts with each breath. This is proper (healthy) breathing. Kids are good examples, too. If you watch a young child, they breathe the same way. Their bellies raise and fall with each breath.

But as adults, we’ve somehow learned to breathe with our shoulders and our chests. Therefore, we’re not getting the full (and calming) breath we need. Shortened breath actually triggers the fight/flight response, too. So, it’s no wonder we feel stressed a lot of the time. Therefore, one of the best ways to combat stress, or measure how stressed you might be, is to monitor your breath. Take note of your breathing patterns. Does your belly extend? Or are you primarily lifting your chest and/or shoulders? When I teach clients how to breathe, I have them imagine the breath pulling all the way down their torso to the pelvic area. This may be a tiny bit extreme, but it’s a good visual. If you can “see” the air flowing that far down, you are breathing well – deeply and properly. And you will feel better as a result.

So, how are you breathing? Even right now, as you read this? It’s not something we think about, but it’s something that can actually change your entire body and presence in the world, not to mention how you experience these last few weeks of the year.

Blessings.

“When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep; and I fall asleep counting my blessings.”

This is one of my favorite songs from a holiday movie. It’s a duet between Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney from ‘White Christmas,’ and besides being very pretty to listen to – it conveys the simplest message, but one that I can hear over and over again. It’s one of the best reminders: we are all blessed in so many ways that we often overlook. Yet, if we pause, and actually count our blessings, I think we will remember just how lucky we are.

Tonight as I sit here and write this, I am brimming with blessings. There are many who would look at me from the outside and question why I feel so joyful, as I certainly have many challenges going on in my life right now, but the bottom line is: I am blessed. I know this. I know this, because I consciously spend time every day counting my blessings. This is a choice. I could choose to make a list of everything going wrong, or everything that needs to be fixed, or everything that I would like to change. OR I could choose to take note of the gratitude I feel for my life, my family, my friends and so many other things. What I have found is that by focusing on the latter – the things that ‘need to be changed’ are happening automatically. Again, another blessing.

So, I know I’ve mentioned it in the past – but I’m living proof of what can happen when we CHOOSE where to focus our attention. The old saying: you reap what you sow, is valid more now than ever. And when I turn out the lights tonight, and climb into bed – I know exactly what I am going to do. I’ll be hearing Bing and Rosemary singing in my head, as I count out my blessings and fall asleep with a grateful and joy-filled heart. I wish the same for you.