When I was younger I would make a long list about things that I wanted to accomplish in the New Year. I wanted to exercise more, meditate more, lose weight, gain weight (depending on the year), get healthier, eat better, learn to cook, paint more, watch less tv…
I would invariably be disappointed when I wouldn’t achieve my goals, or I would start my goals and then they would trail off as daily life, and the “real world” of work, school, family life continued, and I would find myself stressed out and again deciding to watch tv instead of exercising, or eating cookies instead of cooking a meal.
We all fall back on these patterns, They are ingrained in us. For most of us it is too much to suddenly decide to be a new person, to go from couch potato to Crossfit or marathon runner. We freak out… it is simply too much change. Although we mean well going from eating cookies to eating tofu is too much and our bodies react negatively, causing physical, mental, spiritually, and emotional issues.
This is the definition of a “loop”- an ingrained behavior or pattern of behaviors that we do again and again. This is a concept in neurology but is also a simple psychological truth. We do things a certain way and our brains form our reality around that way. It is comfortable. We cross the street in the same way, take the same route to work, and do the same things when we are stressed because it makes us feel in control and it provides us comfort in a sometimes stressful and out-of-control sort of world.
So how to actually do New Years Resolutions? (My 3 step process)
1. I have a practice each year of making a list of what I want to let go of from the previous year. People, events, emotions, and more that no longer serve me. This year I burned the list (safely, outside), and am burning a 7 day candle (basically a candle encased in glass) that lists the things that I am ready to “burn away” from my life.
2. I also make a list of what I want to bring into my life in 2015. I do not make any big plans or schedule myself with this. Keep it simple. Simple and progressive change is how we feel comfortable changing our loops. When we do this in a positive way we are more likely to change. Adding things to our lives gradually is much easier than taking things away or denying ourselves things. So if you want to exercise, do not write down that you are going to exercise every day for 60 minutes. Simply write down something like “move more”. If you wish to lose weight, consider adding more vegetables or healthier options at first rather than cutting anything out or denying yourself anything. This practice is how people actually lose weight and keep it off. So instead of writing “lose 30 pounds” writing “learning to eat healthier” keeps it positive, gradual, and does not freak out the loops or ingrained behavior that you have developed.
For #2, also realize that positivity can be a wonderful attribute. When we word things in a positive way it can make a great deal of difference. When we have gained a lot of weight (for example, this is a big resolution for most people) many of us hate ourselves for it. We distance ourselves from our abdomens, our hips, or our bodies as a whole for gaining the weight. When we make Resolutions it is from this place of hatred. We hate ourselves, our bodies, for changing, and we are going to be mean to them and continue to hate them until we are back in line. When we approach ourselves from a place of compassion and understanding instead we can achieve our goals more readily. So in this example when we wish to lose weight we can begin the practice of loving ourselves but compassionately letting ourselves know that we wish to be healthier, more grounded, more energized, more relaxed… and then weight loss becomes almost a byproduct of overall becoming healthier and developing compassion for ourselves.
3. I then do a gratitude list. This may sound cheesy to some of you, but it is a wonderful practice. I have had some difficulties in 2014- I lost two pets and had to deal with some situations that were not easy to navigate. But I have a lot to be grateful for. A wonderful family, a loving husband, two new cats, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who I respect and cherish, my spiritual practices, a practice in which I help people every day from across the world, appreciative emails I get from people who I have worked with, meditation, the ability to constantly learn and unfold and be and do what I want to do in this lifetime, to be authentic and true. I am very grateful to have let go of chaos and trauma and to be in a place of relative peace in my life. I am constantly learning boundaries and how I can be a more ethical and compassionate person yet still be a person who has boundaries and focuses on my own needs. I am grateful for all of this, and it is a lot.
I realize that for some of you that you may not be in a clear enough place to list all of your blessings or come up with a whole gratitude list. You may not have a partner, a cohesive family unit, or even a pet to be grateful for. I understand this place, I do. But there is something to be grateful for- even if it is a warm coat when it is chilly, or your favorite tv show on Netflix. These seem simple, and stupid, but there is always something positive going on in our lives- even when chaos and negativity is being thrown our way- even when our lives, other people, our jobs, our families may not be something we can find gratitude in.
So I make a list of these three things. I keep it simple, and clear, and do not make any distinct promises. Things I wish to let go of from 2014, things I wish to bring in to 2015, and what I am expressing gratitude for in the past year. These can be one to three words for each item. I have placed my list under my candle that I am burning and return to it in prayer and thanks for facilitating releasing, bringing in, and thanks for bringing forward the energies of my list.
May you all have a blessed New Year. I wish to again express gratitude for all of you whom I have had the pleasure of working with and interacting with. You have taught me so much and continue to allow for me to grow. It is wonderful to work with people willing to change, to learn, to grow, to move past their “loops”, their traumas, their restricting world views. When one of us heals, it shows others that they can as well. I am grateful for every single one of you that has made the decision to learn, change, and heal… in whatever small or large way that is. Thank you.
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