Most people make resolutions for the New Year. However, the sad truth is that many of us fail to reach our resolutions. Here are some basic things you can implement this year to be your best self ever. Hint, the last one is the most crucial of the bunch.
- GET ORGANIZED — Lots of people make goals for the New Year. However, if you make goals without putting them on your schedule and planning the details, you are guaranteed to fail. Maybe you want to eat healthier food, or go vegan (you badass), but you don’t plan your weekly menu, or take the time to learn new recipes. Without a specific plan, you will quickly fall back on what you know. Any new goals need to be written into your schedule in detail for success. For example, make Sundays the day you plan the menu, buy the food for the whole week and prepare a few staples. If your goal is exercise, schedule your workouts on your calendar. Know how long it takes to get to the class and if you need to reserve spot. If the goal is meditation, buy that meditation app and know exactly when you will meditate. Goals without planning are a waste of time. Don’t believe me? See how fast you revert to your old ways when you are starving or exhausted.
- START A GRATITUDE PRACTICE— Add gratitude to your list of things to do this year. Gratitude is one of the most significant ways to increase your happiness and change negative thinking. Choose between what I call active gratitude and passive gratitude. Active gratitude is a practice of expressing thanks to the person you are grateful for. Letter writing, phone calls, and emails are all examples of active gratitude. You will get the most bang for your buck with active gratitude. People will write you back. The depth and intimacy of your relationships will increase. Passive gratitude is a solitary practice. Gratitude journals are perfect for passive gratitude. Research has shown passive gratitude to be effective as long as you write 2-5 new things a few times a week. This past year I engaged in a gratitude project in which I wrote 100 gratitude letters in 100 days. I thought the hype about gratitude was exaggerated; meant for people named Cricket who practice yoga and never eat sugar. Not so; gratitude changed my thinking dramatically. You will spend your days looking for things to be grateful for instead of things to complain about. It’s a total life-changer.
- REFRAME FEARS IN ORDER TO DO MORE — Have fears kept you from reaching goals in the past? Here’s one way to reframe your fears so you can reach those goals. Ever notice how similar excitement and anxiety are? The physical symptoms of both are pretty similar; racing heart, sweaty hands, a sort of jittery feeling in your body. Oftentimes the only difference between excitement and fear is your interpretation of an event. When you are excited, say, going on a roller coaster ride, you tend to say positive things to yourself, like “This will be amazing.” Maybe the statement is neutral but said with a smile, “This is crazy!” By contrast, when you have anxiety about an activity you might say things to yourself that create fear such as, “I’m not good at this.” Or, “I can’t do this.” This year, make an effort to control what you say to yourself! Remember, you are responsible for your thinking. If you feel symptoms of anxiety, make sure to say something positive or neutral to yourself in order to create excitement. I like to use this phrase in order to shift my experience. “Shannon, if you don’t feel any fear, you aren’t growing.” That way, even if I’m nervous, I’ve reframed my nerves to make myself feel challenged and motivated. It works!
- SLEEP BETTER USING MANTRAS — We all know that sleep is supposed to be the magical elixir for everything from memory to aging well! For those of us who struggle with sleep, even this information adds pressure and makes sleep harder to achieve (trust me I know). Imagine my delight upon reading that mantras can help with sleep. FMRI scans have shown that when people repeat a simple word like “Om,” or “breathe,” over and over, brain activity goes down. If you are feeling stressed or worried, maybe struggling with a busy mind, you can literally just breathe deeply and repeat a word several times to help yourself fall asleep. When I wake up in the middle of the night and my mind wants to start planning the day, I do this and almost always fall right back asleep. One Om as I breathe in, one as I exhale. Done!
- USE SLOGANS WHEN MOTIVATION FADES — Want to stay on track with your goals this year? The first three weeks of January are easy, right? Then that motivation shit fades and tiredness sets in. We start to think, “I don’t want to go to the gym after work. I want to drink wine and watch This Is Us.” This is when using slogans can save you. Using simple phrases can help you stay motivated and move through mental obstacles. I use things like Nike’s “Just Do it!” for exercise motivation. Keep repeating, “just do it” while putting on your workout clothes and walking out the front door. If fear causes you to abandon a goal, tell yourself to “do just the next thing.” This focuses us on a small task instead of a broader goal. Finally, the slogan, “I got this” can help We know from cellular research that it is healthier to see stress as a challenge and not a threat. Saying “I got this” is actually healthy for your cells. Feel free to use any phrases that get you moving!
- BREATHE— It is a simple truth that the body cannot be anxious and calm at the same time. Knowing this, if you experience fear or anxiety, take a few deep breaths from your diaphragm. Breathe in to the count of 3 and out to the count of 3. Focus your mind on your counting, not on your thoughts. You can get yourself out of fight or flight and into a more comfortable place just by breathing for a few minutes. P.S. This also helps with weight loss because people who are less stressed, eat less (think cortisol)!
- DO SOMETHING NEW— Are you bored? Boring? If you never learn new things or try new activities, you are at risk of both. If you do the same job, same workout, and eat the same foods, what do you even talk about with your friends? This year, make it your goal to try new things. Novelty is good for your brain, prevents burnout at work, and even reduces risk of injury. Think about this, repetitive motion injuries are preventable if you mix up your workouts every year. Be intentional about getting out of your comfort zone and learning/trying something new! Read, take a class, try a new form of exercise, plan a trip to a new place. It’s not that hard, but makes a giant difference. You will have the added bonus of inspiring others.
- DON’T BE A VICTIM — I am not talking about crime here! I’m talking about shitty victim mentality! This might sound harsh but it’s true. If you know what to do and don’t do it, it gets hard to feel good about yourself. For example, if you know exercise is healthy and you never do it, how do you justify that? Too busy? People much busier than you work out. Too tired? Exercise actually gives you energy. Most of you could tell me your favorite Netflix show, right? If you have time to watch tv, you have time to take care of yourself. And, if you say, “yes, but…” that just means no. And if you are saying no to taking care of yourself, who are you hurting? The answer is yourself. True story. I used to cheat at the gym. My trainer would say, do 50 sit ups and I’d do 40 or 42. I’d stop when it didn’t feel easy. It wasn’t until one day we were laughing and I told him about my cheating and he looked at me and said, “You aren’t getting away with anything. You are cheating yourself, not me.” Once I realized who I was cheating, I stopped. Get inspired, you can handle your stress, manage your fears, make yourself a priority, and be your best self in 2019!