The momentum of a new year is a beautiful thing: often we’re inspired to begin again, to be our best self, and to make all those positive changes in our lives that we long for. But the reality is that a huge overhaul, or a lot of major changes attempted all at once, can leave us feeling stressed and overwhelmed. And surely that’s the last outcome we want! So what if a better, more achievable approach, is to implement little changes so we can focus on one small step at a time? Wouldn’t this be much easier to manage than tackling a huge goal like “In 2019, I will be healthy!”, or “In 2019, I will lose weight!” or the old classic, “In 2019, I will be less stressed!” These goals are all great: but they’re too big. What is the path to reach them? When making changes, it’s really important to be kind to and supportive of yourself. And that means an action plan is required to achieve goals: a map to get to the desired destination, so you don’t get lost and discouraged along the way.
And so, my modest suggestion is this: write a plan with all the months of the year. For every month, choose one change that you would like to make. It should be small, action-based, and achievable. That way, you can make it a priority, focus on it, schedule it in, and make it happen. The saying goes that it takes 30 days for a change to become a habit. After one month of making your small change, then, there is a good chance that it has become a habit, and maybe even a much appreciated and valued part of your life.
Another important point, when considering what nurturing new habits you’d like to have in your life, is not to deny yourself things. Too much denial will burn out your willpower and leave you feeling dissatisfied. Be gentle with yourself: fill your list with “do’s” and not “don’t”. The aim to New Year’s resolutions is to lead a happy and fulfilled life, and to be the best we can for ourselves, our loved ones and the environment. Don’t punish yourself: rather, keep adding good things in until they simply crowd out the other stuff.
Here’s an example of a Year Plan, with some Traditional Chinese Medicine Wisdom. And each month of next year, there will be a longer blog post on that theme, in which I share with you some more ideas to motivate and inspire you on your journey!
Hydrate – Start your day with a glass of warm water, 30 minutes before breakfast. This is great for rehydration, digestion and lots of other benefits.
Breathe – This month, simply observe yourself. What is happening to your breath when you’re feeling stressed? Often the breath becomes shallow, which reduces the supply of oxygen to all our cells. Make this month one of a daily focus on your breath: before rising, at work, in a break, before a meal, in the car, when having an argument with your children and spouse, and so on. Retrain yourself to deliberately take deeper, longer breaths, calming down your central nervous system.
Meditate – There are so many benefits to meditation. In our fast-paced world, stress levels are often high, which, over time, can lead to disease. Allocate some time during your day to meditate, even if it is only five or 10 minutes. There are plenty of great mediation apps, and many of them are even free (try Insight Timer, or 1 giant mind). If the thought of sitting still with your thoughts gives you the horrors, try a guided meditation. If mediation still isn’t for you, try Yoga, Qi Gong or Tai Chi, which are forms of moving mediation.
Eat mindfully – This is the month of Easter. Some religions are fasting. This month, concentrate on eating to nourish your body. Try to avoid processed foods as much as you can. And when you eat, make sure you are sit down in a relaxed atmosphere, take your time, enjoy it, and chew thoroughly. When Easter comes, indulge! Make sure you enjoy every bite.
‘Exchange expectations for gratitude’ (Tony Robbins) – My goodness, this is a very powerful thing to do! Give it a try this month.
Speak kind words – Following on from last month, give at least one honest compliment every day to one person around you, and one to yourself, everyday.
Sleep – The days are getting shorter. Aim to enough sleep this month, and possibly polish up on your sleep hygiene. No tech in the bedroom, maybe?
Laugh – “Laughter is the best medicine.” This old saying has a lot of truth in it. Laughing releases happy hormones are released in your body, which contribute to general wellbeing. How much do you let yourself laugh daily? If you need help, seek out jokes, comedy movies and playtime! Bounce on the trampoline with your kids. Be light-hearted and have fun!
Exercise – Find something new and fun, or dedicate time to focus on a sort of exercise you already do and enjoy. Think creatively: dancing, gardening, and bushwalking all count. Make it priority this month, as often as it is possible for you.
Eat green vegetables – So much goodness in them! Every day, enjoy some sort of green veggie. You might even like to get creative with how you prepare them. Kale chips, anyone?
Try something new – The world is your oyster. It may be eating a food you’ve never had before, exploring a new place you’ve never been to, trying a new health treatment, finding a new approach to something familiar, learning something new (the tango, a language) etc. Stimulate your brain, feed it with novelty and get inspired! This could be a daily thing, or weekly. Most important is that you commit to it: so maybe break some unproductive routines and flush your life with some newness.
And now, bring it all together! – Reflect a little: What stuck, and what didn’t? What did you enjoy most? What would you like to work on more? Perhaps there’s something that didn’t serve you, and that you can happily let go now (kale chips aren’t for everyone, after all!).
When you are reflecting, be sure to be patient with yourself. Any challenge in life is an opportunity to grow and learn. And remember – every mountain climbed starts with a step, being kind to yourself first might be the best change of all.
And if you would like some help to put together your own list, feel free to contact me and we can plan your goals together. Everyone’s needs are different, and every list will be individual and personal. There is no right and wrong here – it’s all about working out what inspires you, and what will help 2019 be a joyful and empowering year for you! If there’s interest, I would even be happy to put together a closed community Facebook group where we can all share our goals, challenges, and successes! Let me know how I can best support you in 2019. Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!
Dr. Caroline Alison Nichols (TCM)