The first of the year is traditionally an occasion for optimism about the possibilities that await. Notwithstanding the short shelf life of typical New Year’s resolutions, there’s something compelling about the clean slate . Now that I’m feeling better and the holiday whirlwind is wrapping up, I’m ready to make some changes to improve my health and habits in 2014.
Optimism gains even more power when it’s fueled by inspiration, and there are sources of that all around us. Conventional wisdom says that, when you set personal goals, you must make them measurable. Otherwise you’ll have no way to discern if you’re meeting the goal or not. I disagree. When I attach specific numbers to my goals, I usually end up giving up on the goals when I fail to meet the numbers.
- Meditate/Pray: Meditation For me, the most likely start is finding some quiet times in my busy life. I need space to just pause and clear my thought process so I can gain new perspectives and find ways to solve everyday challenges or a simple prayer of gratitude for my many blessings.
- Write: I have hesitated to ever commit to writing something every day because I thought I had to have a minimum word count, and knew that the scenario above (“There’s no way I can make that word count today so I just won’t write anything…”) would happen far too often. I’m committing to writing something every day. Grocery lists and short, practical e-mails do not count. Outlines of future writing projects and substantive e-mails do.
- Exercise: As hard as it is, I try to exercise daily because I need movement for stimulation–physical as well as mental. Whether walking, running, swimming, riding, playing tennis, or practicing yoga, or whatever your choice for movement, it’s about circulating the blood, thereby creating a life force for living. When I exercise, I empower myself to take better care of me. Most days, I will fulfill this resolution by walking the dog or running. Undertaking a large grocery run, which involves lots of walking along with pushing and carrying heavy loads, counts. Yoga and exercise ball DVDs will suffice when the weather makes getting out of the house too difficult.
- Eat fruits and vegetables: A strange thing has happened to me in recent years. I just don’t enjoy food the way I used to. As a result, I often eat very little for breakfast and lunch. Nothing much appeals. I know that if I am eating well, I am feeling better. I am grateful that my garden is overflowing with fresh greens, tomatoes and herbs. But to maintain the freshness on my dinner table, I also turn to my local Farmer’s Market. Scheduling at least one weekly trip to the market makes a big difference on my plate and at this time of year. This resolution is simply a reminder that, when I’m not jazzed about eating breakfast or lunch, a clementine, apple, or salad almost always tastes good, and is almost always readily available.
- Drink tea: I have something of a Diet Coke habit. While I don’t plan to completely break that habit, I would like to drink more tea and less diet soda. My brief venture into naturopathy last year introduced me to the antioxidant and other nutritional benefits of various types of tea. Few things are more appealing in my Newark chilly historic brownstone on a January (or February or March or even early April) day than sitting on the couch with my laptop, a cozy throw, and the dog snuggled up nearby, with a cup of hot tea in my hand and a good writing idea in my head. And in warmer months, I find that hot tea appeals more than my usual cup of coffee first thing in the morning.
I have been thinking a lot about having a mantra for 2014, and I have decided to return to a meaningful mantra. It is one word that is simple but has within it, many meanings in my life. It is simply: Breathe.
B believe in myself
R root and be grounded in love and gratitude
E embrace what yoga brings on and off the mat
A always work towards balance
T trust the process of life
E embrace spirituality
How about you? Do you make resolutions? Why or why not? And how do you plan to measure success, if at all?