Monday, December 28, 2009

New Spring Resolutions

It is that time of the year. December 28th and we've all but recovered from the various religious holidays of the month. As we look toward New Year's Eve and the dawning of the new decade, people start to ponder New Year's Resolutions (NYR). I must admit, I've never been much of a fan of making resolutions at the New Year. After all, if something in my life needs to change, I'm not one to wait until January 1st to make it happen (I understand, some people find my characteristic in this regard annoying).

I recognize how many people use January 1st and their New Year's Resolutions to change their lives. Some of the most popular NYRs are to quit smoking and to lose weight. Both are worthy goals! Sadly, the odds you will keep your NYR, any of them, are slim. Some data shows 71% keep their NYR for two weeks, 64% for a month and 50% for three months. By six months, only 46% of NYRs are fulfilled. Now don't be discouraged - there is a better way!!!

According to ancient wisdom traditions, all of the world and all of life follow seasons very similar to the seasons we observe in nature. Fighting these natural seasons is often an exercise in frustration and futility. Let's face it - no matter how much we dislike the cold of winter, when you live in the Northeast U.S., the cold of winter will present itself without fail. We get rains in the spring and the leaves fall from the trees in Autumn. Such it is and such it will be. Year after year, time after time.

Let us observe together what happens in the season of winter. It is cold so we want to stay inside. The sun rises late and sets early. It is really dark at night, so our bodies want to sleep more. Many of nature's creatures are now hibernating. If not full-time hibernation, at least their activity is much reduced and they spend more time sleeping and resting. More time being quiet, more time getting ready for the Spring. Nature's animals are not going to leave the warmth of their winter den to go out and start a new exercise program on January 1st. Nature's plants are not going to start to bloom on the first of the year just so they can be in better shape or more beautiful for the summer season. Nature gets it. Nature's animals and plants understand winter is a time for rest, hibernation, reflection, stillness, patience and for simply not yet knowing what the Spring will bring.

We humans are in the midst of one of the busiest times of our year and now we're about to jump into a NYR without the very thing nature knows we need most of all. Rest and reflection. Will we ever learn??? So, here is my hint for successful NYRs... Don't make any! This is simply not the time to do so. Take some hints from nature and think about starting a new trend with me: New Spring Resolutions! How?

Ten easy steps to New Spring Resolutions:
  1. Decide to not make any NYRs. Tell your family and friends you are going to respect nature this year and skip NYRs.
  2. Turn your lights off and rest more. Go to bed an hour earlier each night during January and February.
  3. Start a new bed time ritual. Spend 5 or 10 minutes before bed doing yoga, stretching your body or doing a meditation. Nothing fancy required. The goal? Move your body gently before bed to quiet your mind.
  4. Get a New Spring Resolution (NSR) Journal and put it beside your bed. Before you sleep and when you wake up, write down ideas and thoughts. What would you like to change about your life? What are your unfulfilled dreams? You are not making a plan at this point, just writing down some ideas.
  5. Take several walks each week. Short walks are better than no walks. Yes, it may be cold where you live so dress in layers. Just walk. Nowhere to go, nothing to do. Just walk and be outside. Take a family member along, or a friend, or a pet, or all of them at once. Walk three times a week.
  6. Start a "Gratefulness List." At Noon each day (set a calendar alarm if you want), write down one thing you are grateful for. Each day, starting on January 1. Each day, one item. Keep writing in your Gratefulness List until February 28 (at least).
  7. On February 13, read your NSR Journal and your Gratefulness List.
  8. On February 21, make a list of your New Spring Resolutions and share the list with your family and friends. I recommend one to five NSRs. Make them simple, specific and and give them a deadline. For example: I will do a 10 minute yoga routine 4 days each week from March 1, 2010 until September 30, 2010, or, I will only drink one soda per week from March 1st until June 30, 2010.
  9. On February 27 and 28 make a plan for each of your NSRs. The best plans are also simple. A plan can be something like: I will do 10 situps every time I want to drink a soda (You could still drink the soda and you will probably quickly figure out a soda isn't worth it, or maybe fewer and fewer of them will be worth it).
  10. On Monday, March 1, 2010 start your NSRs.
Now, I am not suggesting this is the only exercise you do during January and February. Our bodies always require exercise and good food. The exercise included above is purposefully designed to give you the stillness your brain needs to be ready to make your NSRs. Keep doing the other exercises you are doing. And, if you're not doing any exercise at all, this is a great way to start.

As for the rest of your time in January and February? When in doubt, rest more. Read something thought provoking. Have quiet chats with loved ones and friends about what you want the rest of your life to look like. Go outside and look at the stars. Stare into a fireplace. Drink a cup of hot cocoa. Cuddle with your honey, your kids or your pets. Think about what you want to plant in your garden come Spring (if you don't have a garden or space for one, research what vegetables you can plant in containers). Be still. Gather knowledge. Be quiet. Be patient. Now is not the time to know what you will do come Spring. Now is the time to not know.

Winter is the time to give yourself the space to really hear the voice inside. If you are quiet enough and still enough, you'll be able to hear things you've never heard before.

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