With the New Year coming around, a lot of you are starting to think about your New Years resolutions. Reflecting on the past year, the good and the not so good. Thinking about where you want to make changes and what commitments you want to make for yourself.
A lot of you are also probably fighting that inner negative voice that reminds you how unlikely it is you’ll stick to a resolution. How most years, they come and go before the month of January closes.
Why do we struggle with keeping commitments to ourselves?
Change is hard. Really, really hard. Even more so when we follow old habits and mindsets related to change. So maybe this year is the year to try something new. Maybe this year is the year to change how you think about change.
I’ve been studying Health Behavior Change as part of my ongoing studies in nursing and health education. One class in particular completely changed the way I think about what we go through when making changes and commitments to ourselves. A few tips from that class in regards to making lifestyle changes that stick.
1) Rethink your Goals
It is all too easy to say “I’m going to start a yoga practice and go 4 times a week”. It is considerably harder to stick to that plan. Life happens, schedules don’t match, we have days where we are too tired, too busy, too addicted to that show we’ve been binge watching on Netflix. So we miss a day. Maybe two. And then that silly voice in our heads that doesn’t like change starts to perk up. “It isn’t going to work anyways, there’s no point in even trying the rest of this week”.
Remember this: It is easier to start small and build than to completely restructure things from the get-go. Maybe you commit to one practice a week and let your body and lifestyle tell you when it’s time to add in more.
2) Be like Ganesha
The remover of obstacles, Ganesha knows that you must remove those things that stand in your way if you are to find healing. Often we find that our biggest obstacles are within the mind but we can start with the ones that are physical or in the material world. If you are rushing to get to that 5p class after work and find yourself stressed and giving up after the second red light, perhaps you should consider a 6p class on a different day. If you find yourself stressed after class because you are coming home to no dinner and hungry kids, maybe you could devote some time on a weekend to planning and preparing meals to go in the freezer for class nights.
Remember this: Every obstacle between you and your class time is an opportunity for your old habits to creep back in. Remove them one by one in a proactive way and you’ll be more likely to keep your commitment to yourself.
3) Find your Why
Why do you want to start a yoga practice? What are you hoping to find within this new way of living? Write it down, journal about it. Then sit with that for a while before going back to your writing and looking deeper. An example: If your reason for starting a yoga practice is to find better health, what does that mean to you in real life terms? Maybe it means living without back pain. Maybe it means finding a source of energy that you once had, but have lost over the years. Maybe it means being able to touch your toes! Whatever it is, dig down and find all the benefits that you hope to find.
Remember this: If you keep those goals, those reasons, at the front of your mind you are more likely to keep to the practice when it would be easier to quit. Use an online editing tool to make a fun phone screen with your reasons. Write them out on paper and tape it to the bathroom mirror. Anything to keep them in front of your mind.
4) Acknowledge the Little Things
As you begin a yoga practice (or make any change towards a healthier life), you’ll start to notice little benefits fairly quickly. They might be small, they might seem silly. That’s ok! Notice the small benefits and changes, write about them, talk to friends and family about them. Celebrate them! Our minds love when we find good things, even more so when we talk about them. Give yourselve the chance to celebrate the small as you work your way towards the big changes.
Remember this: Don’t fall for the trap of only celebrating when you hit big milestones or acheivements. You’ll get tired of waiting for those to come and give up on yourself. Instead, find victory in the smallest of things and re-train your brain to ensure you stick to your commitment to yourself.
5) Resist the Urge to Pile On
A lot of times we convince ourselves that one small thing (like one yoga class a week) isn’t enough. We trick ourselves into believing that we have to change our daily habits, our eating patterns, our sleep routines, EVERYTHING all at once or it won’t be enough. But if we look deeper on that belief, we often find that what we are really feeling is this:
I am not enough
Give yourself permission to make one small change, secure in the knowledge that you will create an avalanche of good over time. This one small change will naturally lead you to the next small change, and then the next… if only you allow it to. Healthy lifestyle changes just naturally set the stage for more healthy lifestyle changes- but only if we give each one the time and space to work it’s magic.
Remember this: Your unhealthy habits and dis-ease were not created overnight. You won’t “un-create” them overnight either. You certainly won’t if you set the bar too high and give up on yourself yet again. If you want to see changes, you have to be willing to change.
My New Years wish for each of you is that you find compassion and love for yourself. That you open yourself up to seeing the Divine beauty you already contain as you work towards wellness and vitality. May you walk the journey over a lifetime without rushing or pressure. May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you walk this world with joy and ease.
Ps, If you feel stuck and need outside perspective on creating more wellness in you life, Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counseling might be just the thing you need!