Sunday, January 4, 2015

Advice for the New Year

Can you believe it, it's 2015! Just when I got used to writing "2014". Every new year there's a rush of new year's resolutions. And every February they seem to be a distant memory for many people. What winds up happening during the holidays is people eat too much, drink too much, have to encounter the stress of family, or absence of loved ones. You come into the new year at less than optimal functioning, and the resolution is an extension of this feeling of malaise and inadequate.

All too often, you may make well intentioned decisions from this place of poor self-worth. You may feel too sloppy, too unmotivated, overweight and moving in the wrong direction. If only you could do that one thing, or few things, you'd be better, right?

In my experience, such sorts of beliefs are rarely successful. If you are motivated by regret, chances are you'll do just enough to compensate for guilt. What works much better is to be motivated by happiness. Deep down inside, all of us want happiness. We may gravitate towards the safety of our familiar routines, even if they don't make us happy. The new year can be an excuse-- or a reason-- to trade in the safety of your ill-fitting comfort zone for the novelty of a happier life.

What I'm saying is that if you realize your intention behind your resolution is to be happier, you're more likely to follow through on happiness generating behaviors. This is what the key to maintaining healthier living is. All the facts about unhealthy behaviors like drinking excessive alcohol, smoking tobacco and eating unhealthy foods usually wind up getting tuned out by the people who need to learn about these things the most. However, if you realize that feeling sluggish, hungover, tired and bloated is in the way of a more lasting, sustainable happiness, you're more likely to become disciplined in your approach.

If you know you need to make a change but are unsure of what to do, here are some suggestions:

1) Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Most Americans don't get enough, and buying fresh fruits and vegetables should be a part of your daily lifestyle.
2) Meditate every day. I'm sure you probably do the basics daily to take care of your body-- bathe, brush your teeth, etc. Do you spend some time every day taking care of your mind? You can check out this resource here if you struggle with stress, chronic anxiety or rumination.
3) Cut out activities that interfere with your ability to meditate. Once you get into the routines of daily mental health care, you'll notice that certain activities seem completely outside the area of acceptability.
4) First and foremost among these is to stop watching cable news. I don't care if you're liberal or conservative, cable news deliberately pulls for the most primal and divisive instincts to generate ratings. They aren't keeping you informed, they're keeping you hooked!
5) Cut down or eliminate alcohol. You'll notice the change in your body and in your meditation practice.
6) Go for a walk as often as you can. It's a great alternative to being boxed into cable news!

If you follow some or all of these tips, my hope is that you can develop a more loving relationship to your own tired mind, and feel healthier and happier in the process. Remember, happiness is not a finish line, it's a process full of ups and downs. The key is to keep yourself trained to notice when happiness is happening.

Happy new year!