What New Year Resolutions?

So here we go again! Another New Year and I see people frantically working out to get rid of the Xmas bulge. We’ve heard it all before – it’s a New Year, set yourself some goals and slay it! Everywhere you look, there are ads for gyms and fitness clothing, healthy food options or equipment – big companies jumping on the “Get fit and lose weight for the New Year” gimmick. But come the second week of January, the novelty of the idea wears off and most people will go back to old habits. I sound rather cynical right? But it’s the truth for most people, which is why I never really set New Year’s resolutions ever. No, I’m not just having a whinge – I do propose an alternative approach.

For that different perspective, I’m going to go back to the cyclical nature of life ideology. As much as humankind has managed to separate itself from nature with its concrete and fabricated lifestyle, we are part of nature and our basal body rhythms are seasonal. Think about how you need more nourishment in the form of warm, rich foods in Winter, not to mention more sleep in the gloomy, dark weather. Now think about spring and how you wish to emerge fresh from your sleepy, cold Winter to step into a crisp, blooming Spring where growth and renewal takes place. Now ask yourself: Shouldn’t your resolutions for change, in whatever form coincide with this time of year? I think it should.

I grew up in a home where Spring meant it was time to spring-clean everything. Curtains, cupboards, gardens – you name it – my mother made sure it was clean! Sure, it was a painful time for us doing the acts of cleaning (this includes my brothers and I standing on a rusty drum to clean what seemed like a hundred large windows!) but when it was all done, there definitely was a a sense of a clean mind that accompanied the clutter-free home. Maybe that’s where my seasonal approach to life really comes from. I do believe that there is considerable merit in this approach to resolutions.

But wait! Let’s take the perspective even further still. Why must it be a resolution? We can all attest to trying to make changes to our lives as our personalities evolve over time. And let’s face it – change can sometimes be super hard. Kudos to those of you who have managed to make difficult changes and have successfully adopted new ways of living or thinking. It no doubt takes discipline and serious commitment and this is something to be proud of. But making resolutions at the beginning of any New Year is setting yourself up for almost certain disappointment and frustration. Why? Because you go into the New Year amped to stick to your new-founded resolutions, and then life happens.

You go back to work, your boss has different plans for how you should work this year, your kids start a new year at school and their PTA requires even more commitment from you or maybe you have a sick parent who will need your full attention. Now say goodbye to that resolution as you watch your time getting allocated to your daily, weekly or monthly activities. It’s clear to me that making resolutions when you are on downtime or on holiday is the wrong time to make such decisions with clarity.

That downtime between Christmas and when you get back to work, is actually a great time for self-reflection and lesson learning. Nothing more. So some of you will no doubt, seek a replacement for those ill-fated New Year’s resolutions. How about positive affirmations? This holiday, I picked up, what was probably my first ever personal growth book from my library – Zest for Life, by Dawn Breslin. (I was feeling particularly low at the time.) Dawn makes a great case for the use of positive affirmations to help re-wire negative thoughts which we carry around year after year (these negatives have often been built up from childhood events). I have them. You have them too.

But here’s the great thing. Positive affirmations might seem really awkward at first. Picture yourself standing in front of your bathroom mirror every morning saying: I am a beautiful, creative person or I will eat healthy, nutritious food because it is good for my body. Does this sound weird with a capital W? Maybe. But there is no harm in trying it out. Dawn presents some simple steps to create meaningful positive affirmations:

  1. Think the opposite of what you actually believe. Delete or write over old thought patterns by thinking the opposite of current beliefs. Dawn explains that our brains interpret whatever we feed them so we believe the negative thoughts patterns because we continually reinforce those beliefs. Therefore our brains can be re-programmed if we feed it positive thoughts and beliefs.
  2. Think in the present tense. Don’t place your positive affirmation statements in the future. You will end up parking actions necessary for positive change for a later time. Pointless. Don’t give your brain an escape route. Keeping your statements in the present tense forces your brain to work on outcomes right now.
  3. Feed your brain positive language. Using the wrong words in your affirmation statements can actually have a negative effect.  It can trigger thoughts that create stress instead of feelings of well-being. The brain does not distinguish your positive or negative thoughts – it just accepts them. For example, instead of saying: I no longer hate my face – I love my look; replace negative words such as hate (which stirs up negative feelings) with: I accept myself as I am – I love my features.
  4. Only YOU can influence your life. Don’t include other people in your affirmation statements e.g. From today onward, my husband will love me more. You cannot change your husband’s responses. You can only take responsibility for your own thoughts and actions. Rather say: I accept my husband exactly as he is. Place the thoughts and feelings firmly within your control. Take back your control.
  5. Create a strong, powerful dialogue that works for you. I know this may still sound weird to many people, but if you really want to try positive affirmations, create statements that you can relate to. Some people prefer short, punchy statements, while others might want descriptive, goal-focused ones. Whatever works for you, will allow affirmation statements to create positive change in your self-beliefs and habits.

The really great thing (and I know I’m going on here!) about positive affirmations, is that they get you to reconnect with your true feelings – your inner core. When you sit down to write your own statements, you have no choice but to be honest and authentic with yourself. And as Dawn says, awareness is the first step to true happiness with self.

So there it is! And yes, I am writing my own positive affirmations and I’m going to play it over and over again until the old limiting or negative records fade away in my head. Will you do the same?

Happy self-talk!

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