Well, here we are already, kicking off week two of 2013! Have you been keeping up with the promises you made yourself when the clock struck midnight on the first of the month?
The start of a new year has long been known as the time to resolute change; a chance to once again re-commit to improving health, reaching goals, and sometimes drastically altering our ways of living in order to achieve those things. Now, that said, I am not actually an advocate of the "New Year's Resolution." Alternatively, I think it wise to keep various purposeful projects going all year long, and to me the New Year merely represents yet another checkpoint. It is an opportunity to take a step back, take a deep breath, and then take stock of where you have been, where you are, and where you would like to eventually be. So today, I would like to offer up a few of my ideas about how anyone can start making 2013 a year full of love, happy life, and laughter, and also a time for making some small and manageable, yet very impact-full changes for better health.
1. Start from where you are. If there is one great lesson I have learned from my Yoga Teacher Training course this past year at 889 Yoga, it is this. Be honest with yourself, and even if it is one step forward, two steps back, you will eventually make the progress you desire. Don't try to change too much at once either; tackle challenges in realistic increments, and be OK with that.
2. Eat more green (plant) food.
3. Be in the moment. This is one that I still struggle with every day, but since consciously working to simply "be," my quality of life and over all happiness levels have shot through the roof! I have started reciting a mantra to remind me to be present -- sometimes something as simple as "I am here" can do the trick. Pay attention.
4. Show Up. For your life, your friends, your family, and yourself. And really listen.
5. Breathe. Deeply and often.
6. Cook at home -- learn three delicious and healthy recipes that can become your "go-to" meals when you want to give the gift of good food to your loved ones! I have some great options here.
7. Smile. At strangers. And to yourself. You will instantly feel better and will make others smile too.
8. Dress to feel your best; trends are fun, but wear what makes you feel most beautiful.
9. Move your body every day. For at least 30 minutes. Walk. Dance. Run. Skip!
10. Offer yourself to others. Volunteer. Read to your children more. Play a board game with your elderly relative. Hold the door.
11. Eat more plant protein, less animal. Try hemp hearts, tempeh, chia seeds, and test out some yummy nut and seed butters!
12. Take risks. Step outside your comfort zone and take a leap of faith.
13. Stop counting calories if you can. Please. Eat lots of plants, whole foods, and limit of eliminate processed and fried foods. You will feel better physically and emotionally. Nutrition in equals energy out!
14. Love. Your life, your friends, your family, YOU.
One more thing! You can also sign up for a MAP Wellness Culinary Workshop, where you'll learn a ton of great functional food information, as well as some sublime raw food recipes!
Moments by yourself give you time to recover your resources from the stress of being around others. "The basic idea," explains YouBeauty's Relationship Scientist David Sbarra Ph.D., "is that spending time alone may provide people with an excellent opportunity to reset their ability for self control, and in effect recharge for the demands of daily life. The reason people call it recharging your battery is essentially you are. You're resetting your regulatory capacity in that you're setting aside space and time in which you're not having your energy sucked from you." A study by Reed Larson and Meery Lee at the University of Illinois had people answer a series of general questions about their wellbeing. Larson and Lee found that people comfortable with being alone had generally lower rates of depression, fewer physical ailments and better overall satisfaction with life.
Our ability to resist temptations, make wise choices and control our behavior--works like a muscle, says Sbarra. Use it repeatedly and eventually it gets worn out. Just think of that tub of Ben & Jerry's sitting in your freezer after a long, exhausting day. Our defenses are worn down because our ability to self-regulate has dwindled. "There's very good evidence that all the demands during the day deplete our regulatory resources," Sbarra says. And one surefire path to self-regulation fatigue? Social situations. "You can get depletion effects from interacting with other people--especially ones that are difficult to get along with." Sbarra points to a study by Eli Finkel of Northwestern University and colleagues in 2006. They found that following frustrating social interactions, study participants fared worse solving GRE questions, choosing difficult, but satisfying tasks over easy ones and using their fine motor skills in the board game Operation.
If you avoid being alone in order to avoid facing certain thoughts, Sbarra says you're actually prolonging the existence of those irksome feelings. "The more you run from your anxiety," he explains, "the more it becomes difficult to experience the full range of your emotion." Next time you're alone, rather than brushing off troubling thoughts, give them some bandwidth. For example, "Hmm, I'm feeling worried about my position at work right now," would be a nonjudgmental way of noting job anxieties. "Research suggests that the best thing to do in these circumstances is to experience your emotion and then let it pass," Sbarra advises. "Learn to live with whatever may come without reacting to it. It's a very important skill."
Be mindful of falling prey to nervous energy. Many people feel the need to keep busy when they're not otherwise occupied rather than just planting themselves in front of the TV. But there's nothing wrong with saying to yourself, 'I'm feeling really worn out and don't actually feel like (fill in the blank: cleaning, cooking, organizing) right now.' And if you're the sort that continuously needs to remain active, consider other enjoyable alone activities, such as painting, playing an instrument, or mindlessly sorting through your button collection. "Being alone is an opportunity to engage in some self-reflection and really cultivate attention to here and now. Time to think about what's going well, what you want to do and what you may want to change," says Sbarra.
When food cravings crop up (as they inevitably do when we're left to our own devices), take stock of your actual hunger level. Are you truly hungry, or just hoping food will numb an uncomfortable feeling you'd rather not confront? Practice sitting with that feeling instead of immediately heading to the pantry. Those few moments to recharge and replenish will give you the willpower you need to resist mindless munching
If open-ended alone time still scares you, set a timer for yourself even if it's just fifteen minutes dedicated to stillness. You'll be surprised at how quickly the time passes and how recharged you'll feel afterward.
P.M. Meditation, leading meditation teacher Maritza creates a space of rejuvenation.
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