By Grace Porter, LCPC
Ok, maybe they are your grandma’s resolutions. Chances are I don’t know her or anything about her so who am I to say… But this a non-traditional way of looking at New Year’s Resolutions-a way that just might work!
New Years is a time of reflection as we say goodbye to one year and start thinking about ringing in the next. 2016 has been a hard year for many people and many of us are hoping for change in the coming year.
In previous years, have you tried to hold yourself accountable for creating the changes in your life by making New Year’s Resolutions? How well has it worked? The thing is, change IS possible but we often go about it the wrong way. We cannot effort our way into being different. Will power only goes so far! The process of change works differently than that. I’m not going to get into that here because you can read about it in our other blog posts but I will say this: Telling yourself you will eat better or go to the gym more often or get more sleep or cut back on alcohol or any of the other resolutions people make may work for a hot second but it won’t create the lasting change you seek.
A few years ago, I was in the habit of attending the gym regularly with two of my friends. We would grab ellipticals next to each other and gab while we ran. We joked that it was our group therapy. Well, January rolled around and we couldn’t find any machines next to each other, let alone three ellipitcals in a row. But by the 3rd week of January we were back to our normal routine because, you guessed it, all the resolution-based gym goers were gone!
Are you wanting to make changes in the New Year what might work better? Here are 3 Resolutions I suggest for the coming year (and of course I say that they work best together so maybe resolve to rock the revolution trio, okay?)
1 I will practice mindfulness. For some, this might mean meditation, either in a group setting or at home, but mindfulness is actually much more than that. It is a practice of becoming aware of what is present in any given moment. We can practice mindfulness by paying attention to our emotions, to our physical sensations, to the patterns that present themselves in our lives, to our thoughts, to the situations we find ourselves in, to what is happening in our relationships, and so much more. We cannot create change unless we know and accept where we truly are. Mindfulness is the practice of making space in our consciousness for what we are actually experiencing, and it is something we can choose to do moment by moment throughout the day or at a designated meditation or journaling time. And of course, mindfulness works best when we can be with our current truth in a kind and gentle way, and this brings us to resolution number two.
2 I will practice compassion for myself. Compassion is a practice of looking at ourselves and our situations from the heart’s perspective. It is loving kindness and gentleness. Compassion helps us hold space for our truths even when we are suffering or struggling. At The 7 Tools we call compassion “the Alchemist” because it is the transformative function. The practice of compassion puts our heart in the driver’s seat of our creative powers. Then, the thoughts, feelings, and choices that support our highest self just naturally start to flow. Our energy is freed up to be motivated by love. And love works toward our highest good.
I have found for myself and for my clients that the practice of compassion does not always change what we do on the outside (we might still choose to eat healthy food or go to the gym) but that it shifts the internal motivation from a place of self-criticism and fear to a place of love and supporting oneself. It is the difference between not eating the cake out of fear that it will add to the waistline and not eating the cake because what the body needs in this moment is a seaweed salad. Or fully enjoying eating the cake without making justifications or self-demeaning remarks about it. Compassion breeds choices that are based in love and support, not punishment and restriction. We don’t have to try to create change when we practice compassion, it will happen on its own. The trick is to have compassion for yourself even when you become aware that you have not been having compassion for yourself.
3 I will keep showing up for myself even when things get hard. Often, when we start looking to create lasting change in our lives, we are confronted, (or maybe accosted is a more apt word), by the fears and beliefs that have kept us in our current patterns. It can feel vulnerable and scary to go to those places. I have had clients ask me if they will feel this way forever or say that they are afraid that if they look at a certain piece of their “stuff” that it will overwhelm them. The truth is that whatever you have experienced so far in your life, you have survived it. Our healing can be manageable and we don’t have to do it all at once. If we look at the piece that is in front of us and just keep on doing that, with time, we get where we need to go. But as one client recently told me, “This is hard!” And it is. It takes diligence, forbearance, and persistence (and compassion!). And it is so worth it. That same client also frequently tells me that various things are feeling better and that the more work they do, the more manageable the next piece feels. The river of sorrow does not sweep them away and they feel more courage to be themselves. As Dory has been known to say, “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”
So Happy New Years from all of us at The 7 Tools of Healing! If you want more info about, well, any of this, check out the other blog posts or sign up for our mailing list. We’ll see you in the New Year!