For many, the beginning of a new year is a time-honored tradition of fresh starts and new resolutions to change behaviors. Although I typically create a formal New Year’s plan in my professional life, I am much less formal when it comes to plans or resolutions as it relates to my personal life. For the past two years in particular, my version of a New Year’s resolution has been spending time on Jan. 1 meditating and journaling on how I can be more loving and peaceful.
This year, I decided to be more formal and made three “WELL-thy New Year” resolutions. My resolutions were to do at least one of the following every day: 1) express gratitude for someone or something; 2) release something or someone; and 3) do something for my self-care.
Each of these resolutions is a known wellness practice which I have personally put into practice and designed professional wellness programs around in the past, albeit for shorter periods of time (usually a month). My own previous experience with regular, intentional practice of these behaviors resulted in a healthier (and dare I say happier?) perspective. I was excited to practice these for a whole year! Practice makes perfect and, I have found that practicing these particular activities can make you healthier in unexpected ways. Let me explain:
First, an “attitude of gratitude” inherently promotes a positive, glass half-full perspective. I have personally used gratitude as a positive option to intentionally distract and shift my attention from depressive, anxious or negative thoughts. The more I practice expressing gratitude, the more aware I am of those aspects of my life for which I am grateful, and the more comfortable I am expressing gratitude in new ways. Expressing gratitude daily helps me cultivate the habit of being appreciative and expressing appreciation.
Second, every March for the last two years, I have done what I call my #SpringRelease challenge. For every day of the month, I encourage my followers on social media to join me in releasing something that is no longer contributing positively to their lives. In my own practicing of this process of letting go, my perspective has changed on attachments, to both material things and people. The more I practice releasing, the more I am able to literally and figuratively declutter my life and the more comfortable I am with the concept of letting go. Attaching success to letting go has enabled a healthier perspective to my relationships to people and things. I am able to more clearly distinguish what needs to be released in order to make more space for the positive and useful I want in my life.
Lastly, at various points over the last two years, I have set aside periods of time to intentionally focus on self-care. As you can probably guess, the more I practice self-care, the more it becomes a habit. As examples, my periods of intentional self-care have led to the development of my current habits of meditation (daily), self-massage with the foam roller (regularly during the week), journaling (intermittently) and baths (monthly).
Having done each of these activities and reaping the benefits in the past made me excited about approaching them this year in a new way. What is great about these resolutions is that they are not only beneficial but I also actively look forward to them. They are proof positive that New Year’s resolutions can be effective if they are easy, fun, flexible and as immediately gratifying as possible.
Let’s take the first day of 2019. I started the day with my daily meditation. With daily meditation, it was easy to start the day with a win. My self-care box is easily checked by mid-morning! Even if I miss my morning time, it is easy to take 5 minutes to do a breathing meditation at some point later in the day. After meditation, as is customary, I called my father to wish him a Happy New Year. In the spirit of my gratitude resolution, I added that I was grateful for him and all that he has done for me. Not only was it easy, it felt great to express my love and appreciation in this way and I’m pretty sure it was easy for him and, by his own account, felt great to be acknowledged. Towards the end of the day, I sorted through a pile of papers in my kitchen that had been sitting for quite some time. I wound up letting go not just one thing but most of the pile. When I was done sorting through the pile, after only 20 minutes, I felt lighter, as if a weight had been lifted from me and I was instantly able to think more clearly.
Admittedly, the hardest one of my resolutions is releasing. This is also where I am reaping an additional unexpected benefit in practice. So far in January, as you might imagine, I have missed a few days of releasing. What this has enabled is for me to practice flexibility and compassion (see my Blog post on Compassion Culture) for myself; I simply make up for it by releasing twice as much the next day or sitting down to a hardcore letting go session like Jan. 1. Keeping my resolutions is easier (and more effective) if I keep in mind that they are ultimately for me!
Approaching my New Year and resolutions this way has been fun and exciting with just a hint of a challenge. It has also been a great, easy way to continue healthy, WELL-thy habits I have already started, supporting my personal growth and wellness, especially being more loving and peaceful. I am an advocate of these WELL-thy practices in particular (gratitude, releasing, self-care) because of what they cultivate in terms of both physical and mental well-being. This way, my Happy NEW Year is about a happy, NEW me!
Tanya Leake is a certified health coach, group fitness and dance instructor, wellness educator, presenter and author of “GET A GGRiPP: The Health and Wellness Movement Rooted in Black Cultural Traditions.” You can follow her at embodywell.com and nostupidquestionsshow.com!
This article first appeared in Diverse: Issues In Higher Education.