It’s that time of year again: the time of year when many set resolutions, resolutions that go often as quickly as they come. 2016 is coming to a close and many of us begin to vow to do something or many things differently in our lives. Gyms and yoga studios see surges in new clients in January. Yet just as quickly as we’ve made them, resolutions begin to fade.Perhaps you’ve been there.
I’ve never been a huge proponent of setting resolutions. Resolutions often fail because they are ultimately about something deeper: they’re less about the new habit we seek to form and are more about breaking free from patterns of our past. If breaking free from patterns was easy, there wouldn’t be whole support groups, therapists, counselors, and degrees dedicated to people working with people to help people break free from patterns and create new ones. Patterns are rooted in deep ways of being, thinking, and behaving that we develop throughout our lives. Patterns that take decades to break usually don’t break overnight.
Our patterns can be physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, etc. And they all contribute to our overall well-being. Allow me to illustrate. If you’re reading this, you’ve either come into the Garage for some unwinding sessions or someone told you about us and now you’re here wondering: "The Human What?"
When we cling to old patterns, our bodies respond. I hold anger in my shoulders and neck. When I’m angry and don’t address it, I feel my shoulders begin to roll forward, my neck tightens, and I often experience tension headaches or worse, migraines. We all have patterns like this and our emotional, physical, and spiritual selves work together to sustain them.I’m a believer in making sustainable changes in our lives. Something about the pressure and hype around the New Year feels like we set lofty goals that are challenging to live up to and find ourselves steeped in frustration and disappointment when we aren’t able to obtain them. I’ve also found through life experience that New Year’s Resolutions tend to be based in extremes and rigidity. And rigid expectations of ourselves often leads to disappointment and abandonment of plans.
The New Year can feel, energetically speaking, like a blank slate, a fresh start, a new beginning. There is value in seeing the New Year as an opportunity. But doing so successfully means shifting our mindset: New Year’s Resolutions fail because we set ourselves up for failure with unrealistic expectations. They are based in rigidity, not love for ourselves. We’re human beings and human beings love to see the world in black and white. Once we fall of the diet, the exercise plan, the goal at work, we give up altogether after a few slip ups and settle right back into our usual ways of being (hello again, patterns). We take on new diet fads, set goals to make it to the gym five days a week when we’ve started with zero.What do I recommend instead? Practice setting intentions. Setting intentions for our lives and breaking free from patterns of our past is something that can be done year round, every single day. Not just once a year. Setting intentions is a way of living, not a one-time thing with undue pressure. What might this look like?
I’ll take a common New Year's Resolution here and re-work it as an intention based in love and compassion for ourselves.
Unrealistic New Year’s Resolution may look like: Go the gym 5 days a week and lose 30 pounds. Have you ever set a resolution like this only to have it fail?
For starters, intention setting sounds more like focusing on wellness and well-being rather than getting rid things of and punishing ourselves through lofty goal setting.Setting an intention based in compassion and love may sound more like this: “This year, I’d like to practice a more loving approach to my body. I will eat in a more balanced way and take care of my physical health.”
From here, you can write out a few tangible steps you can take towards accomplishing this intention. Start small and simple. Small and simple changes are easier to accomplish and build us up. Small steps make success more likely and the more successful we feel, the more empowered we become. When we set unrealistic goals we are unlikely to achieve, we can often feel disappointed and get caught in cycles of frustration, which unintentionally lead to more of what we were trying to stop to begin with.What might be some tangible steps towards loving your body and taking care of physical health?
1. I’ll engage in exercise three times a week (maybe list a few you love: let’s say hiking, swimming, and yoga).
2. I’ll start my week with grocery shopping and will include leafy, fresh greens in a meal once a day.
3. I’ll increase my water consumption daily and will attempt to sleep 7-8 hours a night instead of 5-6.
As a yoga teacher and lover of all things wellness, I’m often asked: how do you stay healthy? What’s your diet like? How do you stay “fit?” I’m going to give away a secret, which aligns to why I don’t set unrealistic resolutions. This secret to my diet and life helped me break a lot of unhealthy patterns, especially around food (everyone's favorite resolution it seems). As I am about to give away my secret, I am eating a piece of chocolate cake, something I am not afraid to do. I gave up on extremism long ago. Years of competitive distance running, attempts at veganism, and swearing off all sugar never seemed to fit for me. I don’t adhere to fad or extreme diets and my most recent Biochemical Wellness Analysis reflected an extremely balanced state (there's more about that here). It seems to suggest this approach is working (although I also want to acknowledge it's important to have a sense of what works for your individual body).I allow myself to cheat. I once read a rule to nutrition by a famous Malibu pro volleyball player, Gabrielle Reece. She writes about the 80/20 rule and it's the one health rule I’d say I religiously follow. 80% of the time, she’s conscious of what she eats. She eats well and healthy, eats greens, and includes healthy, power packed shakes throughout her diet. The other 20% of the time, though, she allows herself to indulge. She eats chocolate. She eats the slice of cake. And she doesn’t beat herself up about it. It’s been my guiding rule this last year and I’ve never felt better.
I rest when I need to. I've trained with one of our amazing Progression Specialists, Yari, at the Garage (by the way: if you haven't trained with Fletcher or Yari or Jerry, you're missing out!). Our trainers are capable of kicking your butt, but they also approach us with love. I remember one day I was spent and exhausted. Nothing inside of me wanted to work out when I went to see her. So I told her that. She ended up helping me stretch and roll out my body really well and it was exactly what my body (and I) needed. Breaking old patterns and setting new intentions involves a shift in mindset and approach. It's forgiving.I’ve learned through trial and error what works for my body and I honor that, first and foremost. Setting intentions around balance, well-being, and health is about creating sustainable, balanced changes in our lives. It is not about extremism, fads, and rigid expectations of ourselves. It is based in positivity, small steps, and sustainable changes that promote our wellness. A natural consequence of this approach has been breaking patterns I was never able to under extreme rigidity. Keeping rigidity out of my approach to life has also had an unexpected consequence: it's kept rigidity and tension out of my body. A shift in my mindset has produced a shift in my physical body.
At Human Garage, we believe our mind is connected to the body. How we approach our thoughts and resolutions will have physical consequences, for better or for worse, in the physical body. In the city of every health fad under the radiant sun, there is bound to be disagreement with me. Maybe you disagree or are skeptical. I get that: I've been there too. But if you’re here reading this, I have a hunch that something you’re trying hasn’t been working. Give it a try and maybe you’ll even surprise yourself. Yes, it's a New Year but every day is a new day, too, and let's not lose sight of that. So Happy New Intention setting, everyone. We hope to see you in 2017.