At this time of year many people begin thinking about making New Year’s resolutions. However, it is important to remember Rob Nairn’s wise words that ‘There is nothing wrong with you’. This feeling can get lost amid all of the media hype of new year, new you!
That said, the coming of the New Year can be an opportunity to reflect on how we can nurture ourselves and those around us and continue to create the conditions for happiness and wellbeing in our lives. An alternative approach to resolutions that I take at this time of year is to reflect on the activities that nourish me and make me feel healthier, energised and joyful and then make plans to do more of these activities in the coming year. Some of the things that I find nourishing relate to the five ways to wellbeing that I wrote to you about before Christmas. These are connecting with others, being active, taking notice, keep learning and giving.
I also take time to reflect on the activities that deplete me, lower my mood and make me feel less healthy and more tired. Is there any benefit to myself and/or others in continuing to do these activities? If there is little or no benefit, I stop doing them.
If there is benefit, then I reflect on how I can make these activities less depleting, for example by changing how or when I do these activities or by changing my attitude towards these activities, once I am clear about the benefit that comes from them. It is useful to take a long term view. Some things can nourish us in the short term, but be problematic to our wellbeing in the longer term and so bear this is mind.
So over the next week or so, I invite you to spend some time reflecting on the question: What are some of the activities that nourish me? Drop the question into your mind from time to time, for example, when doing the washing up or going out for a walk. Don’t think about the question too much, just see what comes to mind. Keep a notebook with you and note down any insights that arise. In the same way, spend some time reflecting on the question: What are some the activities that deplete me? By New Year you will have created a list of nourishing and depleting activities.
Then sit down with this list and make a plan for how to include more nourishing activities in your life, such as mindfulness, loving kindness and compassion practice, learning something new, going for a regular massage, attending a yoga or dance class, spending time with friends and family, exercising regularly, volunteering or taking more relaxing baths.
Remember, this is not selfish, because if we look after and care for ourselves we are much better equipped to care for those around us.
Also, make a plan for the depleting activities. Can you give any up? If so, just stop doing them! Some depleting activities are unavoidable and here you can reflect on two things. Firstly can you do the activity differently or at a different time and secondly can you change your attitude towards the activity.
One example from my own life, is that I don’t like making phone calls. If I had a phone call to make, particularly if it might be a tricky conversation, I used to put it off, all the while worrying about it. Now I make the call as soon as possible and then it is in the past, removing a lot of the depleting aspect of the activity.
Another example is working at my computer, which makes my eyes feel very tired and my body feel achy. So I try to take breaks every 45 minutes, stand up and move away from the computer to make a hot drink or go to the loo and at the same time I do a few shoulder, neck and back exercises and stretches. I also recognise how my work at the computer supports many people to train in Mindfulness and so is very beneficial and therefore well worth doing with an open heart.
This New Year you could just make one or two small sustainable changes, then look at these activities again at Easter and go through the whole process again. Once you have decided what to do and what not to do then set this as an intention. Write them down on a card or a piece of paper that you can keep with you and refer to regularly, such as in your purse or wallet, or write them in your phone. Also write down your motivations, which are the reasons why you are making these changes to benefit yourself and to benefit others.
However, don’t make your intention into an expectation. If you don’t make the changes you intend, don’t beat your self up. Instead reflect on all the reasons why you want to make the change and then re-set your intention to make these changes. Repeating this process will make the intention and motivation stronger until eventually the changes will happen.
On behalf of the MA I would like to wish you a healthy and happy 2016, filled with many nourishing activities!