Happy New Year to all of my blog readers and everyone out there! I hope that all of you enjoyed some time off of work, and spent some time around people and things that gave back to you. I spent a week with my family in Rincón, Puerto Rico. We have been going there for seven years now, and it’s one of my favorite places on earth. This week, I feel especially restored and energized flying back to Virginia. I was reminded this week how beneficial vacation can really be for the mind and the body.
We have sort of a stigma in our culture about taking vacations. Have you ever told a co-worker or friend that you were taking a vacation and gotten the, “must be nice,” response? This is part of our overall stress problem. People are too hard on themselves and lots of people see vacation time as being lazy and not working enough. This type of “work work work” mentality leads to burnout and health issues, take a vacation! Let go for a little while. Whether you book a getaway in paradise, or drive a few hours to a nearby bed & breakfast, getting out of your routine and getting some down time is healthy and quite frankly, self care !!
All week in Rincón, I woke up late (I don’t mean to brag ;)), meditated each morning, and spent time out in nature amongst loved ones. Rincón is rugged and wild and i love running through the jagged hills and taking in the scenery. It is my own personal mediation. Taking in all of the colors of the casitas and tropical flowers that line the streets, with a blue ocean painted under the skyline. I stop and pet the local horses and dogs and feel so connected to myself and connected to the island. I majored in Spanish in college and really adore the Latin American culture, so it made my soul happy to interact with locals and experience the authentic culture each day through color, food, landscape, and language. The Puerto Rican pride, passion, and laid back way of living inspires me to ease up a little. It was pure bliss.
I am flying back home today with clearer skin, and a much clearer mind. I also just feel a lighter sense in my heart. Stepping back from the busy daily routine and demands also puts things in perspective. I feel totally renewed, and I think it’s worth reminding people that vacation IS needed and it doesn’t have to be expensive & fancy. I will be a better worker/ wife/ friend, etc. now that I have taken some time to slow down and reconnect on a much deeper level. My vision is clearer, my mind is slower, and my body thanks me.
New Years is not always a time to change and fix things, it is sometimes a time to simply go within and connect with yourself. 2018 has been a year of constant reconnecting for me. Each time I am faced with a challenge (and there were many in 2018), I am reminded of the importance of taking the time to quiet my mind and connect to the part of myself that re-energizes and clears my mind. It is accessible to everyone and it is free. You just have to go within.
“What lies behind us and what lies in front of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us–Ralph Waldo Emerson
New Years is heavily marketed and commercialized as a time to change and purchase. “Sign up for a gym and lose that weight.” “Get a new look so you can feel you again”. You get the idea. The problem with this is two-fold. First of all, creating positive change is the most difficult in the dead middle of winter. Spring and summer, even autumn, are much better times seasonally to create new patterns. Trying to jumpstart a new program and blow it out of the water during a rest & restoration season is hard, and could be part of the reason why most people really struggle to keep going to the gym or sticking to a program.
The second reason New Years resolutions can fail or be problematic is that they are not always connected to something virtuous and meaningful. As a fitness professional, I see this all the time. “I want to lose weight,” a client will say. I will tell them okay well why? The response is usually so that they feel better or so that they can fit into a size four, but we have to look even deeper and understand the root of it so that we can commit to change. This is where intention setting comes in handy. New Years intentions are much more sturdy than resolutions. Intentions are connected to virtues. For the person who wants to lose weight, maybe they are really looking for self-love, so now their intention is to be more self-loving, and weight loss will be a side effect of this. You can set an overall intention based on a virtue, and then make a few goals that will help you achieve the long term goal. For example, imagine you want to get more organized in 2019, so you decide you are overwhelmed at work which is why you are so messy at home. Maybe your intention ends up being around peace. As a result you set a few goals, carve out 5 minutes each day to be still, eat 2 serving of vegetables a day, and clean your house on Sunday’s at 4pm. If the goals are specific and achievable, they are more likely to stick. You may work up to an hour of quiet time a day as you learn to juggle your priorities, but if 5 minutes is more realistic, that’s where you can start.
New Years is also a nice time to reflect. I think it’s a good time to look at the past year and take into account how much joy you have had, and even how much suffering. By looking at both joy and suffering side by side, we can become almost like investigators in solving the case of how we could improve our overall well being. I think it’s very helpful to identify healthy and unhealthy patterns during a time of reflection. What are some patterns that are working really well for you? Maybe you’ve taken up meditation or you’ve added fiber to your breakfast. Whatever it may be, ask yourself how you continue this success and continue to reap the benefits that the new routine, or long time routine has brought you.
Conversely, what are some patterns that need some re-routing? Maybe you consistently feel crappy over a habit/ emotion/ etc. tendency that you have, how can you begin to dissect this and figure out how to replace it with a healthier/ more beneficial habit or pattern? Creating new habits is very challenging and requires dedication, humility, and lots of patience. After all, you are basically re-wiring your brain!! That being said, it is not impossible ! Here are some tips for creating healthy habit change in 2019 (and forever):
- Rule number one is ask yourself why this change is necessary, and as you decide why, be gentle and loving with yourself and others. We are all doing the best we can with the information that we have. Self-study and self-help are enormously brave and challenging, but so much growth happens in these spaces.
- Journal or jot down all of your reflections/ ideas/ goals/ intentions so that you can come back to them and track your progress.
- Ask a buddy to check in with you on one of your goals. You can even put a reminder in your calendar each day/ week/ month to keep yourself on track and keep motivated.
- Create a short mantra related to your intention that you can say to yourself when you feel like you are backsliding. For example if your intention is more self love and you are starting to act in self sabotaging ways, you can leave a note in your mirror or at your desk with a mantra like, “I am enough.” Seeing a visual sign can be a good reminder to keep you on track.
- Remember your self care. Are you taking good care of yourself? What can you add or subtract from your routine to make yourself feel more balanced. When you feel out of balance, ask yourself, “what do I need in this moment?”
- Don’t be rigid. As dedicated as we can be, take time to also let go and keep things light. Enjoy life!
My intention with this blog post is for all of you to be able to reflect over the past year and identify and remember all of the joy you have had, without putting undue pressure on yourselves, and, if applicable, reflect on the suffering as well. By reflecting on suffering, we can identify root causes and learn how to avoid, heal, and create positive change for 2019. This will make us better able to face the challenges ahead, which is inevitable always. Challenge is not always negative and is so necessary for our growth. Dealing with mental illness my whole life, I find that the more I understand my pain, the better I can recover and prevent it from taking over. I can instead view my pain as a teacher and a growth component. I wish the same for all of you! A huge lesson for me over time, has been to realize that pain and suffering will always be there, let it be a teacher.
May 2019 bring you the growth that you are hoping for and pure and simple joy. Keep doing the things that make your inner light shine.
With all of my heart,