01/21/2020 Personal Growth
If you need a break from the popular New Year’s resolution approach, here are some alternative practices for cultivating the life you want for yourself.
The New Year is often seen as a mark in the sand, a fresh beginning, and a time to make changes in your life for greater health and happiness. While you can surely grow and transform positively at any time of the year, a brand-new year can feel like an enchanting time to envision and consider all you want for yourself.
If you want to make shifts in your life but don’t find the idea of setting New Year’s resolutions appealing, you can take a different approach. The following practices guide you to “add-in” more of what you want so that you can manifest your best year yet.
Self-reflection is an opportunity for a kind of personal inventory of the past, looking back on how far you’ve come while gaining deeper wisdom and understanding of yourself.
Reflection can also help to improve your future performance. One study found that when people spent 15 minutes at the end of the day reflecting (in the form of journaling) on what they had learned, they increased their performance after just 10 days.
- Create space: Find a quiet space where you can cultivate some solace for yourself.
- Meditate: Spend some time meditating to quiet your mind and bring yourself into the present moment.
- Journal: Grab your journal and reflect on the past year. You can use the following reflection questions as inspiration:
- What do you consider your personal highlights of the year?
- Was there a dominant feeling you welcomed and/or resisted?
- What did you learn?
- Observe: Take note of what stands out for you. Reflect on what you prioritized and what your highlights were, and then use them as a springboard into what is important to you as you move forward into your new year.
Gratitude elevates what you already have in your life—even through challenging times. Focusing on what you have to be grateful for can immediately shift you into a positive frame of mind and offers many healing benefits. Learning to cherish the gifts in your life fills your mind with loving thoughts and hope, while dissipating feelings of pain, fear, and shame.
One study found that cultivating gratitude increased happiness and life satisfaction while also reducing depressive symptoms and negative moods and emotions. In short, practicing gratitude supports a life of greater health and happiness.
- Ritualize: Each morning when you wake up, spend 5 to 10 minutes practicing gratitude. You can do this in your journal, in your mind, and even while you shower.
- Pay Attention: Throughout the day, notice all the experiences and blessings that unfold, such as someone offering you a kind smile, the ability to savor a delicious meal, and the companionship of family and friends.
- Meditate: Try a gratitude meditation to enhance your feelings of well-being.
Desire is a transformational force that can expand your health and your happiness. Pure desire (free from ego and greed) is said to be a soul expression of what you want for your health, relationships, work, and all other aspects of your life. Pure desire can bring you into alignment with that which will serve the highest outcome both for yourself and for others.
As you begin a new year, clarifying your desires can support you in staying focused, seeing the big picture, and deciding what you want to “add-in” to your life.
- Create quietude: Creating some quiet space for yourself can do wonders for accessing clarity. Plan a quiet time when you can meditate and journal about your desires.
- Visualize: What does it feel like to embody your desires. What are the general feelings you notice when you visualize living your desires?
As Deepak Chopra has written, an intention is “the creative power that fulfills all of our needs, whether for money, relationships, spiritual awakening, or love.” The art of setting intentions (also known as Sankalpa) is an ancient practice that has been documented in early yogic texts dating as far back as 1000 BCE.)
When you set an intention, you are focusing your attention and energy on what you want, planting a seed in consciousness that can help bring your desires to fruition. This will make it seem less like an onerous challenge and more like a positive change.
- Set clear, positive intentions: Write down your intentions for different aspects of your life, including health, work, relationships, personal growth, and so on. One study found that when people wrote down their goals (intentions), they had a greater level of success in fulfilling them than those who did not.
- Engage in aligned action: Once you have set your intentions, take actions that support the fulfillment of your desires. Practicing aligned action—actions aligned with your intentions—is a habit that gets easier with time, practice, and frequency.
- Take baby steps: Rather than trying to make a big change, which can feel overwhelming, take the smallest possible steps towards fulfilling your intention. According to the American Psychological Association, it’s best to start small and choose simple, realistic, measurable, and clear ways to track your progress.
- Seek support: Having a support system in place will help you stay committed to your intention and offer encouragement when you face obstacles along the way. Share your goals with others who can help you achieve them. As researchers have found, having positive social support in your life also promotes greater health and happiness.
Affirmations are positive statements that can keep you focused and create momentum in the fulfillment of your desires and intentions.
While implementing affirmations is a simple practice, the results can be profound. There is ample results-based research in using positive affirmations. Some of these examples may inspire you to create our own affirmations.
- One study found that participants used affirmations on a regular basis, they experienced a decrease in negative self-esteem and depressive symptoms.
- Another group of researchers found that people who had a regular practice of using positive affirmations had greater feelings of self-worth.
- A study of sedentary people found that using affirmations altered the brain’s ‘response to health messages and led to increases in physical activity, which is a core element of a healthy lifestyle.
You can use affirmations at a scheduled time each day or whenever you notice yourself thinking a habitual negative thought, or in whatever way Using your affirmations can happen at a regular time each day, when you notice a habitual negative thought, to boost your self-esteem or to overcome an unsupportive habit you would like to change.
- Brainstorm: Start by writing your affirmation(s) with a freestyle type of writing exercise to get your ideas, your favorite inspiring words, and the tone of what you are seeking out on paper. Don’t censor yourself as you write—just jot down whatever comes to you. You can then choose the affirmations that resonate with you the most.
- Flip your script: Focus on taking your most habitual negative thought pattern and flipping it into a positive affirmation. For example, change, “I am always late” to “I am always right on time.”
- Use the present tense: Be sure your positive affirmation is in the present tense, such as, “I feel energetic and alive” or “I love every cell in my body” or “My income is always increasing.”
- Jazz it up: Ensuring your positive affirmations are inspiring and in a language that lights you up can help you feel excited about them, making the practice of using them more pleasurable.
- Keep it visible: Keeping your affirmations visible and handy is a great way to remind yourself of your intentions and desires. Write your affirmations and place them where you will see them frequently, such as on a computer monitor, your car dashboard, and your bathroom mirror.
Affirmations can take a bit of time to become habitual. Being patient with the process will help you along. Have fun with your affirmations, repeat them regularly, and find joy in the process.
As you can see, there are many ways to enhance your new year and your life with simple practices that support your success, boost your clarity, and keep you feeling positive. Creating sustainable change for the better will keep you moving forward and build your trust in yourself and the process of inner transformation.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; it does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.
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