By Sophia Godkin, PhD
One of the greatest things about the beginning of a new year is that it inspires reflection about our personal desires and encourages us to commit to new goals and aspirations.
With 365 new days, the year is a blank canvas on which to paint the life we dream of.
To keep your dreams alive for all 365 days of the year, we know it helps to keep your dreams big and start small. So here is a guide to help you achieve all that you want in 2017 – one goal, one change, and one month at a time.
Get To Know Yourself
What better time to reflect on who you’ve been, who you are and what you want now than at the start of a beautiful new year? During the first days of January, give yourself some time to reflect on your personal accomplishments of this past year, and your motives and desires for the future. Are you feeling in body and mind how you want to feel every day? Take a few moments each day to feel grateful for where you are now- a wiser, healthier version of who you were this time last year.
When you think about yourself one year from now, what do you envision? Take a few moments to tune into what will help you become the person you envision 365 days from now. Commit to getting to know yourself better in body and mind by paying close attention to the choices, thoughts, and habits that serve you and those that no longer do. Commit to investing in programs, classes, and tools that can help you in this self-discovery process. (One amazing platform we love is the world’s first virtual health assistant that gives personalized insights for body, mind, and life, called Shae).
Focus on What You Love
February is all about love. Focus on all that you love about yourself, and all the incredible things your body and mind can do. Each and every day, your feet carry you to where you want to go and help you do all the activities that you want to do. Each and every day, your ears allow you to listen to and interact with others. Your mouth allows you to speak your truth and express yourself. Each and every part of your body – each organ, muscle, tissue, and system of your entire body – serves a vital function that contributes to the quality of your life.
Spend some time gazing in the mirror and noticing what is unique about your physical appearance. Is the pigment or texture of your skin unlike that of anyone else you know? Notice where the curves are in your body. Notice the soft places, the firm places, the symmetrical and less symmetrical parts. As you notice each aspect of yourself, take a moment to appreciate this nuance that makes up who you are.
Then close your eyes and reflect on what is unique about your personality and the way you see the world. Are you one of the most introspective people you know? Do you love to think and analyze things in depth? Are you naturally friendly and fun to be around? Are you a natural born leader? Whatever it is, acknowledge it. Appreciate it. Love it. Who you are is unlike anyone else and who you are is perfect and deserving of love, today and every day.
Make Moving Your Body a Priority
Moving your body doesn’t only reap physiological and structural benefits for your internal bodily systems, muscles, bones, and joints. It gives you energy, vitality, well-being, and connection to who and what you enjoy in life. Commit to join a gym, get a membership to a yoga studio, or subscribe to YouTube channels that feature workouts that your body will benefit from most.
By March, you’ve already spent a few months tuning in to the signals of your body as to what is more and less ideal for you, and using innovative programs like Shae to support and confirm your discoveries. What does your body enjoy? Is it a good early morning stretch? A pumped up morning power workout? A gentle afternoon group exercise class? An afternoon leisurely walk? An evening dance class? Whatever you enjoy, do that. Because if you enjoy it, you will maintain it. And if you maintain it, you will have ample energy for all the things you care about and want to do every day of your life.
Get in Touch
Physical touch is a primary way in which humans express and feel love, and its effects on our mental attitude, stress levels, physical health, and sense of connection are unparalleled. Throughout April, invite more touch into your life. Whether it’s a hug, kiss, high-five, a few moments of hand-holding, or a simple pat on the back, get more of it this month and into the rest of the year.
Take this opportunity to show others you care through a physical gesture like placing a hand on their shoulder or gently squeezing their arm during conversation, especially if touch isn’t a way that you usually show you care. Remember to seize opportunities to receive the benefits of physical touch too – whether it be to linger in an embrace for a few extra moments or to do a bit of self-massage each afternoon. Notice how your self-care, self- appreciation, and relationships, whether friendly or romantic, grow deeper when regular physical touch is involved.
Design Your Nutritional Environment
Ask any behavioral psychologist and they will tell you the value of creating an environment that supports your health and wellness goals. Dedicate several hours every Sunday in May to preparing your meals in advance for some or all of the week ahead. By having healthy meals ready in the refrigerator, you will be less likely to resort to quick (and often unhealthy) snacks when hunger kicks in during the day.
Place the tupperware containers with your prepared healthy meals and snacks at the very front so they are the first thing you notice when you open the refrigerator. Take the decision-making out of your daily food choices by deciding, through your in-advance meal preparation, to eat fresh, whole food meals whenever possible. Then watch your confidence in your ability to achieve your goals skyrocket as you design an environment that best supports these goals and you.
Share Your Gifts
What are those things that you are intrinsically good at? Those things that just come naturally to you? Those things you spend time doing because of the sheer joy they bring you? This month, make it a priority to develop and share these gifts of yours that not everyone has but that everyone can benefit from seeing expressed in you.
Every time you devote your effort and energy to something you are passionate about, you are making great use of your mental and physical resources, and every time you choose to further develop your strengths, you are filling a much-needed role in the world that can only be filled by you. So ask yourself “Does it light me up?” “Do I forget about everything else when I am doing this?” and “Is it challenging to the degree that it excites but doesn’t overwhelm me?” If the answer to most or all of these questions is ‘yes’, then do it. And then do it some more.
Become Comfortable with Stillness
One of the greatest skills you can cultivate for your health and well-being is awareness and stillness of your mind, and one of the greatest ways you can do so is by practicing meditation. Throughout the first two weeks of the month, commit to sit or lie down and meditate for just a few minutes a day. For the next two weeks, commit to just five minutes a day. Not only will you experience the incredible physical effects of meditation, like reduced blood pressure and an immune system boost, but you will also reap benefits to your mind and spirit, like greater willpower, concentration, and self-knowledge, that will further all of your health and happiness goals.
When you engage in a mindfulness practice like meditation, you develop the ability to focus your mind on the present moment. By placing your attention on what is right here and right now, like the feeling of your breath, a mantra, or some physical sensation in your body, you cultivate an ability to choose your point of focus in any moment. Worry tends to be a function of focusing on the past, while fear tends to be a function of focusing on the future. Change your point of focus to the present and watch your fears and worries subside and be replaced with the joy of life lived in the present.
Give Your Mind a Makeover
To change your behavior and results, you must change your mind. That’s why the sunny and warm month of July is devoted to your mindset. The thoughts you think every day need to be the kind that remind you of how incredible you are and how wonderful it is to be alive. When your thoughts are self-affirming (“I am capable of anything I put my mind to,” “I love how great I feel and look today”) rather than self-critical (“I can’t get this right,” “I am far behind on accomplishing this goal”), you are much more easily and readily able to propel your body and mind into their true greatness.
Now that you’ve practiced becoming aware of the thoughts you are thinking moment to moment through meditation, you can ask yourself, “Does this thought help or hurt me?” If it’s the former, great. Keep thinking it. If it’s the latter, commend yourself for catching a negative thought stream in its infancy and replace the thought with one that feels better and is therefore more aligned with the truth of who you are. Moment by moment and thought by thought, you will be creating a mental environment that nurtures the growth and manifestation of all your health and happiness goals.
Get in Tune With the Rhythm of Nature
When we look at nature, we can see the beautiful and effortless functioning of living organisms. Trees, flowers, and birds all function according to a natural cycle of light and dark. As humans, we too have at our disposal a biological clock, that if attuned to nature, can give us restful and rejuvenating sleep during the nighttime and ample energy and vigor for the day ahead.
Make sound sleep a personal goal through the month of September. As the darkness of the evening hours sets in, grab a book, enjoy a light meal, or interact with family and friends. Whatever you do, start to wind down your dutiful activities and responsibilities of the day. Leave the window curtains open as you go to sleep and wake up naturally with the rising sun. As your sleep patterns harmonize with the rhythm of nature, enjoy a renewed sense of energy, clarity, and well-being.
Fine-Tune Your Food to Perfect Your Mood
Use the connection of food to mood to your advantage by building a nutrition plan that promotes the balance and activity of all your feel-good hormones. Include ample fruits, vegetables, and a collection of foods rich in tyrosine and antioxidants to boost your body’s dopamine levels. Include salmon, eggs, turkey, nuts, seeds, and other foods that are a good source of tryptophan to encourage your body to produce more serotonin.
Be sure that your dietary and lifestyle choices are fulfilling all your body’s complementary needs, so check in with your virtual health assistant Shae as you make changes this month. Take this time to build on and continue with your exercise regimen, your sleep habits, and the various other healthy habits you’ve adopted since the start of the year. Together, all of your lifestyle changes will make a huge difference to how you view and experience joy throughout your life.
Switch Up Your Routine
Our internal environment (our thoughts, feelings, physiology, and neurochemistry) and our external environment (our physical location, the time of the year) are ever-changing. These changes, when embraced and attended to, can catapult our health and well-being to new heights. This month, notice how your body feels as the seasons change. As the temperature drops and nights get longer, does your body yearn for more of certain foods and less of others? What fruits and vegetables that are in-season can you now add to your grocery list?
Notice how you feel from keeping up with an exercise routine of your choice. Take that feeling and the knowledge that you can accomplish any goal of your choosing with you as you switch up your routine to keep your body engaged and benefiting from movement. Focus on strengthening and stretching different muscles in different ways. Your body will respond to the challenge by becoming stronger, more flexible, and more supple. Invite change into your routine every so often for optimal improvement to your body, mind, and life.
Choose to Listen
During the month of December, vow to listen more. Spend more time listening to your inner guidance system by tuning into your emotions, bodily sensations, and unspoken desires. Get still and ask yourself, “What is really important to me right now? What are the next steps I can take in my health regimen, career, and personal relationships to move my life forward?” Wait for the answers to come throughout the month, whether through a gut instinct, a creative activity, or a conversation. Remember, the quieter you get, the more you can hear.
When in conversation with friends, family, and colleagues, exercise your newly developed skill of listening. Oftentimes, we come to our personal interactions with an agenda – to be heard, to express a point of view we hold close, or to be “right”. This month, practice letting go of the need to hear your own point of view, a perspective you already know quite well. Instead, stay open to the perspectives and viewpoints of others. You may be surprised what you learn about them, about yourself, or about the world. The more you listen, the more you hear just what you need to propel your own personal health and happiness journey forward.
When it comes to creating change in yourself and your life, remember to take it one choice, one day, and one month at a time. By approaching your big goals with conscious intention and action, before you know it you will be beaming from having achieved all the goals that make you happy to be alive all 365 days of the year!