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3 Tips to Overcome the All-Too-Familiar New Year's Resolutions Trap

By Nachelle, Lic. Ac., MAOM, Dipl. OM of Inner Rivers Family Acupuncture, LLC

I hope 2013 was a year of lessons learned, adventures shared, and moments of gratitude. Despite any perceived personal shortcomings or large-scale conflicts, may we continue to gently remind each other to be thankful for the challenges and blessings that each day offers. Every new day is an opportunity to grow and cultivate awareness. Did you enjoy 13 Ways Acupuncture Can Change Your Life in 2013? Check out 14 Things Acupuncture Can Help You Achieve in 2014 (you might be surprised by the wide-ranging benefits!). Consider ringing in 2014 with a cleansing acupuncture treatment to prepare your mind and body for a new year!

What are your New Years traditions? I’d love to hear from you! Perhaps you venture into the woods for a sunrise hike, spend the day reading next to the wood stove, eat black eyed peas for dinner (it’s good luck in many traditions!), or nurse a massive hangover. Or, like many people, maybe you make a list of New Years resolutions that you vow to keep all year long, no matter what! And, like many New Years resolutions past, they eventually become a distant memory. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

This blog post is not intended to make you feel guilty or inadequate for falling short of achieving your resolutions (that is normal); instead, I want to inspire you to create wiser, more pragmatic and meaningful intentions to embrace 2014! Let’s reassess why we put so much pressure on ourselves to accomplish goals in the new year and discover how we can frame a healthier perspective on “resolutions” that resonate beyond the walls of our skin and into the world around us. As a time for reflection and change and reconnecting with who you are (and strive to be), here are 3 tips for a well-rounded approach to goal setting.

1. Be Realistic.
It will make attaining your goals much easier and the gratifying sense of accomplishment will be worth it, trust me. I recently overheard a woman assertively announce that her New Years resolution was to “go to the gym every single day” (which she had not done in ages). While I admire her gumption and ambition, this is a great example of reaching too far and possibly setting yourself up for disappointment. (Did you know that disappointment and other emotions such as guilt and frustration can actually lead to health imbalances?)

Amusingly, when I joined a gym after graduating college, I took the entire month of January off – it was way too crowded with New Years resolution enthusiasts that I could not secure a treadmill or even find a small mat space for stretching! Once February or March arrived, however, the gym was quiet again. My earlier point exactly. Resolutions ought to be achievable and practical. May I suggest reconsidering the term “resolution” and replacing it with “intention” or “mindfulness” or “adjustment” or “mindset shift” or even “reflection”?

Typical resolutions include health and wellness aspirations (I’ll elaborate on this topic in future blog posts). Remember, wellness takes time, patience, and gradual change (read more about my Balanced Approach to Health). Incremental, consistent steps in the right direction will eventually give way to new and better habits that are sustainable. An overly eager “I’m going to the gym every single day, no matter what!” goal is such an abrupt and significant lifestyle change that it will likely not “stick” in the long-term. Maybe start going to the gym two times a week and anything more than that is just gravy!

One final tip: allow room for adaptations. A snowstorm, a child’s cold, a restless night of sleep, or a neighbor needing a favor are all perfectly acceptable reasons to overlook your strict resolution regiment. After all, you are still contributing positively to yours (and others’) well-being. I encourage you to embrace adaptation… you never know what you’ll learn!

2. Look Beyond Yourself.
Are you quick to temper? Do you conveniently forget to take out the trash at night, leaving it for your spouse/partner/roommate to tackle in the morning? Are you participating in petty office gossip? Do you engage in incendiary political discourse? All of these actions or mindsets affect the well-being and happiness of others around you, as well as impact your health and contentment. Maybe establish a goal to reach out to others in a positive manner, avoid situations that fuel conflict, send love and peace to those struggling, and modify your behaviors to make others around you smile bigger and more frequently.

Just a simple goal of observing your internal responses to external events can add clarity to your life. The next step is to reevaluate how you might have preferred to react or how you would like to behave differently in the future. Reconnecting with your inner mindfulness with reverberate to your relationships and daily interactions. All you need may be one “resolution” or “intention” this year: pay closer attention to your surroundings and contribute kindness. Whether it is as simple a gesture as opening a door for a stranger carrying two cups of coffee or recognizing when you are about to lose your temper and retreating to process your emotions or pitching in with household chores you normally avoid, you can make a difference in the lives of others.

3. Simplify Your Life.
Most folks become stressed or overwhelmed with the never-ending obligations, to-do lists, and personal expectations, understandably so. However, you can always choose to simplify and declutter your life with small adjustments here and there. For example, consider “un-plugging” from Facebook, email, and cell phones for a day. Or try to go through your closet and donate clothing you no longer use (find a Planet Aid drop-off box near you). Maybe meditate for 5 minutes a day to clear your mind. Perhaps you could just slow down and enjoy a good book and a cup of tea instead of thinking “I should be doing X, Y, and Z instead (the dishes will be there in the morning, I promise…).”

If your life feels too hectic or crammed with plans, try writing down 1 thing per week (or per month) that you would like to address. There may be a way to organize and simplify the issue at hand. Give yourself time to think about how you might reduce complication in your life and streamline your daily routine. Ask for the insight and support of others. We could all benefit from this exercise and it is certainly more fun to brainstorm ideas with friends, co-workers, family, etc. What do you think?

Some Final Thoughts…
Take the time to enjoy the newness of 2014. Listen to your body, its wisdom will talk to you. If you need a little extra sleep, embrace it. If you are craving a small treat, go for it (and savor it slowly!). If you want a quiet movie at home, cancel your plans out. If you want to take up a new hobby, sign up for a class. After all, we deserve to have fun and enjoy ourselves. Who needs resolutions that make us miserable? Instead, open your heart and mind to new experiences and personal insights. Just be patient with yourself; change is not always ease and smooth and that is okay.

Acupuncture and herbal medicine can significantly enhance your well-being in 2014. Make a commitment to yourself and come in for a treatment! Whether you want to improve your energy, sleep deeper, relieve the winter blues, tackle seasonal allergies, boost your immune system, or ease the back pain from the relentless snow shoveling, Inner Rivers Family Acupuncture is here for you all year long!