Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The Natural alternative to new years resolutions

Transferring stuff into my new diary I came across my new years resolutions list from a couple of years back.

• Resolve to join a gym.... (I’d ticked that one off but actually going to the gym proved slightly more difficult to do)

• Give up coffee.... (That one lasted a day or so till I remembered that my gym did really good cappuccinos with organic milk)

• Decorate the whole house with eco paints... .(Incredibly moving into a new house gave me the opportunity to do that, but sadly the felt pen the kids have written across the walls with certainly isn’t organic.)

• Plan menus and set up online shopping.... (that lasted exactly 4 days, I ran out of most essential ingredients for the planned meals and the online shop proved disastrous.)

The start of a new year brings a new chapter, a time to reflect and plan ahead but somehow our new year’s resolutions lists are often just another way of setting ourselves up for failure and beating ourselves up for all the stuff we haven’t done that we feel we should have. Thank goodness I work under the brand-name ‘imperfectly natural’ If I’d left out that all important ‘im’ I’d be lynched by yoghurt knitting earth mothers who spot me having that quick glass of non organic wine, or eco warriors sifting through my bin bags to make sure I’ve re-cycled properly.

It’s the small steps that count though isn’t it, ‘small change big difference and all that’

So this year I’ve decided to ditch the list of resolutions, it’s great to set goals but to ‘resolve’ to do, or worse still to NOT do something is usually fraught with problems, The chances are you’re feeling frazzled and your resolutions will be something you feel to OUGHT to do rather than really want to. There’s also no real motivation or commitment to do what you simply feel you ought and so you fall at the first hurdle, look how many people resolve to diet, or give up drinking or smoking then come down with a bang as soon as the stresses of the new year kick on back to work day.

Telling ourselves determinedly that we’re going to ‘change our ways’ or do something differently can only work if our subconscious minds (our inner self) also believes it.

In an enlightened moment one cold wintry day, between Winnie the Pooh DVD's and bathing down my kids itchy skin with porridge oats (they got an inconvenient bout of chicken pox) I was feeling ridiculously stressed that I ought be working, cleaning the house, earning money - but suddenly I realised that the richest and most content people of all are those who accept themselves just as they are. Yes they strive to reach their goals but life is not a struggle for them and they’re capable of enjoying the moment, I remembered that line from a poem…..’I’m cuddling my baby and babies don’t keep’…..and realised there’s nothing more precious than being ‘present’, spending time with your loved ones in sickness and in health, somehow life does go on whatever the current stresses and no one is indispensable. I vowed then that my only new years resolution for the following year would be to lower my expectations and stop chasing my tail.
That’s not to say I don’t want to be happy though, deliriously so, indeed I think that’s the most important resolve but it’s the definition of happiness thats all important.

The kingdom of Bhutan has recently been hailed as a role model for legislating that happiness had to be considered when making policies. Politicians are being encouraged to consider Gross National Happiness (GNH) as well as Gross Domestic Product – (GDP) President Sarkozy of France praised this view and commissioned a report to examine how France measures indicators such as health family and leisure time.
Lisa Grainger in The Times newspaper 2.1.2010 said - ‘Starting to rationalise our world in terms of smiles not pounds seem well overdue’ I agree wholeheartedly, happiness, laughter and wellbeing are indeed more important than pounds and dollars.

I’m reminded of a wonderful yoga teacher who reminds himself to smile a lot in order to ‘practice contentment,’

But aside from forcing a Cheshire cat grin onto my rather harassed face what can I do? Well I kicked off the new year with a Nia class – Nia is a dynamic mix of yoga, martial arts, and different styles of dance. You work barefoot to music and work at your own level of intensity. It’s exhilarating and fun!
After our warm-up our inspirational teacher suggested we step sideways and leave behind all that we want to let go of from the last year and at the end of the class we step forward into whatever we want to embrace for the new year ahead.

I have so many hopes and goals and wishes that I wanted to try and simplify my long list. Finally I decided to focus on releasing stress – I’ve had far too much of it during the last year and allowed it to affect my health and wellbeing but in the process of writing my new book and interviewing all manner of experts on conscious living, I’ve come to realise that we aren’t born with stress, its a learned concept and as such it can be ‘unlearned’ So I stepped sideways and let go of the years debilitating stress.
I wondered what I could choose to embrace for the coming year and again my list went on for ever, I decided simply to step forward into Joy – I figure if I focus on joy everything else will fall into place.
It seems like a good plan, so I’ll be the one grinning wildly even in the face of adversity – smiling uses a different set of muscles and increases happy hormones, talking of using my muscles I intend to dig out the rebounder from under the pile of kids toys, I’ve been telling everyone about the benefits of rebounding but forgotten to practice myself ! I do remember however, that its the best full body workout aside from swimming and best of all its fun, its impossible not to smile while you’re bouncing – just ask Tigger from Winnie the Pooh !

Gratitude is pretty important too, I’m going to count my blessings and remember how lucky I am. I‘ve read the books that suggest I keep a ‘gratitude journal’ well basically any old notebook, but its important to keep it by your bedside and before you go to sleep jot down at least three things that you’re thankful for, its a lovely exercise for children too. I also intend to set up a Vision Board, - a noticeboard or even a piece of card with ideas, pics, and photos stuck to it, I’m going to find some images that represent what I want for the coming year and manifest them ! Bring on the recipes for raw chocolate truffles!

Its not all about me though, studies show that true happiness comes from giving rather than taking. As Wayne Dyer says in The Power of Intention ‘Purpose is not about vocation – its about service’ Giving to others, whether it be a random act of kindness to a stranger, a smile, a gift, or time spent with a lonely relative, helping or giving to others is said to increase feelings of happiness and wellbeing quicker than any materialistic retail therapy might. For most of us even if we gave away ten per cent of our wealth we’d still be amongst the richest 5 per cent of the world.

So that’s sorted then, if you should come across me frowning and bemoaning my lot I hereby give you full permission to reprimand me and remind me of my intent.

Hopefully (albeit imperfectly) I might succeed.
I wish for us all a happy stress-free joyful 2011