Every year I think about what advice to share as we complete another turn around the sun. What can I write that will bring you more health, more joy and more ease?
There are so many possibilities – eat better, sleep more, find quiet time for meditation. These are all good things, but I realized the magic missing ingredient in so many wellness and self-care programs is found in the act of taking stock.
It’s not enough to set goals. We need to watch what happens when we put an idea out into the world. We need to track our progress and record our thoughts and feelings each day.
I got this inspiration sitting at my desk, looking at my 2020 yearly planner. It’s the place where I keep track of things. Not my daily schedule filled with patient appointments, places to go and commitments to keep. These are stored electronically with a kind of efficiency only the digital world can provide.
In my paper planner, I write down goals and dreams, along with notes marking unexpected pleasures and themes for the month. I use the planner as a journal of sorts, briefly recording my thoughts and feelings on a somewhat regular basis.
As I turn the pages, I’m able to look back and reflect.
I might not have remembered any of this if I hadn’t jotted down notes as the year went by. I barely remember what I had for lunch yesterday :). So now I have this incredible gift – pages filled with remembrances, a record of days gone by.
As the new year begins, I recommend that you begin (or continue) to take stock. Here’s how:
At this moment, there is the initial pleasure found in the blank pages of the yearly planner that have not yet been filled. It’s still an empty slate awaiting possibility. You don’t yet know what the year will bring. (2020 taught us the role of the unexpected.)
You stand at this moment, closing one door and about to open another. This is the time to dream, to imagine, to ask for the wishes that live deep in your heart.
Your yearly planner allows for this. The empty pages are waiting to be filled with the moments & reflections that make up your life. Write these down. Take stock. Be the creator of your life’s journey.
As we enter 2021, I send you blessings to guide you along the way.
Ps. If this process sounds appealing, but you don’t have time to get a planner of your own, here's my Roadmap to Health Booklet/Calendar/Journal for you to print out.
And if you feel like you need help in the process of creating healthy habits for a healthy year, do get in touch to find out about my Roadmap to Health Wellness Counseling program.
I love the holidays and this time of year. In the 5 element, 5 organ system of Chinese Medicine, we are entering the time of the kidneys and water. It is a time that connects us to our deepest energy. Think of the image of a well that brings up water from deep in the ground, to sustain and support us.
It’s so interesting that the new year starts here because energetically it is a time of beginnings. A time to plant the seeds that will grow into life events and experiences – things that we will harvest in 2021.
I’m not a big fan of new year’s resolutions, as most of these get broken, leaving us feeling discouraged.
But I am a fan of imagining, asking for what we want, digging deep into our souls for guidance and seeing what we find.
I encourage you to take time to reflect on the things that are most important to you.
My part in this process is to help you achieve your health goals.
In the spirit of thanks and generosity, I’m offering discounted packages that you can purchase for yourself or as a gift to a family ember. These will be available through this link until the end of December.
May this season be filled with wonder and connection even as we wear masks and socially distance.
Life continues to move forward. Let’s make the best of it.
With you in spirit,
ps. If you’re looking for a Thanksgiving recipe instead of or in addition to the traditional turkey, here’s a yummy stuffed squash dish.
I look at my calendar and realize that Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. How is this possible?
I see that I've added the word Cleveland from Tuesday, November 24th to Saturday, November 28th on my calendar. In a moment of optimism, my husband and I thought that we would be able to drive to visit his family in Ohio. We would all get tested, wear masks and social distance.
But a few weeks ago, we realized that keeping everyone safe from the spread of Covid was more important than gathering together.
I feel a little unanchored. Thanksgiving for Dan and I has always been a time to travel. We either visit out-of-town relatives or indulge in one of our favorite things, a long weekend away from it all. Some years it has been on the quiet beaches of the Cape. Other times we've explored the back roads of Vermont. In the 16 years that we've been together, we have never spent Thanksgiving at home.
This year we will.
Are you starting to think about how to celebrate the holiday? Have you canceled your usual plans, or will you take precautions and gather together?
Either way the holiday will be different.
In 2020, our lives have been upended. It will take our creative spirits to make this year's Thanksgiving a meaningful one.
Here are my suggestions:
1) Start to plan.
3) Remember that we're starting the holiday season. That gives us the opportunity to have small celebrations, small joys through New Years.
4) Take a look at the blog, A Holistic Approach to the Holidays, that I send out each year.
5) It is a season of gift giving. I'm offering these holiday packages so that you can give the gift of health to someone you love.
Most of all, remember that you're going to get through this. Be a little kinder to yourself and those around you. We're all feeling the specific challenge of a very unusual time. My holiday blog talks about the gift of imperfection. This is an imperfect year.
Strive on. Find joy. Be well.
If you’re part of the over 60% of people who make New Years resolutions with good intentions but are unable to keep them, this newsletter is for you.
You mean well, you try hard, but life gets in the way.
Think of a resolution as a seed that gets planted. We have an idea. We want to make a change in our life. We’re excited. We set goals, make promises, tell ourselves this year we’ll eat our vegetables, exercise more, be kinder. We truly mean these things. Yet for many of us by April we’re back to our same old habits. What has happened?
I think that we have forgotten to nurture the seed. No one expects a seed to grow without water and sun. And no one expects the seed we plant today to turn into a full grown tree tomorrow. Growth and change take time.
When you make a resolution, ask yourself these questions:
Take time to answer these questions. It may require many hours. Pay attention to how easy or difficult this process is. Write your answers down. If you’re not able to do this, you might want to pick a new year’s resolution that is easier to implement.
With nurturing and care and love our dreams will take form. Do get in touch with me if you need help in this process.
Wishing you a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year!
"With time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown" ~Chinese Proverb
I love this article from my colleague, Katherine Golub, career / business / leadership coach and consultant in Western Mass. She teaches us how to focus on the postitive! To learn more about her work, visit www.CoreBrillianceAcademy.com
What are you dreaming of for the new year? Did you make a resolution, set an intention, choose a word?
At the beginning of every year, I like to choose one word to focus my attention for the year. This year, my word is "Foundation."
No matter how you set your intentions, January is a time of fresh starts and new beginnings for many people. Do you want to learn how to be more confident, more present, or more creative? Perhaps you want to take better care of yourself. Whatever it is, if you’re like most people, I'm guessing that there's probably some new habit that you’d like to develop this year.
Most of us aren’t taught how we form habits or how we can change them, and because of that, developing new habits can feel daunting. I'm happy to tell you that, in fact, developing new habits and strengths can be simple.
Instead of working super hard to fight against old behaviors, it can be much more useful to just take in the good.
What do I mean by “taking in the good?”
In Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson writes that the most effective path to developing emotional habits or strengths such as gratitude, presence, and confidence is to notice when you're already engaged in these habits and then to feel how you feel in your body. He calls this process “taking in the good.”
With repeated, intense, and prolonged mental focus on what’s working, you grow new synapses and change how your DNA functions so that you literally experience more of what works. For example, by noticing when you feel confident, you strengthen your ability to feel confident. When you notice yourself feeling focused, you increase your ability to focus. When you allow yourself to feel really good when you practice self-care (even if it’s just for five minutes), you increase the likelihood that you'll practice self-care again soon.
As human beings, we too often focus on what we don’t want to do or to feel.
Unfortunately, focusing on what you don’t want makes it harder to develop the habits you do want. For example, trying to figure out how to be "not stressed" can stress you out, even more.
The brain can't think in negatives. Don't think of a pink elephant. You can't do it, right? Every time you think about what you don't want, your focus goes to the negative, and you're more likely to replicate that. Instead, when you think about what you do want, you send your energy in that new, more generative direction.
So, what are the steps to taking in the good and building new habits?
Your first step to cultivating new habits or strengths is to choose one or two to focus on.
Rather than focusing on the habit you want to let go of, focus on the habit you want to cultivate. Keep in mind that your problem requires a matched solution. For example, if you struggle with the state in the left column, consider focusing on the habit or strength in the right column--
• Exhaustion… Energy
• Stagnation… Movement
• Anxiety… Ease
• Fear… Courage
• Shame… Self-Compassion
• Resistance… Curiosity
• Withdrawal… Engagement
• Scarcity… Gratitude
• Frustration… Fulfillment
• Stuckness… Forward Movement
• Drivenness… Pleasure
• Rejection… Belonging
• Isolation… Connection
• Grief… Love
Your next step is to notice moments in which you experience the habit or strength you desire.
To develop the habits and strengths we desire—such as trust, humor, and ease—we need to notice when we experience these positive states. Often, we’re already engaging in the actions or experiencing the states that we want to make habitual, but we’re not paying attention. By paying attention to when we are acting and feeling the ways we want, we strengthen our ability to act or feel this way even more.
If you don’t naturally find yourself experiencing your desired emotions, you can remember past experiences, imagine the future you desire, or celebrate the good in the lives of others.
Once you create a positive experience, allow yourself to really savor the moment and experience it in your body.
Sense the experience fully in your body, taking in as many sensory aspects as possible—sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, feeling, and thinking. Feeling the experience in your body helps it to sink in and create new connections in your brain.
Like any new strength, your ability to focus your attention is like a muscle. It gets stronger the more you exercise it. Taking in positive experiences makes your brain “stickier” for them, which in turn increases the likelihood that you'll notice more positive experiences. That makes your brain even more sticky so that you notice positive experiences more. It's a feedback loop of positivity. This cycle makes it less and less likely for negative experiences to slip into your mind and affect your brain.
From now on, any time you experience a small win, seize the opportunity to celebrate.
When you receive a compliment, take a deep breath, let it really soak in, and say thank you. Or cross off items off your to-do list as you complete them so that you have a picture of accomplishment. Or, at the beginning or end of each day, think of three things that you’re proud of, that you appreciate about yourself, or that brought you joy.
Focusing on what brings you joy ten times a day, fifteen seconds at a time only, takes a total of two and a half minutes. But it's one of the most powerful ways to change your brain and your life.
Whatever your hopes for the new year may be, I encourage you to gift yourself a few moments each day to take in the good. Not only is this a very effective way to cultivate new habits, but it’s also fun. I wish you all the best on your journey to building the habits you want!
What started out as an idea for a pre-Thanksgiving newsletter turned into a gratitude practice. It was one of those “aha” moments when I realized that I needed to follow the advice I was giving.
And so I started a gratitude list. I suggesting that you do this as well. It’s a powerful exercise in becoming aware of the connections that exist between you and the rest of the world.
Be true to the essence of the holiday. Give thanks...
1) Love yourself fully
The Concept: What does this mean? Do the things that make you feel whole and complete. Find more of the moments that give you complete joy. Take time to smell the roses, watch beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and fill your life with laughter.
The Practice: Give yourself a day just for you. Wake up when you want to, fill your time with activities that make you smile, eat your favorite foods, spend time with a cherished friend. If circumstances don't allow you to take time off at the moment, then plan your perfect day. Write down the most fun way to spend 24 hours. (Then when you do have time, you have a plan of what to do.)
2) Take Life a Little Less Seriously
The Concept: It's easy to fill life with worry and get caught up with things that are really not that important. Over time, this is hard on the nervous system. Let go of worries.
The Practice: It you find yourself thinking about something over and over again, step back and ask yourself if this is something important to your life. If it is, take a moment to act in a way that will reduce stress. Write down a message or intention that will make you feel better. If it's not, just let it go. Either way, picture your worry in the shape of a balloon to which you are holding on tight. Then let it go. Watch it float off into space.
3) Honor Your Feelings, All of Them
The Concept: Feelings are a way that your body speaks to you and a way of shining light on what is most relevant in your life. It's easy to push feelings away--those things that gnaw at your gut. It's also easy to become completely immersed in feelings. There is a third way, a way to honor your feelings without being ransacked by them.
The Practice: Set time at the end of each day to invite your feelings in. Feelings generally live somewhere in your body; perhaps a tightness in your back or chest, or butterflies in your stomach. Take time to acknowledge these. What are they telling you? Give your feelings a little attention. Draw a picture or journal about what you are feeling. Make sure that you give yourself a set amount of time for this. It's as if you are inviting your feelings in for tea.
Treating yourself with love, kindness and compassion will transform your life in unimaginable ways. Find love on Valentine's Day and on each day of the year!
One of the great strengths of Eastern thought is its ability to allow for the existence of two opposing forces or ideas at the same time. With this in mind, I offer you some suggestions for maintaining balance throughout the holiday season. My suggestions embrace the notion that the yang side of the holidays – the parties, eating, gift-giving, decorations and commercialism – can be balance by the yin side – the soul, the heart and the connections we have with ourselves, our memories and the people we care about. By slowing down a little and paying attention to our inner, yin side, we can find and create special meaning at this time of year. Here are some ideas to help you explore ways of doing this. These are only my ideas. Please take them, mutate them and transform them into your own.
Expectations run high over the holiday season. We try hard and mean well. Often the fruits of our labors pay off. The table looks beautiful. We purchased the perfect gift. Our children/spouses/friends are happy. But once in awhile, we say or do the wrong thing. We arrive late. We forget someone’s name. We become entrenched in old emotions that shadow a present situation. We become depressed. We feel inadequate. We run from our darker sides.
By acknowledging our imperfections we uncover our humanity. The notion of perfection is a human construct designed to cover up our truest selves. In accepting the self as imperfect we give others the room to be imperfect as well. We allow for forgiveness and healing. We bring light to our darker, murkier sides.
Eat for the Soul
Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, your grandmother’s pumpkin pie, Hanukah latkes, Christmas cookies, eggnog…. Add your own favorites. These are foods we wait an entire year for. They contain the tastes joyously stored in memories of years gone by. These are the foods that speak to our souls. There is room in our stomachs for the comfort foods of our youth during the holiday season. The saturated fats, sugars and calories are balanced by the joy these foods bring. Happy souls can make for happy bodies when these foods are eaten in moderation. Keep the following in mind:
B. Resist the candy jar.
C. Give or throw away excess foods.
Remember to eat slowly and relish the special tastes of the season. This is what holiday food and meals are all about.
Shop from the Heart
Gifts are expressions of love and gratitude. They needn’t be flashy or expensive but they do require some thought about the person you are giving them to.
Whether giving or receiving a gift, connect with the heartfelt thought that goes along with the present (both the gift and the moment in time.)
Slow Down and Listen
It’s a busy and emotionally laden time of year. It’s easy to hear words and make choices without really listening. Our yin side is a receptive one. Learn the value of taking in and making space for what someone else is saying. Learn the value of checking in and making space for what you are feeling.
As we come together in times of celebration, it is the connections that we make with each other that are the foundations of the memories of years to come. By listening more carefully we can create strong foundations and a lifetime of memories.
To this season of darkness, cold and winter the holidays bring light and warmth. Yin is balanced by yang. May we all find this balance within ourselves.
Bonnie Diamond, Licensed Acupuncturist