It's that time of year again when life goals are set and resolutions are made. Do you want to lose weight and get fit (don't we all)? Perhaps you're about to embark on Dry January or quit smoking. Is your goal to improve your relationships or get out of debt? Whatever your good intentions are, research suggests that only 8% of us actually achieve our resolutions. So what about the other 92% who are doomed to fail? Inevitably, an awful lot of money is wasted on gym memberships, Nicorette patches, juicers and the like, only for them to be neglected in a month or so's time when the novelty wears off and the New Year no longer feels new any more.
As a hypnotherapist, my quietest time - surprisingly - is January. No one needs my help because enthusiasm and motivation for change are at their peak. It's a couple of months in that I get inundated with requests for help from depressed people who have failed at their goals yet again. So my advice would be this: shift your focus from what you don't have, to enjoying what you do. Being mindful and living in the present takes a little practice, but with it comes a whole host of physical and emotional benefits. Here are three small, simple steps you can incorporate into your day that I promise will have a more powerful impact on your life than setting an unrealistic resolution that you can't achieve:
1. At the end of each day, remember three things that brought you joy, satisfaction or pleasure that day. It could be something as simple as getting a seat on a packed train, finding a great new café in your area or watching a funny YouTube video. It reminds you that life is enjoyable, it's happening right now. You don't need to get that promotion or run a marathon to feel victorious because that same level of satisfaction can be found amongst the normality of your day-to-day life. You just have to seek it out. Even on a bad day, there will have been glimpses of joy.
2. When you catch yourself in the midst of a negative thought ("I'm tired", "I hate my job", "I'm fat"), practise body awareness. Become mindful of your body and what it's doing in that precise moment. So if you're in the shower, focus on the movements, feelings and sensations of washing your hair for example. Concentrate on the smell of the shampoo, the individual movements of the muscles and bones in your hands and fingers. Life is what's happening while you're busy making plans, and with our cluttered lives it's all too easy to absentmindedly go through the motions of living and breathing on autopilot. It's a cliché, but sometimes you need to be reminded to stop and smell the roses.
3. The following easy breathing technique can be done anywhere, at any time, and can help you calm down when your temper and stress levels are on the edge - practise it daily and you will rarely allow challenging situations to effect you in that way again. Start by breathing in slowly and deeply through your nose and imagine first that you're filling your abdomen like a balloon. Your stomach rises, then your ribs expand, then your collarbone rises, and when your body is so full that you can't breathe in any more, gently exhale through your mouth, releasing all tension and stress. Repeat this four more times and each time you exhale, allow yourself to feel peaceful and tranquil. You don't have to do this with your eyes closed, although it often feels more enjoyable to do so.
These three simple steps require no effort, just a little time every day. The emotional and physical benefits that they bring will help to deactivate the triggers of your unhealthy behaviours such as drinking, overeating and smoking, enabling you to achieve your goals naturally and from a position of calm and strength rather than pressure and guilt.
This article first appeared at Hypnotherapy London
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