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Friday 20 October 2017

New year resolutions you can succeed at

By Calodagh McCluskey - Wellbeing & Meditation

For many, the New Year is associated with resolutions. We set goals, look to make changes aiming to make improvements for this year so it can be better than last. We want to get rid of patterns and behaviours that are no longer helping us or we want to bring in new more productive, happy, and healthy habits.

But how many of these resolutions last? For most, they will have been abandoned by the second week of February if not earlier.

A friend of mine is a regular gym goer and has been for years. She totally avoids it the first three weeks of January and slowly gets into her new year routine after that. She does this to avoid the short lived chaos as the fervour of the 'resolutioners' wanes.

Why do most resolutions fail? They fail because people change only their actions and not their underlying thinking. We all know exercising is 'logically' 'good for health'. But we are emotional beings. People who force themselves to do things because they are 'good to do' do not succeed over time. The road to hell and all of that…We are ultimately emotional beings. We will stick at going to the gym if we love going there. We will stay off the cigarettes long-term if our love for not smoking is greater than our love for smoking. We will stick at something if we really believe it is right for us or if we simply love it.

People who force themselves to engage in or avoid whatever behaviour they want to change - going to the gym, giving up smoking, working more or less, weight loss or gain, whatever it may be, but if the underlying thinking remains the same. As time goes on-it will be difficult to maintain the change with will-power alone. Constant thinking about it will bring us back to the habit eventually… or if a new habit … the pure discipline becomes wearisome. And if we are obsessing with whatever it is there is not much benefit to having given it up, as we are still mentally enslaved. However, when we change our mind, and our thinking, the change in behaviour becomes effortless and easy to integrate, maintain and sustain.

Many years ago I gave up smoking and alcohol. When I changed my mind about them the change became relatively easy to maintain. My view of what they are and what they did for me or even what they would do for me now is different to what it once was. I was chatting with a friend this weekend. He quit smoking 5 years ago and has never had one since and is not at all interested. He does not hate them. He just 'flipped a switch' in his head and now sees smoking in a completely different way than he once did.

When our head, heart and hands are working together change becomes sustainable. But what does this look like in practice? How do you initiate and maintain sustainable change? If you really want to stick at the change, reflect on it. If you can change your mind, you can change anything. The opposite is also true. Do you see it as a reward or a punishment? What are the benefits to this change? Not the ones you read in a book or a health magazine -but the ones that speak to you. For me the best benefit of not smoking is that that I lose no mental energy to calculating when I will have my next cigarette. My mind is free of that.

Mark Twain-had a great line-Old habits should not be flung out of the window, they should be coaxed down the stairs one step at a time. Change that is implemented gradually generally is more easy to maintain over time. This has been my experience and I have seen it in others .. particularly in relation to weight loss or gain.

So if you want to make lasting resolutions in 2017 - change your mind first. And consider doing things gradually if possible for a more lasting effect.

Meditation is a great support to anyone that is wanting to initiate or maintain lasting change in their lives. It is a workout for the mind and makes it strong, balanced and flexible - thus very receptive to change. Remember if you only make one percent change in any one area of your life-over a year, this will result in a 3800 percent improvement. We would all be happy with those percentages.

If you do make lasting changes as a result of reading this article, we would love to hear from you.

Calodagh McCumiskey teaches Meditation and Yoga. She offers wellbeing at work programmes for businesses as well as weekly meditation classes in Wexford and Waterford. To learn more, call 0871 335230, email calodagh@spiritualearth.ie or visit www.spiritualearth.ie

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