Okay, I’m thinking “What can I possibly say about a New Year? Something that hasn’t already been done by some professional columnist or talented blogger or — Shakespeare?”
Then I remind myself that I’ve seen a LOT of New Years, and have messed up at least as many resolutions as the next guy, have made many “new starts” that chugged to a halt by March or so.
So I’m an expert on what doesn’t work.
As I looked back, I started filtering through all those New Years to find what resolutions stuck out as good ideas with some durability to them.
I have a confession to make. There weren’t many.
What Didn’t Work
A lot of that probably has to do with me. I’m a well-seasoned romantic, which means that I’ve had more than my share of quick enthusiasms followed by embarrassing disillusionment.
So as I enter the “mid-summer” of my life I look back and see that I am sorta lazy and inclined to slip back into old comfortable patterns of behavior.
There are loads of people that I’ve met and admire who are much more disciplined than me. I’ve met people who’re able to get up at six and go running, or write in their journals before dawn, or drink a magic blender shake with seaweed and amino acids before they have their coffee, etc. You get my point.
Not me. The only things that worked with me long-term had to be so easy and slippery that they could make a place in my life without any stretch marks.
What Did Work
And the only way I’ve ever gotten better is to either find a comfortable way to change, or find a way to make something that’s a little uncomfortable so habitual that it eventually becomes easy and comfortable and second nature. Remember, I’m talking about me, a person who is very difficult to change. Your mileage may vary.
I found that little changes just before my day officially began carried the biggest payoffs — followed by little changes in my routine just before going to sleep.
I think it’s because what you do first thing in the morning has the potential to affect your whole day, and what you do just before going to sleep has some impact on your subconscious during the night.
Here are some of the things that have become part of my life, and I believe that they nourish me in ways I can’t even begin to calculate. These patterns just seem to make things better over the long run, over the years.
In The Morning
I’ve found that first thing in the morning I can remember to do a few extra things that I didn’t do before I made a resolution. These are the patterns that have stayed with me for years because they were easy to do and they gave me an all-day payoff:
1. Drink a full glass of water immediately upon rising, and another glass soon after that. You’ve just spent 7 to 9 hours with no water. There’s a big reason to do this simple thing. First, your brain uses a disproportionate percentage of your oxygen and energy. And, while you were asleep your brain was still working and using up energy. This first drink of water re-hydrates your brain after a night’s activity, and the second drink hydrates your body. It helps to remove toxins and aids in digestion. You will find your energy and spirits stay more “up” during the day, your skin improving, and many experience some weight loss.
2. Stretch. You’ve just spent hours with no activity. After you’ve hydrated yourself, a gentle stretch from head to toes will wake your body and your internal organs. You don’t have to do an hour of yoga to get the main benefits — just a few minutes gently stretching your body to it’s limits will do wonders.
3. Be grateful. While you’re brushing your teeth or stretching or in the shower or even making breakfast, think with gratitude about 3 things in your life that give you pleasure or make you proud. That’s it. Just 3 things that you’re glad about in your life. If you do this, it will give you more joy and energy throughout the day.
Many of my coaching clients used to have old patterns of waking to the same old worries. This is a bad habit without any redeeming qualities, and they’ve reported that this simple “do three things differently” process has changed that pattern. The proper time to address worries is after you’ve taken care of yourself.
You’ll bring a lot more to the party when you’ve started the day well. You’ll have more energy, resilience and you will actually enter your day with more intelligence. If you do just these three things every morning you’ll be astonished at the results within a week. Give it a try — I think you’ll like it.
There are a couple more things that make the day start right, but if you’re anything like me, doing these three new things will be a handful. And if you stick with it, you’ll be having better days than you had before, and that’s the purpose of New Year’s resolutions, isn’t it?
Happy New Year,