Each year begins in a fallow phase. We greet the new year from the frozen heart of winter. We stand upon the edge of time looking backward over the past year and forward toward the new. For many, the new year represents a time of contemplation and resolution. Many resolve to break past patterns. Others resolve to begin new habits designed to bring more health, happiness, and longevity. We often gather with friends to celebrate this new opportunity to begin again. Some take the time to contemplate both the past and future, to set goals, and to motivate themselves toward pinnacles left to be obtained.
Winter is historically a time of fallowness that lends itself well to contemplation and planning. Although we no longer live in an agrarian society that focuses on the seasons of plant life, we must all admit to the continued seasonal changes that occur around and within us. With shorter days, we tend to spend more time within our homes with the people nearest and dearest to us, regardless of the work that sustains us. We are all witness to the changes of the seasons that surround us. For some, this is a sobering experience reminding us not only of the changes of the year, but also the changes over the course of a life.
When in the spring of our lives, we focus fully on the future that lies lush before us. When in the summer, we tend to revel in the beauty of life and the potential for the future. As we enter the fall of our lives, the mind turns to regrets, loss, and the pain of change and growth. We see the lessons that life has brought and often seek to alter our paths and share our wisdom. In the winter of our years, we are prone to look back on the successes and failures of our lives. This is a natural process discussed with much more grace by psychologists that study such things.
Regardless of the stage of our individual lives, this time of year continues to invite mindfulness and reflection. The new year is an apt time to reflect upon what we want in our lives and to review how we are doing at achieving the things we wish to. The ending of the previous year is a bittersweet reminder that this year, too, will pass and a motivation to make the most of the time that spreads before us.
I often begin the new year by reading a self-improvement of one kind or another. I find winter a wonderful time for reading and inner assessment. I also find that winter is a wonderful time to slow down and practice some self-care. We spend the months leading up to Christmas focused outward upon those we love. We give both physically and emotionally of ourselves.
The new year is a good time to look to ourselves and our needs. It is a good time to care for ourselves physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It is a good time to regroup and prepare for the challenge of a new year. It is a good time to mindfully consider what we want from this span of time before us and to plan accordingly.
Many of us attempt to alter ourselves and our lives in a myriad of ways. This works for some people. Many of us refuse to alter our course. This works for some people. However, as I age, I find that I need to be mindful of change. I no longer set a handful of resolutions that I know won't make it through January. I save my resolutions for changes that have a profound meaning for me. As I have learned through years of failed resolutions, I am only likely to actually keep the resolutions of this weight anyway.
If you choose to make resolutions, I suggest that you do so mindfully. Rather than making grand nebulous resolutions, choose one or two meaningful changes. At most, I would recommend choosing one aspect of each of the areas of your life to focus on. More than that reduces your likelihood of making any meaningful change.
The Four Aspects of Life
There are four basic aspects of life:
The physical self: Clearly your body is a significant aspect of your life, and one that many of us seek to alter with our New Year's Resolutions.
The emotional self: This is your range of emotions and is an aspect of ourselves that we often overlook when making New Year's Resolutions.
The mental self: This includes your knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and analytical self. We tend to neglect this aspect of ourselves after our early.
The spiritual self: This is your relationship with yourself, your creativity, your life's purpose, and your higher power. Although we often look at improving our connection with our higher power at the new year, we often neglect to enhance our creativity, improve our relationship with ourselves, or consider our life's purpose.
In the US, we tend to focus on the physical body and our relationship with the physical environment. We are often focusing on improving our mental self as a means of improving ourselves as employees. However, we tend not to look much beyond this. Ultimately, to be a whole balanced person, we need to maintain positive growth in all of these areas.
Creating Meaningful Change
To create meaningful change, you first must take the time to determine what you want in your life. If you want to be wealthy, which is often a focus in the US, you need to consider how you can achieve this. In order to create wealth and sustain it, you may actually find it necessary to grow in each of your life aspects.
To focus only on one or two areas of life may help you succeed, but may prove to be unsustainable as the years go by. A disequilibrium may actually create a crisis in your life. Focusing only on the physical may leave you in an emotional and spiritual crisis later in your life.
Once you have determined what you want in your life, you need to be clear with yourself about what this looks like. If your goal is to improve your emotional state, be clear about what this improvement is. Do you wish to reduce angry outbursts? Do you wish to live in more peace?
Once you have determined the change you wish to create—and have defined clearly what needs to change—you will need to find the how of your change. If I want to improve my spiritual connection, I need to know not only what I believe and what aspect of my spirituality it is I wish to improve, but I also need to determine how this can be achieved. Do I need to attend church? Do I need to commune with nature? Do I need to allow the creativity within me to grow? As you no doubt see, some of these are simple, while others require a great deal of thought.
Finally, you may want to share your thoughts about the changes you wish to make in your life with others and/or to write these down. It has been established that both writing down our goals and sharing them with others improves our ability to follow through on them. Those around you can be a great source of motivation and support. Remember, although you start down the path of change for a purpose, change is both difficult and frightening. It is good to have the support of those you love and respect to help you over the rough spots as you move toward your goals.
About the author
Nalda has led a rich and varied life. She has worked as a college professor, a mental health counselor, a psychosocial rehabilitation therapist, a research assistant, a retail associate, and a starving artist.