For some, the start of a new year is really no different than any other day. For others it is the time to make all the changes that they have been putting off for the last several months (or maybe even years). Others utilize this transitional time as a way to reflect on the previous year and set intentions for the coming year. I happen to fall into this last category.
“So you are basically saying you make resolutions?”
To the uninitiated, that may seem to be the case, but I see it very differently. A resolution is generally a statement of a decision to perform a specific task, or a goal to be accomplished (ie. I will go to the gym every day, I will lose 30 pounds, or I will finally learn to play the guitar). What I am talking about does involve goals, concrete decisions, and actions. Your intentions or reasons behind those specific goals or resolutions are your guide posts and the things that spur you to action. When you identify and define your true motivation or intention for setting a goal it makes it much easier to take the actions needed to be successful.
Last year my intention was to create and grow resilience, for myself both mentally and physically, as well as my practice. When I look back at 2016, I can say that although what I thought I meant in January didn’t happen, I absolutely met my intention for the year. That’s the wonderful thing about setting intentions. They are a process. They are about manifesting desires and are fluid in the specific outcomes. In other words, intentions are about the journey, not just a destination. Let’s go back to our resolution of losing 30 pounds. The parallel intention could be mindfulness and joy. Through this intention you would likely discover mindful eating and a physical activity that brings you joy. The end result is fluid, and focus is on improving yourself through the journey not pushing to an end result. And the great thing is that you often still have great results – as good or better than with the resolution alone – but you enjoy the process of getting there more.
But, back to my year of resilience. I put it to the test. I got married, took over as president of the California Naturopathic Doctors Association and led the charge on legislation sponsored by the association, founded the Psychiatric Association of Naturopathic Physicians as the Vice President, sold my ownership of a supplement company I co-founded, hired a resident and a chief operations officer, and moved to a new location for my business. All of this work had me traveling quite a lot as well. I only had 2 months where I didn’t get on a plane at least once, and many months where I was on a plane at least once a week for a quick day trip to Sacramento. As I look at this long list of challenges from 2016, I see that resilience not only helped me to weather the storm, it actually helped me to leap on top and ride the waves. What I am saying is that through cultivating resilience, I was not only able to not be taken down by the challenges of my year, but I was able to rise above and achieve a great deal as well.
But enough about me, let’s talk about you. Perhaps this year, you too would like to set an intention of resilience. If so, keep reading for the top 5 things you can do to help cultivate resilience this year.
Top 5 ways to start a resilient year
1. Sleep. Sleep is one of the most important things to help you be resilient in all areas of your life. It helps your body to recuperate, replenish and regenerate. It is through sleep that many of your hormones come into optimal balance. This balance allows you to be resilient in the face of stress. Sleep allows your immune system to function as well as possible so that you can be resilient in the face of winter time colds and flues. And sleep is one of the most important and overlooked factors when it comes to achieving and maintaining healthy weight (in case you were able to sneak that into your goals for 2017).Play. Yes, I said play. We don’t take nearly enough time to focus on fun and enjoyment in life. Play is vital to success in life for both kids and adults. Play allows your brain to have a mental break from work or school. It also helps you to cultivate creativity. Play even helps to balance hormones and release feel good neurotransmitters, helping you to tackle the less fun things with more resilience.
2. Eat organic, whole foods that would be recognizable to a deer. If a deer in the woods wouldn’t see what you are eating and think it is food, that means it is processed. Processing removes the nutrients we need the most, and adds in unhealthy fats, sugars, salt, and all sorts of chemicals that are hard to pronounce. In order to be resilient, we need to give our bodies the best fuel we can find – and that comes from nature, not a factory. So fill your plates and bellies full of nutrient dense foods (especially plants) so that you can bounce back from anything life hands you with ease.
3. Exercise. Again, we have another way we can incorporate some traditional resolutions in with our intention for 2017. Exercising daily will help keep your happy, feel good neurotransmitters high, and the not so happy ones low. It will help you be less reactive and more resilient in the face of stress and physical illness. And I don’t know about you, but some of my best ideas come to me when I am on a walk with my dog, so exercise might even help you be more creative in your life or business! Exercise doesn’t have to be intense to get the benefits, especially if you aren’t currently a regular exerciser . Get outside and enjoy a walk, do a yoga video (here is a link to my current favorite in-home yoga resource, Yoga with Adriene), or take up a new sport like surfing or mountain biking and add your exercise and play time together!
4. Meditate. Mindfulness meditation helps you to stay present on the only moment we ever really have – this one. When we are not mindful, we are either living in the past (depressed) or living in the future (anxious). We often aren’t aware of the nature of our feelings when we are not being mindful, and become reactive, instead of resilient. Meditation doesn’t have to be sitting still for an hour thinking of nothing. It can actually be a short practice, just 7 minutes a day, in which you just pay attention to what you are experiencing, but without judgement of the experience. Guided meditations can be very helpful, and my current favorite app, Insight Timer, has many recorded guided meditations that you can use to help you get started. Give it a try, and don’t give up. It does get easier over time. I am sure you will feel the benefits and see yourself becoming more present in your life.
I hope you will join me and the Resilience Naturopathic team in working to create a more resilient world, one person at a time this year. We would love to hear how these tips worked for you!
Ready to get your life back?
Dr. Jennifer Bahr ND
Founder or Resilience Naturopathic