New Year's Resolutions
I have always been a big believer in making New Year’s Resolutions. I love taking a season at the end of the year to reflect on what has been and dream about what could be. We yoga folk talk a lot about being in the moment and rightly so. Wisdom traditions and science both agree. Constantly obsessing over a past that cannot be changed and worrying about a future that might not happen are surefire roads to unhappiness. But I think we should be cautious about “chucking the baby out with the bath water.”
Nostalgia makes us happy. We have the amazing cognitive ability to mentally time travel bringing the past into the present so we can enjoy valued past experiences that give us a sense of meaning and purpose. There is a link between nostalgic reminiscing, openness and the ability to support others. Replaying happy occasions with family and friends makes us want to connect more and be better at it. The feelings attached to those happy occasions fill us with love and happiness. Remembering what we have mastered in the past increases our confidence as we set new goals. We gain valuable insights when we reflect on our past, allowing mistakes and failures to teach us better ways of being in the world. Research shows women are particularly good at drawing on past experience to solve current problems.
Being able to visualise our future is helpful too. Several studies have shown that our brain doesn’t know the difference between a real memory and an imagined one. Did you know that as your brain visualises something vividly and with emotion your brain chemistry changes as though the experience was real, and your mind actually records it as a memory?! We can use this gift to overcome fear and be more successful because we feel like we’ve done a new thing before. As we rehearse doing something well in our imagination our brain grows, laying down new neural pathways to perform the skills required as though we have already practiced them in real time. We all have a mental GPS too that helps keep us focussed on achieving our goals and makes us more alert to any opportunity that will help us. It is called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The best way to switch it on is to visualise your goals. Role-playing the future in our heads can also help us avoid unnecessary danger or discomfort.
Throughout January I’ve decided to focus my blog posts, yoga flows, and meditations on New Year’s Resolution’s and how to go about planning the best year ever. I will be exploring, and hopefully communicating in an accessible way, what science and the wisdom traditions teach about effective, flexible goal setting and how to banish the “inner critic” that so often sabotages our creativity.
How do you feel about New Year’s Resolutions and Goal Setting? Have you made any for 2019? Feel free to share in the comment section below.