By Cara O. Frank, L.OM.
Yes, it’s that time of year again. The time when we resolve to improve ourselves. I’m gonna workout! I’m gonna eat right! I’m gonna lose weight! I’m gonna learn Japanese!
We all start off with a bang! And then, little by little, old habits sneak in. Resolutions become distant and forgotten and well, you know the rest of the story. I’ve been reflecting on what I can share that might inspire you to help you implement real change. I’m a big believer in doing things imperfectly. Mistakes are just opportunities to grow and learn, so let’s move into 2016 with enthusiasm and open minds!
Here are my suggestions:
1.Use affirmations to create a mindset. I like this one: “I am willing to think differently.” This allows us space to change our opinions, our habits, and our perspective. I have always found this to be powerful. We love makeover stories, but between the “before” and “after” is an epic hero’s journey with many barriers, tests, and missteps. It all starts with heeding the call to a new adventure.
2.Visualize: allow yourself to imagine what you’d look like, how you’d feel, and how you’d spend your days if you were healthier, thinner, fitter, smarter. If you can visualize, you can likely create it.
3.Ask yourself why? Why change? Why strive to improve? Setting goals based on a clear and specific vision of your healthier self helps maintain motivation when the going gets tough. “I’d like to lose weight to lower my blood pressure.” “I’d like to exercise to alleviate my depression.” Feeling purposeful about your resolutions can help you reach your goals.
4.Pat yourself on the back. Acknowledge your growth and progress in 2015. Thank yourself for doing a good job. Celebrate your success. Were things rocky? Well- you got through it. Remember every struggle is an AFGO* (*Another F-ing Growth Opportunity). Keep going. You got this.
5.Focus on health, not weight. There are lots of different body types and lots of ways of being healthy. The smallest changes can improve health and help with weight loss.
6.Forgive. Just do it. Nothing will free you more radically than letting go of hurt. Anger and resentment form a toxic jail. Forgive for yourself. You don’t have to tell anyone else. While you’re at it, forgive yourself for being a faulted human being. Did you try your best? Good enough for me.
7.Eat better, but not perfectly. Just eat real food. Eliminate or reduce one bad food until it feels easier. Feel better? Improved energy and focus from a healthier diet is its own reward. There’s lots of easy ways to improve your diet and not all my patients are ready for a complete overhaul. Do you have time to cook? Then make a few dishes on Sunday to eat for several days. No time to cook or eat? Lots of unprocessed food is easy and packable: a bag of nuts, cheese cubes, hard-boiled eggs, a piece of fruit.
8.Move more often. Resolving to hit the gym 4 times a week? Maybe that’s overreaching. How’s about a simple walk? Or a standing desk? My patients love devices that count steps. I use the free one on my phone. Or download a 7-minute workout app. I’m pretty sure you have 7 minutes. Try fitnessblender.com for hundreds of free workouts searchable by length, fitness level, and available equipment.
9.Eliminate ice: No matter which acupuncturist you see, we all say the same thing: eat warm and warming food. Your stomach is like a simmering pot of soup. That simmer and steam help you absorb nutrition. If you keep adding cold to the soup, it never simmers and ultimately, you’ll feel cold, tired and depleted. Your digestion will thank you and so will your acupuncturist
10.Go to bed! Really. You need more sleep. Turn off your device, slow down in the evening and let your mind and body relax. Start your bedtime routine 30 minutes earlier consider replacing one last show with a guided meditation.
11.Stand up tall. We are all developing “device neck” from being hunched over our smart phones. The bent over posture results in neck pain, less oxygen and even depression. Make a point to counteract these actions and see how it brightens your mood. Check out this Ted Talk to learn about the importance of power posture.
12.Meditate. Too hard? No problem. Use one of the many apps that will guide you through a 10-minute meditation. Still too much? Then breathe. Inhale for the count of 4. Hold for 7 and exhale for 8. Repeat 4 times. Do this twice daily. See how relaxed you feel?
13.Clean up. There’s a decluttering movement happening and it’s kind of nice. I’ve written about this before. I love the unf*** your habitat website because it’s bossy and funny. There’s also a sharing economy that is growing. See if your neighborhood has a Facebook page that says “buy nothing” for your area. Or, take your unwanted belongings to the thrift store. Don’t forget to get a receipt for your taxes.
14.Volunteer and contribute. I’m incredibly busy and have little time to volunteer, so I make a point of donating acupuncture treatments to organizations that ask. We also just ran a food and toy drive at Six Fishes that was enormously satisfying for me. Patients brought in cans and toys and we rewarded them with Six Fishes coupons. Do you have more time? Read to kids, rock a baby, and help an adult learn to read. Helping anyone less fortunate than you often widens the lens of your own suffering, and just plain feels good.
15.Learn: think of yourself as a lifelong learner. There’s a world of experiences and information to enjoy and discuss. You can deepen your knowledge in your own field or branch out in a totally different direction. Check out Coursera. Follow a podcast. Try a craft or an art class. Listen to a TED talk. Join a book club—and actually talk about the book.
16.Make new friends. And keep the old. This year I had the good fortune of making a few new friends. I took a chance and reached out and it paid off with some rewarding new relationships. If you’re shy, it can feel scary to risk rejection when reaching out. But what’s the worst that can happen? Try it. You’ll be rewarded with a wider and richer social circle.
17. On the other hand, uncouple. Give yourself permission to be a grown up and let go of relationships that feel unhealthy, feel diminishing, or you have simply outgrown. If most of your energy is spent struggling rather than enjoying a relationship, it may be time to let go.
18.Completely let go of the idea that you deserve happiness. There. I said it. Of course I want to you be happy, however I am certain that its pursuit is exhausting and is a source of suffering. Consider adopting a radical form of pessimism. My best and heartfelt advice is to make peace with your imperfect life right now. Wishing it different will only cause you dissatisfaction. Fully accepting that your life is a chaotic mess (I know yours is, because everyone’s is and I love you for it) allows you move forward. At the worst and lowest chapter of my life, reading Pema Chodren’s “When Things Fall Apart” literally saved me. Her compassionate words helped me accept the mess that my life was. That acceptance freed me to imagine a path forward. Read it. I’m pretty sure there’s 1 or 7 nuggets of truth for you too.
19.Be Present. Find beauty in small moments by being present. Appreciate how this lets little corners of light into your awareness. Just today, I as I walked my dog in Philadelphia, I was swept up by rehearsing Mummers and all those golden slippers. As they passed me, I heard chimes. Noticing chimes placed high in the trees in front of the Acme, the slanting December light struck me. With the cacophony of the Mummers fading, I heard the revving of motors. This immersive experience reminded me of a sound installation at the Museum of Art. All this happened in a moment. And then I kept walking.
20. Avail yourself of the myriad helpful apps: convenience breeds habits. Want to count calories? There’s an app for that. Want to drink more water? Got one for that. Learn a language? Yuppers. Exercise? There’s a gazillion. Need a therapist? I’ve seen those too. There’s an app for, literally, everything you want to do in the entire galaxy. We’re in an app-ified life, so just drink the Kool-Aid and let apps help you reach your goals.
20.16 Be a nice person. Try to have good manners and act like a mensch. There’s no downside.
That’s it. I wish you peace, love and even more love. Have a great holiday and a great year.
About Cara Frank, L.OM.
Cara Frank, L.OM. was raised by in a health food store in Brooklyn NY. When she was 8 she cartwheeled 5 miles from Greenwich Village through Soho and Chinatown and across the Brooklyn Bridge. For over 30 years she has had the same crazy passion for Chinese medicine. At 17 she had her first acupuncture treatment. At 20 she enrolled in acupuncture school. In 1998 she went to China to study where she fell deeply in love with Chinese herbs. Since then, she has devoted her life to studying and teaching the topic.
Cara is the founder of Six Fishes Healing Arts in Philadelphia where she maintains a busy acupuncture practice and acts as the head fish of warm and lively office. She is also the president of China Herb Company. You can read her full bio or schedule an appointment.