I can tell you right now I won’t be making my New Year’s resolutions in the traditional way this year — I don’t believe it’s a healthy start to 2018.
Think of the type of resolutions we make. They so often focus on denial (I will stop drinking/smoking/chocolate scoffing) or involve a radical lifestyle change (I will get fit/lose weight/change jobs) that we are setting ourselves up to be miserable or for failure before we even pull on our trainers or buy a bucket load of kale.
What’s more, it’s cold, dark and grey outside, and we are all broke and in a state of post-Christmas come-down. January is the worst time of year to abstain from something that gives us a little pleasure
or to put ourselves under unnecessary pressure.
Choosing a resolution in this way is like saying you aren’t good enough already. I’m not telling you to sit on the sofa and work your way through a bumper tin of Quality Street until January is over, but what if you explored making a New Year’s resolution from a more positive, less ego-driven mind-set?
The yoga practice of sankalpa might be just the ticket. Sankalpa, which means resolve, involves using your heart and mind to form an intention or vow. Practising sankalpa starts from the viewpoint that you have everything you need to be a happy, complete person — you just need to focus your mind and channel your energy in the right direction.
To find your personal sankalpa, try sitting quietly and closing the eyes. Feel the spine lengthen and the body relax. Focus on the breath and allow your inhale and exhale to slow down. Now think about your life and in which direction you want it to go. Think about your next goal for the year ahead. Keep it simple, make it small and focus on one thing, even if there are 1,000 things about yourself and your life you feel need to change. Now you need to look deeper at that goal. If, for example, your goal is to lose weight, think about why you want to do this. Is it because you want to feel more confident in your own skin, or maybe you want to feel healthier? If you want to change job, do you want to do this to make yourself happier — either as a lifestyle choice or financially — or perhaps to improve your knowledge and thirst for learning?
Take your time and don’t force it— you might need a few meditation sessions to find your sankalpa, but it’s worth the wait.
When you have reached a decision, turn your goal into a positive affirmation. Don’t use the phrase ‘I will’; keep your sankalpa in the present, and leave the ego out of it. So instead of saying ‘I will lose weight’ you might have a sankalpa of ‘I am healthy and happy in my body’. Remember, you have everything you need already to achieve your personal goal.
A sankalpa practice needs to be regular. Every day, if you can, sit quietly for a few minutes and find your breath. Now repeat your sankalpa, slowly and mindfully, three times in your head. Allow the words to sink deep into your psyche.
Positive thinking and looking at the bigger picture in this way are surefire ways to help you achieve your goals for the new year — and not ditch them all and give up before Twelfth Night!