By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
This year, I have picked one resolution, but it’s an ambitious one— a year of relaxation. It is straightforward, but it is hard for people, living in the digital era, to strive for. The purpose is to focus on loosening up myself mentally and physically, undisturbed by short and long-term stresses, while living fully in the moment.
Studies have found that a relaxed body can lower blood pressure, increase immunity, and reduce inflammation.
Like most people, my record of keeping resolutions is pathetic. Often, several excuses would distract me. Or I’ve made too many resolutions, and none of them would stick by the end of the year.
Procrastination is another hurdle. After watching the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, I swore that I had to visit Berlin the following year. Well, every year, I said, perhaps the next year. It took me 13 years to land there.
That’s not it. My dream of learning the piano lasted for three decades. Last January, I finally took lessons. I confess that I did something stupid. I enticed my sons to learn the piano when they were little. If they took lessons, I would tag along and learn as well. My son Jason responded, “No mom. Even if you buy us the piano, we won’t learn and we won’t play.” My other son followed his brother’s lead.
My foolish assumption was that if it’s good for me, would be beneficial for others. Now, I can’t describe the amount of bliss I’ve experienced after learning to play the songs and music I love. So stop talking, just do it, without saying “what if,” “but,” or “perhaps.” Here is a checklist for managing my New Year’s resolution.
Fear can paralyze our thinking, actions, and emotions. Analyze your fears. What are you afraid of and why? If you want to change your job, the fear of losing security is unbearable. Write down your concerns on one side and your solutions on the other side. You might discover something new you haven’t thought about.
The best way to confront fears is to face it head on. For instance, people who are afraid of flying should talk about their fears. Understand why they behave the way they do, and then set a date to prepare to fly, with a counselor or supportive friends. If you avoid it completely, you will always be fearful of flying. Each time you fly, you might feel better. Give yourself time.
2. Stop worrying
No one will laugh at you if you can’t complete your resolution. There’s no shame if you fail. The important thing is to try. “99 percent of the things you worry about never happen,” stated Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.”
Learn to let go. I am still learning to let go every day. Use your time to think about what you can do constructively, rather than wasting time on things you can’t change.
3. Clarify your needs
What exactly are you looking for? Take my goal of “a year of relaxation.” Fuzzy, right? There’s no doubt. That’s crazy, someone reacted. Since when has a newspaper publisher achieved relaxation, struggling with expected and unexpected adversities, dealing with constant deadlines, readers’ complaints, critics’ attacks, and declining revenue?
I can change my mindset. This is exactly what I need even in crises, and I can even smile and not be aroused. Actually, feeling relaxed might only be reserved for retirees. But I am going to take the challenge, while working full-time.
I chose relaxation because it encompasses many meanings and countless positive steps for us to apply in our lives. It sets the tone for my life for the whole year and what I should do or not do in my daily activities. To achieve a state of relaxation, one must balance the mind and body. When I am relaxed, I am free of anxiety and depression. I feel joy and my mind is clear. Can you feel joy if you are tense? Can you make your best decision if you are not calm? Can you do daunting tasks if you are mentally and physically weak and fatigued? Can you feel relaxed if you lack sleep?
4. Write down the benefits
To feel relaxed, I nurture my body and mind. Everything I do is for health reasons. It teaches me discipline, helps to maintain a good mood, and provides a healthy lifestyle. Write down all the benefits. Writing empowers you. It also clarifies your thinking.
There is a difference between desires and needs. Desires exhibit passion, and thus, create deep satisfaction, joy, and perhaps even a sense of urgency to propel you to act.
Needs are not as powerful as desires. Sometimes, our mind doesn’t think rationally, and we might even resist meeting our needs. So if you can master or fool your brain into switching your needs to desires—“I desire it,” as opposed to “I need it”—you might achieve better results. Writing can serve as an effective tool to help you change your attitude.
5. No rules
Most people would suggest you narrow down resolutions to three at most, and you can succeed better. Wrong! You can have as many as you want if they are related or have a cause-and-effect.
Secondly, some recommend specific goals, such as losing a pound a month or saving $400 each month. Wrong again.
There are no rules in setting and achieving your resolutions.
You set your own rules. In fact, my relaxation goal is vague, and it allows room for imagination. Third, you can start your resolution in April or June, it’s better late than never. There’s no need to wait until next January.
6. Plan of action
Begin your day with a smile. I remind myself that relaxation can happen more easily with frequent smiles during the day.
If your resolution is to spend more time with family, the first thing you do is to smile at your loved ones when you are with them. The more you smile, the more joyful feelings you can share. It is said that smiling on purpose changes your brain chemistry. When you work on your New Year’s resolution and smile, it makes you feel less burdened and inspires you to build your enthusiasm.
Write down all your strategies to accomplish your goals. What rewards will you give yourself after you complete each task? (See sidebar)
You should have fun while achieving your resolutions. Don’t forget to insert fun activities during your day. I have two to three playtimes in my workday, including watching my favorite taped television programs, playing the piano, and singing.
If your resolution is to quit smoking, treat yourself a favorite snack after you resist picking up a cigarette. Or text your loved ones, telling them you just won a small battle of saying no to smoking.
Every time you are able to resist junk food, save the money or donate it to the homeless.
Put a timeline in your plan. For example, in January, you will do this and that. What would you do to expand your goal?
7. Build support
Put down how to gather feedback. Will you be able to get feedback from your family and friends to tell you how you are doing each month? Allow evaluation at the end of one or two months. Are you working towards the resolution or straying from it? What can you do to get back into focus?
8. Forgive yourself
Try new things, even if you make mistakes. Tell yourself that if you make mistakes, it is no big deal. What is important is the learning and its process. No one is perfect. We are all human.
If you can’t fulfill your resolutions, there is always a silver lining. You have survived. You know how to do better the next year.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.