New Year’s Microresolutions
Happy 2015! It’s that time of year when we all look back on the previous year and identify some things to improve upon in the year ahead. Resolutions! Who doesn’t have some habits they’d like to change?
I am continually reading books offering painless “self-improvement” (or at least making me feel virtuous that I am giving that notion some consideration). My most-recent very timely read is “Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Change Your Life Permanently.” (Permanently!!!) But the thesis of the book is pretty solid – that we have to take very concrete, very achievable baby steps towards change. So rather than saying in the new year “I will exercise more,” you resolve to get off the train each evening one stop early and walk the last 10 blocks home. This manageable goal gives a sense of accomplishment while also moving you towards greater fitness. This signals the brain that you can successfully make a change, making you eager to try another (small) one.
So where do the majority of new year’s resolutions seem to point? To borrow Walgreens’ marketing slogan, an awful lot of us want to “be well.” ‘Wellness’ is a somewhat modern notion. What is it, exactly? Is it being physically fit, or eating healthfully, or being peaceful in mind/body/spirit? Is it sleeping deeply, or avoiding the flu? Is it yoga or strength-training or meditation - or going gluten-free?
Today I read an article in which practitioners from different fields suggested their – you guessed it – easy microresolutions for wellness, which involved things like drinking more water and omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins. There were a lot of great tips I’d like to try. But it also gave me a little ‘aha! moment’ in how fundamental study of the Alexander Technique has been for my sense of overall wellness. My daily incorporation of it is a sort of a micro-resolution – simple and effortless. Throughout my day I use the principles of AT in whatever I’m doing (sitting at a desk, playing with my child, singing, carrying bags) and I get a dose of ‘wellness’: instead of overstraining with tension or holding my breath, I am decompressing and accessing a balanced overall coordination. Headaches, shoulder pain and back troubles that used to derail me are no longer obstructing the path towards that coveted wellness.
The term “embodied mindfulness” was one I learned this past year, as an inspirational quality with which to approach life. It conjures up a sense of serenity in being fully connected to the moment. In ”embodied mindfulness” thoughts don’t race ahead to what’s next, or lag behind to dwell on past events, or leapfrog into the endless distractions of the world around us. These are all very human impulses, but I find that they don’t make me feel very ‘well’. Instead of being calm and integrated, I feel overwhelmed and fragmented.
The problem is, the steps to “embodied mindfulness” feel vague. So I make a couple of microresolutions right this minute: as I sit at the computer working, I notice my breath (held – because I’m concentrating!!) I check in with what parts of me are making contact with the chair and what parts are tense (my foot is curled up funny, thigh muscles gripped) and I resolve to stop in that moment. And when I let my breath move out, I don’t deflate like a balloon but instead wish for my spine to lengthen. For my head to not clamp down on the top of my spine. For my back to widen. For my leg muscles to unravel out towards my knees, and my feet to spread onto the floor. All of a sudden I’m a little more present, and there’s a little more vitality in my three-dimensional, breathing body. Concrete, achievable, done.
And now to get to those vitamins…