Ali McGhee is a journalist, creative writer, and academic. Her work has appeared in The Edgar Allan Poe Review, Romantic Circles, Symbiosis: A Journal of Anglo-American Literary...
No matter your personal opinion about New Year's, the symbolic weight of one year ending and another beginning has become an important marker for human civilizations, regardless of where they might stick the pin that marks the moment of transition. But that turnover point is also a natural spot to shift something in ourselves. It's a built-in, calendrically-justifed support system to help us as we try to wash our hands of old habits, kickstart new practices, or simply just try to stick with something–anything!—for a few days despite the increasingly distractable nature of our goldfish brains.
A lot of New Year's Resolutions set their sights on the unobtainable, the plodding, and the impractical. Worse, many are grounded not in a philosophy of self-acceptance, but quite the opposite: Resolutions often activate abuse from people's harshest critics: themselves.
As you're pondering possible goals for 2018, we'd like to offer five potential resolutions that might actually make you feel good about yourself and that afford flexibility, rather than rigidity, in terms of the time and skill level they require. Come along with us as we count down five resolutions that you can actually keep—and feel good about—in 2018.
5. Start or deepen a mindfulness practice.
Ok, you (probably) live in Asheville, which means that you might already meditate for seven hours a day and do yoga during the other 17 (even when you're sleeping). But no matter where you are in your own mindfulness practices, even if you've currently got no mindfulness practice at all, the beginning of the year is a fabulous opportunity to kick it up a notch. Science continues to uncover all of the benefits meditation has on your holistic health, and the best thing is that you don't have to do it for hours to reap those benefits: Even sitting for just a few moments over the course of your day means you'll likely reduce anxiety and reactivity, get a fresh perspective, be less depressed, have a decreased risk of heart disease and heart attack, sleep better, have fewer headaches, and manage symptoms of cancer.
You can meditate at home, on the bus, at work, in the woods, or even with a meditation group that can offer guidance and support. We love Heart of Insight, a local meditation group that sits together every Monday at the Town and Mountain Training Center, located near downtown at 261 Asheland Ave (in the back of Town and Mountain Realty). Bonus: Starting tomorrow, you can participate in their 30-day "Month of Mindfulness," in which you can commit either to sitting in meditation a little bit each day OR to sitting for 30 minutes every day. Choose your own adventure. Sign-up for the meditation challenge is free. There's a suggested $10 donation for meditation meet-ups, which include a led meditation, talk, support, and Q&A session, at the Training Center. Easy peasy, right?
4. Step outside of your normal preferences and defaults.
Don't read? Tackle a book. Only watch action films? Try a documentary (or vice versa). Always eat meat? Try going vegan for a week (or a month). Know mostly white artists? Get familiar with artists of color. Sign up for a CSA. Volunteer. Plant a garden. Play board games. The list is endless; just pick something that you haven't done (or haven't done much) before.
3. Get creative.
Here's a big realization I recently had: I don't have to be good at something to get something out of it. Case in point: Even if you aren't Picasso or Voltaire, you'll still feel better if you flex your imagination muscles by painting, writing, playing a musical instrument, making a short film, singing, or any other creative pursuit. Much like mindfulness practices, creativity is actually really good for you. See this, this, and also this. And forget that societally-driven need to be "the best." Just do it because it's enjoyable. If you get something out of it you want to share with others, go for it. (Liz Gilbert wants to help with this, too, so go ahead and watch her TED talk. Because it's wonderful, and so are you, gosh darn it.) And don't think you need to buy a ton of supplies to get creative, either. One of my favorite creative games is the Surrealist-inspired Exquisite Corpse. All that's required are a couple of people, a piece of paper, and something to write with. See the top of this post for an example of one finished product.
2. Get outside.
We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Go explore it. There are countless trails of all difficulty levels that you can try out by yourself or with a gang of friends you've managed to get off of their phones. If you can't walk for long (or short) distances, make a point of getting out of your car to enjoy a vista on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
If you can't leave town and really get into the woods, try starting your day by just stepping outside for a few minutes. (You might even combine this with #5 and do a short meditation.) Notice the sounds around you, whether they're made by animals or honking horns. See what's growing on the land around you, even if it's just a strip of grass in the sidewalk. Feel the air. Get to know a nearby tree and then notice how it changes with the seasons. Listen to the birds (there's a great app for this one, too). Say hello to the world. On top of Bearwallow Mountain
1. Stop being so hard on yourself.
If you decide to do one of these, or if you commit to any resolution, don't give yourself a hard time if you flake. Do consider the possibility of restarting the process, or picking up where you left off, rather than wallowing in self-pity or careening off to the next thing on your never-ending to-do list. And don't worry so much about it: There's always next year.