Making your resolutions reality

Debbie Ford wrote that “New Year’s resolutions often fail because toxic emotions and experiences from our past can sabotage us or keep us stuck with the same old thoughts, patterns and regrets.” It can be scary to look closely at ourselves, to acknowledge some of our fears and emotions. That’s why having a plan for dealing with those negative voices boosts the staying power of your resolutions. Here’s part 2 of stress management as a foundation for resolutions:

Live purposefully — What drives you? What are you passionate about? When you combine  your values with the gifts and strengths you offer to others, that synergy helps you feel engaged, connected, and part of something larger than yourself. If, as Sean Johnson suggests, you ask yourself every day, “What is worth my time, attention, prana, love?”, and then follow that path, your actions will bring you an authentic feeling of happiness, rather than anxiety.

Move more — This advice doesn’t have anything to do with a resolution you might have about exercising more. This is movement for the joy of motion. Just move more, even when you don’t exercise. Walk somewhere that you usually drive – you’ll notice different things! Dance when you’re cleaning the house. Go ice-skating. Take the stairs instead of the elevator at least once a day. Movement is what our bodies crave when we are overloaded with the products of stress. It just feels good to move, so do it!Skaters

Practice compassion — starting with yourself! This is probably the most helpful thing you can do for yourself if you are trying to stick to resolutions. Don’t beat yourself up when things aren’t going as planned. Observe your own struggles, and those of others, with compassion. Try this meditation from Jack Kornfeld: “May I be held in compassion. May I be free from pain and sorrow. May I be at peace.” After you have directed these thoughts toward yourself for a while, turn them to others you know.

Learn something new everyday — Knowledge is power. Are you trying to have a healthier diet? Instead of following the latest fads, read some reputable nutrition literature and educate yourself in a way that will make your actions more successful. Try a different source for the news of the day to get another perspective. Read a book about something you know nothing about — it may be a great distraction from the focusing obsessively on what you are trying to change.Laughing woman

Laugh – then laugh again, and again. The other day I found a little collection of comic strips that I’ve cut out of newspapers. Even though I’ve read them many times, they still make me laugh every time I see them. We laugh for all sorts of reasons – sometimes it’s because things are genuinely funny, other times we laugh because a situation is so absurd, often we laugh just so we don’t cry. Like movement, laughter helps us rid the body of stress hormones. It also helps shift perspective, realize that we are not alone, and take the mind off of problems. Remember that your resolutions are supposed to make your life better, so don’t take them so seriously – resolve to laugh more in 2016!

Life is a laughing matter

Sometimes it seems like every day brings more bad news. My advice? Don’t forget to laugh.

Laughter can be profoundly healing. I recently read the results of a new study showing that laughter and humor were as effective as drugs for reducing agitation in a group of Alzheimer’s patients. Sight gags and verbal humor were used to get the patients to participate and react. Virtually everyone benefited, and the results were found to last beyond the duration of the study.

We are all born knowing how to laugh, although our sense of humor is learned later. Some people seem to laugh more “naturally” than others; but it is a skill that can be fostered and improved, and there are good reasons to do it.

  •  Laughter leads to immediate increases in heart rate, respiratory rate, and oxygen consumption (similar to exercise) and is followed by muscle relaxation, as well as decreases in heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure
  • A good belly laugh provides a physical workout for the lungs and abdominal muscles
  • Laughing provides tension relief in the neck and shoulders
  • Laughing may decrease stress hormones and enhance the immune system
  • Laughter is a distraction from negative thoughts and feelings
  • Laughter can provide social bonding with others

That’s why Dr. Madan Kataria started the movement known as Laughter Yoga back in 1995 in Mumbai. As a medical doctor, he was always intrigued with the concept of “Laughter is the best medicine”. So he started getting together with a group of people in a park every morning just to laugh — for no reason other than the joy of laughing.

Today Laughter Yoga has swept the globe and there are thousands of clubs in over 60 countries. People have joined together to laugh in workplaces, schools and public places. The groups have even inspired a documentary by Mira Nair, The Laughing Club of India.

Humor can be an advantage in the workplace, if used appropriately. Studies conducted by Melissa Wanzer of Canisius College have shown that employees have higher job satisfaction and view their managers more positively when the manager is perceived to be humor-oriented. She also found that humor can be a beneficial coping strategy for workers in high-stress occupations; and that students say they learn more from teachers who use humor in the classroom.

Laughter and humor may even protect you from heart disease. A University of Maryland study showed that people with heart disease laughed less often than others; and that they did not  turn to humor as often as others did in response to daily life situations.

How can you start bringing more humor into your life? Begin by not taking yourself too seriously. Learn to recognize the absurdity in certain situations and just laugh at it. Build a humor library of movies, jokes, tv shows and cartoons that you can turn to when you need a laugh. Here are some of my favorites: