As I’ve written before, January 1 is not my time for making New Year’s resolutions. No, if I’m going to make a resolution it’s going to be in February. After the rush of the holidays I need some time to regroup and clear my head. By February I’ve had some time to think about what I want the year to be like for me, and to plan on how to implement.
This year I decided to give the month of February over to not just one, but three changes. But they were going to be super small changes, and I was only going to hold myself to them for the month (it helped that February is the shortest month…).
I’ve come to the realization that it’s the minor – almost imperceptible – adjustments that we make to our day-to-day that can often have the biggest impact. Bonus points for their being easier to sustain too, as they are not seismic shifts.
So what were my three changes?
1. Read more books.
2. Drink more water.
3. Return to mMeditateion.
Ah, books. I was always – up till just a few years ago – an avid reader. I always had a book in-hand, taking it with me wherever I went. I read while waiting on line at the store, waiting in a doctor’s office, waiting for Noah. But recently I’ve found myself more and more on my phone – scrolling through Instagram, reading e-mails, playing (and losing) Words With Friends with my mom. And that has made me very sad. I even have a document with a running list of books to read, and I was mortified to see how long it had been since I’d checked off a title.
The goal: carry a book with me everywhere, and reach for it – not my phone – during any “down time”.
Where to start? I am a serial book-club drop-out so this was not an option. I decided that the best course would be to simply return to my list and start at the top. At the top was this book. Big mistake. Huge. I like dark, and I don’t need a neatly tied-up ending. But this was too much, even for me. I was haunted by it for days afterward and couldn’t have been more pleased to find this book next on the list:
I have LOVED Roz Chast forever. And while, yes, this memoir chronicles her elderly parents’ final years, it does so in typical Roz Chast fashion – with warmth, humor and her wonderful illustrations. I highly recommend it. This one’s up next – have you read it?
Beyond cliched, I know. But I put it on my “to-do” list because I wanted to hold myself accountable for drinking more water each day, and I felt that if I made it part of my February resolutions I’d be more inclined to stick with it.
The goal: drink (8) 8-ounce servings of water every day.
I gave myself a head start each morning by drinking 2 of those servings before indulging in my beloved daily iced coffee, and 2 more on the ride to and from Noah’s school. So by 9 a.m. I’m halfway there. And I’ll say that just being conscious of the goal each day made me more aware of drinking and refilling.
So meditation and I have a bit of history. Years ago I went through the somewhat lengthy process of learning Transcendental Meditation. You can learn more about TM here, but one of the basic expectations is that you sit, twice a day, for 20 minutes. Which I was really good about in the beginning. But after a while I went down to once a day. And then I stopped completely. I felt AWFUL. At first. And then I just kind of forgot about it.
Fast forward to about a year ago, when a friend turned me on to a meditation app. I was curious. And ultimately quite impressed. The graphics were adorable, and there were a ton of options to suit any goals – as well as time constraints. And it just felt…………..doable. So I signed up for a trial period. And then made one small, but critical error. Which was meditating at night. And if you think that it “might” be ill-advised to do something late at night that requires you to close your eyes, well, you’d be absolutely right. I fell asleep almost every time and eventually stopped even trying.
But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing out on an opportunity. So I added it to my February list.
The goal: meditate for 10 minutes every morning.
I crowd sourced on Facebook and settled on the Calm app. And I made a commitment to do it every morning for the month. I set my alarm for 15 minutes earlier, to make sure I gave myself enough time to meditate without encroaching on my morning routine.
So, how did it all go????
Like many of you, I am a social media junkie. My go-to move, given more than 30 seconds of down time, is to grab my phone. So I was most skeptical of this change, as the habit was hard-won.
But having a book right within reach – especially one that I was enjoying – really did make it easier to not look at my phone as much. And for me it was like riding a bike – the ease and pleasure of reading came back instantly, and I have no doubt that I will be able to continue plowing through my list.
The water resolution was kind of an experiment, to see if I noticed any changes to my skin – especially around my face and hands – with more disciplined drinking. And there was definitely a difference. It sounds so cliched to say but my skin seemed to look and feel “better”, and I am much more conscientious about consuming my daily quota.
Now the meditation? That was the biggest surprise. I honestly put very little stock into the notion that – for 10 minutes a day – I would experience any kind of change. But on the very first morning, after I opened my eyes and stood up, I was immediately aware of how much better I felt. I typically get out of bed feeling like a 90-year-old woman – heavy head, stiff limbs, practically hunched over. #notpretty
But on that very first morning? None of that. No heaviness, no stiffness. Even my sinuses felt clearer. And this was all before exercising, showering and that must-have cup of coffee. I dismissed it as a one-off, something that would not – could not – be sustained. But it has. And I firmly believe it has set me up for the rest of the day in a way that I didn’t feel before. And the best part is that I now look forward to those 10 minutes, versus looking at it as a chore, something I “had” to do. It sounds so small, right? If I could do 10 minutes once a day, was it really so much of a stretch to go for 20 minutes twice?
For right now, the answer is yes. And I circle back to the beginning of this post, where I posited the notion of tiny changes making a big impact. Because now I could actually consider going back to my original TM practice. Or not. But had I not tried something that was more sustainable (and I did keep it up for the month, and now into March), I wouldn’t be meditating at all right now.
I’d love to know how you all tackle change. Do you work on one goal at a time, or multiple goals? And do you go for big, sweeping changes or do you start small?