Making a list of New Year’s resolutions? If you’re like most women, your list probably includes some good health habits that you’ve been sorely neglecting.
Some women pursue good health habits solely for the purpose of weight loss, which isn’t surprising after a month of heavy eating and drinking between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Others are looking to boost their longevity or energy levels. Regardless of your motive, adding some good health habits to your list of New Year’s resolutions is never a bad idea.
The trouble is, sticking to your New Year’s resolutions tends to be far more difficult than most people anticipate. It’s easy to hit the ground running when you’re experiencing the swell of enthusiasm and drive characteristic of the New Year. However, as you slip back into your normal routine after the holidays, your old habits and triggers will re-appear around every corner, testing and often undermining your newfound and fragile drive for change.
Only 8% of individuals actually stick to their New Year’s resolutions. But with the right approach to goal setting, you can be part of the 8% and implement new good health habits for healthy, vibrant living.
The most common roadblock that resolution makers tend to hit is the feeling that the obstacles barring them from achieving their goals are simply insurmountable. If you’re feeling that certain aspects of your life are preventing you from reaching your goals, it may actually be the goal itself that’s the problem.
A lot of people, under the delusion of newfound and temporary optimism, set incredibly lofty goals for establishing good health habits at the beginning of the New Year. Instead of implementing piecemeal changes in order to gradually and manageably reach a goal, resolution setters demand puritanical perfection from themselves at the outset. A sugar junkie will swear off sugar completely and adopt a ketogenic diet; a completely sedentary person will start training for a marathon; a problem drinker will swear off alcohol; and so on.
The problem? People treat willpower as if it’s an inexhaustible resource. In reality, there is a limit on the amount of willpower we are capable of expending each day.
Drastic changes require incredible amounts of willpower. Making a massive change, like going from a standard American diet to raw veganism, is akin to spending your entire salary on an expensive car. That car might be nice, but you won’t have any resources to spend on food and housing. Likewise, if you direct all of your willpower towards changing your diet, you won’t have any willpower left over to get through the most basic parts of your day.
Opt for modest, achievable resolutions instead of unrealistically lofty ones. If you do have a large goal you are committed to reaching, try setting smaller sub-goals. For example: if you want to be a raw vegan, first go vegetarian for a month; then give up dairy; and then eggs; then cooked grains; and, finally, transition to raw veganism.
Be Kind To Yourself
Being hard on yourself only functions as an additional, compounding barrier to achieving goals. Sure, if you set a lofty goal, you may find yourself falling off the bandwagon. But it’s not the slip-up itself that constitutes a failed resolution. Rather, it’s that we are so discouraged by the mistake that we abandon our goals altogether.
While you don’t want to be entirely permissive with yourself, you do want to exercise self-compassion. Chances are, you will fail to abide by your resolutions at some point. If you deem yourself a failure for your mistakes, you are far more likely to abandon your goals in exasperation.
Instead of beating yourself up, try to understand that pursuing good health habits is never a linear process. Most of us rarely achieve a goal on a trajectory of consistent progress. Rather, most successes are the result of overcoming setbacks and discouragement with optimism and self-compassion. Accept that you made a mistake, and remind yourself that one mistake doesn’t negate any of the progress you’ve made thus far. Then pick up where you left off and get on track again then next day.
Avoid Negative Goals
When you’re setting resolutions, it’s best to avoid negative goals.
A negative goal doesn’t mean implementing a bad habit. Indeed, a negative goal can actually promote good health habits. The problem is that negative goals are difficult to stick to.
A negative goal is a goal that requires that you don’tdo something. Examples of negative goals include giving up smoking, going vegan, and getting sober, among many others. While these are all venerable goals, they are hard to stick to because they require that you give up something integral to your every day life. You’re left with an absence of a behavior and no replacement behavior, which typically leads you right back to the bad habit you want to give up.
If you’re going to give up a bad habit, be sure to replace it with good health habits. Instead of pledging to give up pasta, vow to use vegetables in its place. If you’re giving up smoking, start using your smoke breaks for short walks or meditation instead. Replace your nightly glass of wine with a detoxifying herbal tea. Finding positive replacement behaviors will dull the feelings of deprivation we experience when giving up bad habits, making it easier to stick to our resolutions.
Gratitude is an elemental component of an Ayurvedic lifestyle, and perhaps one of the most potent natural medicines known to humankind. Scientific studies demonstrate that practicing gratitude can aid in healing a broad array of conditions, both physical and psychological. As women, it is essential that we tap into the deep reservoirs of our psychic energy to harness the power of gratitude for physical, emotional, and spiritual wholeness.
Below we explore the benefits and methods of leveraging the power of gratitude in everyday life. If you are seeking to live a healing and nourishing Ayurvedic lifestyle, embracing gratitude as a way of being is an absolute must.
What is Gratitude?
What does it mean to practice gratitude as part of an Ayurvedic lifestyle?
In the simplest terms, practicing gratitude means being unconditionally grateful for all of life’s offerings. When we practice gratitude, we interpret our lives through a lens of gratefulness instead of vulnerability and resentment. In other words, we are able to embrace experiences, both positive and negative, for the insights and gifts they deliver instead of dwelling on their negative repercussions. By actively seeking things to be grateful for in every scenario, we are able to shift our focus from negative, self-destructive thoughts to ones of positivity and abundance.
How Does One Practice Gratitude In An Ayurvedic Lifestyle?
Practicing gratitude can be difficult at first, and it usually requires active psychological intervention against your own toxic thoughts. To practice gratitude, you must deliberately shift your focus from negative thoughts to potential gains.
For example: say you experience a conflict with a coworker. If you are not in the habit of practicing gratitude, you might find yourself angry with your coworker. You may stew in resentment or wallow in your victimhood. Alternatively, you may shift the blame from the other person to yourself, internally abusing yourself for your faults.
To begin to practice gratitude, you must intentionally stop these thoughts in their tracks and instead focus on the positive aspects of the conflict. Perhaps the conflict taught you about your own weaknesses, granting you the opportunity to improve yourself. Or maybe the conflict revealed a weakness in your coworker for which you can offer empathy and support. You can view the conflict as an opportunity to uncover repressed feelings and improve communication networks.
To begin practicing gratitude, start the day by recording ten or fifteen things that you are grateful for. You can express gratitude for material belongings, people, experiences, personal attributes—anything that activates your sense of abundance. At the end of the day, write down the negative thoughts and experiences you had during the day. Then record why you are grateful for them and what you can gain from them. Over time, recording thoughts of gratitude will translate into greater appreciation in the context of your everyday life. You will find yourself unconsciously, automatically seeking the good in everyday situations instead of dwelling on the negative.
Gratitude and the Body
Gratitude is an essential component of an Ayurvedic lifestyle, critical to healthy living and a holistic spiritual practice. Practicing gratitude surpasses the realm of the mind to nourish all aspects of your person, tangible and intangible alike.
Most Western doctors and psychologists would recommend practicing gratitude as a means of shifting a negative mindset. But in Ayurveda, gratitude is about so much more than thoughts. Indeed, Western scientists have found that practicing gratitude actually mitigates the negative bio-physiological effects of stress, which impede proper hormonal functioning and disturb our bodily systems at the cellular level. Gratitude is also conducive to a positive emotional state. These positive emotions generate neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine that enhance physical health at the cellular level.
Gratitude in Ayurvedic Medicine
According to Ayurvedic medicine, gratitude also helps to balance vata in the body. Vata imbalance is conducive to feelings of helplessness and energetic deprivation, as well as poor digestion, dryness, and insomnia. Balancing vata is thus an important aspect of a healthy Ayurvedic lifestyle. Furthermore, gratitude is Sattvic, meaning it vibrates at a high frequency that permits energetic connection and an expanded consciousness. Finally, practicing gratitude heals the body by propelling the circulation of prana, or life force energy.
Shifting the Victim Mentality
Practicing gratitude also helps us reframe what we initially perceive as negative experiences. It is easy, when dwelling on the negative, to embrace a mentality of victimhood. People who focus on the negative aspects of their lives tend to view themselves as victims of either circumstance or the ill intentions of others.
Those who practice gratitude turn the victimhood mentality on its head, restoring their power to reap the positive aspects of a negative situation. Practicing gratitude also allows you to shield yourself from negativity, empowering you to take control of a situation instead of allowing it to control your emotions. Gratitude can transform you, as the protagonist of your own Ayurvedic lifestyle, from the victim to the hero.
Activating the Law of Attraction
Per the law of attraction, practicing gratitude attracts more things for which we are grateful into our lives. It also encourages us to embrace the larger picture—growth, lessons, and synchronicity—instead of dwelling on the minutia of unkind words or uncomfortable feelings.
It can be extremely difficult to maintain good nutrition and healthy eating patterns during the holiday season, and falling off the healthy eating bandwagon can lead to a whole host of symptoms, from sluggishness and poor concentration to bloating and abdominal pain. In last week’s post, we examined the reasons why it can be difficult to stay healthy during the holiday season and what practices you can adopt to stay on track with your holistic diet. But sometimes maintaining a holistic diet isn’t enough to beat the bloat during the holiday season.
Bloating is a pervasive and uncomfortable side effect of enjoying holiday meals and treats. Even if you hop right back into your regular routine, you are bound to suffer from bloating and indigestion for a few days after enjoying a heavy holiday meal. But nutrition and healthy eating in accordance with Ayurvedic principles can help to reduce puffiness and pain, restoring your physical comfort and confidence. This week we will reveal a few Ayurvedic tips for beating bloating and indigestion this holiday season.
Eat Cooked Foods
After warm and heavy holiday meals, you might find yourself craving fresh fruit or a crisp salad. It’s a great idea to load up on fruits and vegetables during the holiday season, and your body will need the water that raw produce contains. But in order to truly beat the bloat, you may need to drink your water instead of getting it from produce and opt for fruits and vegetables that are cooked, not raw.
Raw diets are becoming increasingly popular. Indeed, raw produce does serve a functional purpose in most peoples’ diets. But raw fruits and vegetables are incredibly fibrous and difficult to digest. Thus, eating raw produce after a holiday meal can actually exacerbate gas and bloating instead of relieving it.
Cooking food effectively “digests” some of the fibrous compounds before a meal even reaches your plate. To restore proper digestive function, continue to consume warm, oily, cooked, and soft foods. Instead of eating dense and heavy cooked foods like turkey and mashed potatoes, try lighter, plant-based fare. Squash soup, sautéed vegetables, and soft, roasted root vegetables are great options. Eating cooked food allows you to reap the nourishing and cleansing benefits of plant foods without compromising your digestion.
Furthermore, these types of cooked foods pacify the vata dosha. Vata energy is prone to spiking during the winter season, when the freezing weather leaves us chilly, dry, and sluggish. Warm, oily foods pacify the vata dosha to ease nerves and encourage efficient digestion and healthy elimination. By extension, a vata-pacifying diet can reduce belly bloat during the holidays.
Consume Herbal Remedies
As a holistic wellness philosophy, Ayurveda prescribes nutrition and healthy eating as medicine. It also provides guidelines for using natural, herbal medicine for balancing the doshas and improving overall health.
Good nutrition and healthy eating requires the consumption of beneficial spices and herbs. And there are certain herbs that are particularly beneficial for reducing bloat. Creating a tea from herbs like cumin and ginger and consuming it before large meals will encourage healthy digestion and, by extension, prevent bloating. If you have a lot of pitta energy, you can do the same with caraway and turmeric, which are more cooling than cumin and ginger. Chewing fennel before and after meals also promotes efficient digestion.
It is important to maintain a routine that promotes good nutrition and healthy eating during the holiday season. By incorporating mindful consumption into your eating routine, you can minimize bloat while still enjoying holiday favorites.
It is important to chew food thoroughly and eat slowly to reduce bloating and indigestion. You can practice chewing your food 30 times and putting your fork down between bites. It might seem tedious, and you shouldn’t allow your focus on food to detract from the joy and socialization of the holidays. But checking in with yourself and paying attention to your eating periodically is a great way to prevent bloating and discomfort.
What you consume is equally important. It is okay to indulge, of course. But even small health tweaks can reduce bloating dramatically. Avoid consuming leftovers, which contain higher levels of toxic substances, or ama. Consuming too much ama can lead to constipation and, by extension, bloating. Instead, opt for freshly cooked foods. For added benefits, try swapping out conventional butter for organic ghee in your holiday cooking. Ghee is an excellent source of anti-inflammatory fats. It effectively soothes and lubricates the digestive tract, strengthening digestion and reducing bloat.
Practice Stress Reduction
Nutrition and healthy eating are the cornerstones of healthy digestion. But your psychological state can also have a significant impact on your digestion. Poor sleep and excessive stress weaken the flow of prana in the body. Weak prana, in turn, can dampen the digestive fire, or agni, and lead to indigestion and bloating.
To keep your agni strong and bloating at bay, practice regular stress reduction. Pranayama, yoga, and meditation are excellent means of taming holiday stress. Regular exercise can also help reduce anxiety and promote healthy digestion. Be sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep, preferably between the hours of 10 PM and 6 AM.