Take A Gentle Reset for 2021
By Sarah Tapia
Wellness Coach and Educator
Head of Wellness Education at Stanford University
Nine years ago, at the tail end of a 10-year marriage and with my 3-year-old son in tow, I moved into the tiny Santa Cruz house that would become our home. It was a not-so-gentle reset. With a profound need to warm the space, we gathered all our friends for a Solstice/Advent/Los Posadas/Santa Lucia/Hannukah/Christmas party, emphasizing the common thread in all these winter celebrations: Light. Full disclosure, this party consisted of candles, food, music, and twenty people (half of whom were 3 years old) running around my tiny house making it not only bright but also very loud and messy. This set the tone for the next season of our lives: there was a whole lot outside our control, but what we could do was intentionally turn on the lights.
We know by now that turning the page into 2021 does not erase the challenges of the year before. A new year is not a clean slate. Yet something about this season feels significant, fresh, even hopeful, as we bring some intention to how we want to move forward. Each of us has light within us. Practically speaking, I’m referring to the very best parts of who we are, the parts that shine brightest when we’re at our best.
If you’ve ever heard me teach you know I am not a rainbows and unicorns wellness person. I am a mindfulness practitioner, which means I aim to see things clearly, as they actually are. I aim to drop the chatter and analysis and judgment and criticism around my interpretation of things and really show up to my life as it is so I can meet it better. I say I’m a practitioner because there is no perfecting this, only practicing.
Shame and criticism are the biggest barriers to living mindfully (and happily). Have you ever noticed that upon being criticized you feel small, even paralyzed, and very reluctant to put yourself out there again? Yet when someone says things like, “of course this is hard, it makes sense you feel this way, you are strong enough to take the next step”, you soften. You exhale and free up all the energy that would otherwise go toward the shame spiral and you put it toward getting back up again. The same thing happens when we criticize or encourage ourselves. We tend to frame self-criticism as tough love and motivation when really it’s just an endless stream of self-sabotage. If we want to move forward well, we need to change the way we talk to ourselves.
When it comes to new year resolutions I hear a lot of statements beginning with “stop”, “quit”, “lose”, and “don’t”. I always want to ask, “What do you want to DO?! How do you want to feel? What do you want to gain?”
It’s pointless and exhausting to tackle darkness. Darkness is not even a thing. Darkness disappears all by itself when we shine a light on it.
What if we focus less on the things we don’t like about ourselves, the behaviors we think we “should” give up, and the feelings we want to get rid of? What if we name what we want and give that our attention? There’s a monumental difference between the phrases “I shouldn’t doom scroll the news so late at night” and “I am going to wind down at 10:00 and read a good book”.
No one is making you do (or stop) anything, so go ahead and erase “should” and “supposed to” from your vocabulary. Own what you’re going to do and note why you’re doing it. It’s your life, after all. You don’t have to be in the mood to do something in order to do it; you simply have to remember why it’s important to you. I love hearing my clients say things like, “I don’t feel like meditating and I’m choosing to do it because I want more balance in my life”. This is an entirely different (and much more empowered!) statement than “Ugh, I should meditate more.” Over and over I see it in my clients, my students, myself: changing language changes everything.
Here are a few prompts to get you started:
The best parts of me are…
This is important to me because…
As we reset into a new year, full of unknowns and cautious hope, let’s do so gently. Let’s bring our focus to what we want. Let’s emphasize those very best parts of ourselves we aim to magnify. Let’s pay attention to how we’re talking to ourselves and change the words to be as supportive as possible. Let’s move forward in light.
Start the New Year with the Gentle Reset: Embracing New Beginnings Health Talk.
This workshop introduces principles of mindfulness and self-compassion as tools for meeting the moment. Through empowering, reflective exercises we’ll begin to see clearly where are and identify where we want to be. We’ll set intentions based in hope, not fear, moving away from shame toward what nourishes.
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