uma kleppinger in mayurasana pose on the trail

be good to yourself

As January rolls around each year millions of us resolve to do and be better in the coming days and months ahead. We’re going to eat better, drink more water and less alcohol, eat more broccoli and fewer french fries, read more and watch TV less.

We’re finally going to start that stretching regimen, join a gym, find a mate, get a better job, finish that home improvement project started 7 years ago, be happier, and finally—finally!—create this idealized versions of ourselves and our lives. It’s a very natural year-end ritual to want to reflect on the previous year’s successes and failures, and form ideas about how to do differently in the future.

The problem for many people—and a big reason why those resolutions don’t work—is that the energy and intention behind them is judgmental and unloving. The goals we set our hearts (and heads) on may be healthy, but how we go about trying to create change is not. Willpower and good intentions are not enough. We also need radical self-love, which includes kindness, self-determination AND discipline!

One of the most helpful things I’ve learned over the years as a wellness coach is to examine even the best intentions. Where are they really coming from? What’s the voice, tone, language I’m communicating to myself and others about these intentions? Am I being supportive, kind, proactive? Or am I damning myself, blaming and shaming and beating myself up?

Your fitness coach may tell you to harden the f*ck up, but as a wellness coach, I implore you to consider the opposite energy: soften the f*ck up. Listen to your body and your heart. What’s really behind your intentions? Is your motivation intrinsic or extrinsic? Are you trying to please others, find validation, or are you really doing what makes YOU happy? Do you even know what makes you happy? Are you confusing being hard on yourself with being better?

Too often we try to change too much, too quickly. It’s shocking to the nervous system, and it’s a direct challenge to the entrenched patterns our egos are working so hard to keep fixed in place. I should know… I adopted the HTFU attitude for a while and the results were disastrous. I was LESS happy, LESS resilient, LESS flexible, and LESS empowered. By the end of the year I felt beat up, drained, exhausted.

The holistic wellness way we advocate here at BikeYoga is more gentle, thorough, and kind. It’s based on genuine self-love, not self-loathing masquerading as kindness. Self-loathing points out our failings, weaknesses, and inadequacies and tells us how we should be; it’s extremely distorted self-perception. So before we can really create lasting change, we need a clearer picture of ourselves. We need radical self-love.

If you’ve been trying to create change in your health, wellness, fitness, or any area of life, consider giving your New Year’s resolutions an overhaul. Along with the dos and don’ts that make up any plan of action, check out the following list of things to add in to your strategy to create change:

1. Be good to yourself.

That’s it.

It’s a short list, I know. But most of us know what we need to do to feel better, be healthier and live happier lives. In creating that change, we need to remember not to punish ourselves. However flawed or effed up we may feel, however inconsistent or weak our willpower may be, we are still deserving of love.

Being good to yourself isn’t the same as being self-indulgent. It includes being strong, determined, and focused. It also includes forgiveness when mistakes are made, and during moments of weakness. Be strong, focused, and determined, but also be kind to yourself. Beating ourselves up when we lose traction or fail doesn’t improve the situation and in fact it often just makes us feel worse, eroding our good intentions.

Need more specific inspiration? Here’s a list of health and happiness producing ACTIONS (not just intentions) I recommend to all my wellness coaching clients:

  1. Start the day off with a tall glass of water with lemon squeezed into it. Repeat often throughout the day and reduce or eliminate all soda (including diet soda).
  2. Do 5 minutes of stretching and movement while the coffee (or tea) brews. Don’t know what to do? Hire me! I’ll create a 5 minute routine specifically for YOU to get the blood pumping and your breath flowing!
  3. Take a 20 minute walk every day (even if you do other exercise).
  4. Breathe deeply, often, throughout the day.
  5. Read authors and stories that inspire you.
  6. Watch much less TV. Television feeds the same areas of the brain certain drugs do; reading, playing games, or doing something creative in our evening hours makes for better sleep and healthier brains.
  7. Learn something new—a language, cooking class, yoga—our brains LOVE to learn new things. Learning new things may even prevent diseases like Alzheimers!
  8. Meditate regularly. Beyond simple stress reduction, meditation teaches us to see through boredom and become aware of the richness of every moment.
  9. Get support. Hire a coach, get some private lessons, and make friends who share your goals and support your ambitions.
  10. Be good to yourself! REWARD yourself from time to time.  Get a massage. Have a really fancy dinner. Indulge a LITTLE, from time to time rather than as a daily habit.

You CAN be the change you wish to see. See that you are good to yourself along the way.