It's that time of the year again. Once again, people all over take stock of their physical health and emotional happiness, then commit themselves to new diets and new exercise programs. And nothing is inherently wrong with that. But, as I listen to the same complaints over and over again, I can't help wondering if other resolutions are more effective.
Defaulting to dietary restrictions, shame-based scripting, and intense exercise programs can give us a sense that we are improving. And maybe even give some people the sense that they are paying for their sins and beating themselves back into health.
I've noticed something interesting, though. When a person is surrounded by toxicity in all areas of her life, she transfers all of the anxiety, shame, loss of control, and fear onto food.
She might be disconnected from the people around her and lacking stimulating, intimate friendships. But, SUGAR! Sugar is BAD. If she cuts out all sugar, she will feel better. This constipation, weight gain, and mysterious fatigue is caused by SUGAR.
She might be in a stagnant romantic relationship. She's often living with a verbally or physically abusive spouse. But, it is this DARN GMO FOOD! She determines that cutting GMOs, nay, cutting all grains, is what will help her anxiety, insomnia, IBS, and brain fog.
She might be living a sedentary life, mostly indoors, eating food at stressful and odd times around a work schedule or children. She doesn't have hobbies, she doesn't have fun. In fact, she has somewhat of a disdainful tone when discussing "those women" who have fun. She's decided she needs to cut her calories in half and go on GAPS because her hair is falling out in clumps, her voice is hoarse, her skin is dry, and she has no sexual libido.
I could go on, but wanted to provide a brief snapshot of the most common scenarios brought to me. Let's make something clear before everyone raises the point. Of course, FOOD matters. Of course, DIET is connected to our physical and mental health. OF COURSE.
The problem as I see it, is that people are cyclically entering restrictive diets, and establishing shame and blame to stay in the diet (this is all my fault, I don't have strong will power, I eat too much bad food, I'm not being natural enough). And not caring for any other part of their life. Even using diet as a form of escapism to ignore their lives all the more.
So, here are 5 New Year's Resolutions that don't involve going on a diet, removing food groups, or shaming eating and food.
1. This year, resolve to write a letter to a loved one once a month. Put it on the calendar. Buy a pack of stamps. And commit to writing one connecting, intimate letter to one person every month. Be prepared for a new sense of intimacy, connection, and care from the ones who receive your letters. In fact, whether or not you receive a letter back, you will find yourself feeling more connected simply by devoting time to thinking about another person and organizing those thoughts onto paper.
2. Dedicate yourself to earthing daily for 10 minutes in nature. Did you shake your head in disbelief? Daily? Nature? If you can remove entire primary food groups from your diet, you can step outside barefoot for 10 minutes every day. Walk around in the woods. Wander along a creek. Climb up a hill or trail. Yes, barefoot. Yes, in the rain and cold. Over leaves, rocks, and uneven terrain. Whether or not you believe in the growing list of benefits related to putting your bare skin against the earth, on a purely biological level, this forces your brain to renew and regulate the nervous system. This in turn will stimulate your brain, which means a feeling of awareness, reduced sensation of fatigue, reduced brain fog, and potentially long term benefits such as reducing your risk of neurological diseases. Consider it a crossword puzzle for your feet.
3. Make it your 2016 goal to hug loved ones when arriving and leaving. Usually, kids are covered already as parents try hard to make sure they provide affection. Sometimes, even that has been lost in the chaos of work and school. Dedicate yourself to firmly and fully giving out a hug every time you say hello and goodbye to a loved one. If you're having trouble implementing this habit for your children, consider adding the car routine. Give a hug every time the child climbs into the car, and give a hug every time as the child leaves the car. Physical affection regulates cortisol and the adrenals, and therefore the entire endocrine system. It also releases endorphins in the brain, regulating neurotransmitters. It builds relationships quickly and simply through oxytocin. And it slows you down to remember to connect with others. Hugging is a potent medicine.
4. Participate in an event, class, meeting, etc monthly that is related to something you enjoy. Yes, this means getting out of the house. You can do it, and the benefits make the initial discomfort worth it. It's one thing to read about your passion, to talk about it online, or to enjoy it alone in your home. It's another thing to reach out to others and share it with the world. Take the initiative. Join a local club. Sign up for a community class. Heck, just find a few likeminded friends to casually meet at the park while the kids play. Encourage yourself to connect with others on a shared interest. Your knowledge will grow, your brain will grow, your life will grow. A monthly event incorporates all of the factors that keep isolation and depression at bay. You anticipate, you plan, you set goals, you connect with others, you learn new things, and you deepen your personal identity.
5. Select two real primary health goals for the new year. This year, make it real. If you're suffering from chronic fatigue, rashes, dry skin, hair loss, menstrual problems, organ symptoms, hormonal complaints, neurological or emotional symptoms, etc, commit to selecting two main issues and seeking out concrete assistance. Get complete lab panels for a clear picture. Look at actual treatment protocols. A legitimate protocol will have these main elements: diagnosis, definition of the disease, prognosis, specific treatments, and estimated time to resolution. Don't fall into the habit of guessing, trying out random dietary changes or herbal protocols for an indefinite amount of time, and being unable to see measurable change.
Nail down your complaints. Look at them directly. Is it transference? Is it anxiety about a toxic relationship? Is it an unfulfilled and sedentary life? Is it detachment and isolation? If you've set aside the cognitive defense mechanisms and you're seeing persistent, troubling symptoms, take care of yourself fully. Sometimes it's as simple as getting a small prick on the finger and learning that your vitamin D levels are low. You can cut sugar until the sun doesn't shine, or avoid all the "junk" food on the planet, but that will not miraculously cure actual maladies. Make 2016 a year of concrete changes.