Saturday, January 1, 2011

Do You Make New Year Resolutions? What Are Your Yours for 2011?

I resolved many, many years ago to never again to make a New Year resolution - it's the only resolution that has ever stuck for me. Before that, I would make my yearly promise to quit smoking, stop swearing, or whatever I thought I needed to do for that year. Within a week or two I was back to my old habits.

When I quit smoking it was the end of April, when I began eating well, it was in September, and so on - for me, I know when it's time and I do it, whenever that awareness arises. I could never make a serious choice just because it is a new year, or a new week, or a new whatever.

But I know for others resolutions can work - some of my clients came in on a resolution and are still training. I know people who are very successful with resolutions - apparently, around 40-60% of people are still successful at 6 months (if this were true for people who join gyms, they would be packed in like sardines).

I hope all of us will be the best men we can be in 2011 - whether that takes a resolution or simply setting the intention each morning as we begin the day, every day, for the rest of our lives.

But if you are one of those people who does well with resolutions, here are two articles to help you out - one on health and one on spirituality - and at the end there are a few more links to articles to help you out, or give you ideas.

Resolute About Resolutions

Mehmet Oz, M.D. -Vice-Chair and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University, author, radio and TV show host

This is going to be a good year for you. Why am I so positive? I recently came across some evidence to back up my sunny forecast. My friend John C. Norcross, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Scranton and coauthor of the book Changing for Good, recently shared some research with me. According to his research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology between 40% and 50% of adults in the United States will make New Year's resolutions and 2/3 will concern life threatening behaviors (smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity). In fact, 40 to 46% of New Year's resolvers will be successful at six months. Contrary to conventional opinion, a considerable proportion of New Year resolvers do succeed. This gives me enormous hope and strengthens my resolve to help you with a very important resolution: helping you lose weight.

New Year's resolutions are a teachable moments, and Dr. Norcross shared with me that you are 10 times more likely to change by making a New Year's resolution than someone with identical goals and motivation who does not make a resolution. For the 2/3's of all Americans who are overweight or obese, this could be life saving information. The stark reality is that carrying excess body fat puts you at greater risk heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke. This is a resolution you must take very seriously. I want you to look at this year's resolution a little differently - not as a promise to lose a certain amount of pounds but rather an investment in yourself because you are worth it.

If I start this year with the belief that this year you will reach your goal weight then so must you. I have been teaching about weight loss for decades and with the help of some of my colleagues, co-authors, producers and advisors came up with an 11 week plan that takes the most important principles and combines them into a single plan that will yield the best results and be the easiest to follow. Like all meaningful change, this is a marathon, not a wind sprint. It's an 11 week program called "11 Weeks to Move it and Lose It" and its designed to instill lifestyle, exercise and eating habits that extend long into 2011 and beyond and is easy to find at Best of all, the program is free so you have run out of excuses.

A New Year's Resolution can be a dramatic or cathartic moment for many people, but I would rather just see it as a new way to do things from now on rather than with the burden and drama of drastic change. Forget about how hard weight loss has been in prior years. Forget that you may have not succeeded in the past. Expect to slip a few times. Dr. Norcross corroborated what I have long taught on the show which is that failing along the way is normal and should be embraced. Like a GPS, simply recalibrate after a wrong turn and make an authorized U turn so you are back on the right path. Allow yourself to be one of the 71% of people we know are strengthened by a slip or minor failure. Refuse to judge yourself.

The first step is to make realistic, attainable goals. Be as specific as possible. Vague goals beget vague resolutions and grandiose goals beget resignation. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a standard tool for helping you judge body weight and amount of body fat you have. An ideal BMI is 25. It's easier to aspire to an ideal BMI than constantly think about how many pounds you have to lose. There is a BMI calculator in this program which will calculate yours if you know your height and weight.

The next step is to choose who is going to be your partner in crime. Social support has been show as critical to success in numerous research studies. I am confident you have at least one friend or family member that needs to lose weight along with you. That person will be a terrific ally in your weight loss journey and you in theirs. If you can include more than one person in your support network, do so. Motivate and support one another. My plan offers a social network for you to talk with other people who are on the same journey. Exercise is central to any weight loss program. You need at least 20 minutes a day and I refuse to believe that is impossible for anybody. I do understand that many people need to be taught how to work out and which techniques yield results. Exercise is not one size fits all. If you have a program customized for you, it will be easier, appropriate, and more likely to bring you to your goal weight. As part of the New Year's "11 Weeks to Move it and Lose It" plan, the Nike SPARQ Training Network (NSTN) have tutorials on the site that will be customized to your individual circumstances. You have the absolute cream of the crop teaching you. You can also plan daily menus and log your meals so you can evaluate eating that is right for you and see where you are failing.

This is going to be a good year. Is there any other way to look at it? It's not about the weight; it's never been about the weight. It's about how much you care about yourself and believing that you can do it. I know this is easier said than done, so as we start our journey know that I care about you and I believe in you. I just want you to care about yourself as much as I care for you. Go start your resolution revolution at and watch the January 3 show!

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New Year's Spiritual Renewal: Making Resolutions vs. Transforming Our Identity

Thomas Amelio - Managing Director, New York Open Center

Posted: January 1, 2011

Every year, beginning a day or so after Christmas, and ending New Year's morning, I lead a retreat at Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, MA, called the "New Years Spiritual Renewal Retreat." It's wonderful to be able to get away and do a retreat like this in a yoga resort and educational center like Kripalu, but how can we initiate spiritual renewal wherever we are, and sustain it throughout the year? What are the "spiritual" approaches to change that go deeper -- and are far more successful -- than the mere making of resolutions? In a five-day retreat I cover a number of approaches, and would take a book to share them, but most important is the practice of meditation. I call meditation the "laboratory of life," that indispensable period we take out of our day, not to "self improve," but rather to uncover our underlying divinity. During times of transition, such as the approach of the New Year, many people especially focus on their identity, how to become a new and improved version themselves, and in this retreat I try to show how meditation can deliver a deeper transformation than what we normally think of as self-improvement.

Most of us live in a piece of territory called "me" -- a personality who seems to live inside the boundaries of its skin, separate from all that surrounds it. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says that when the sense of an "other" arises, fear (of suffering) arises. This separate personality thus involves itself in a constant strategy of minimizing any potential discomfort or pain, and maximizing its pleasure. It hopes for a happier future filled with good things and experiences.

The spiritual path of yoga, of which meditation (dhyana) is central, seeks to purify us of the five kleshas (obstacles). These are abhivinesh (fearful clinging to life); raga and dvesha; (attraction and repulsion.); asmita (false placement of our sense of identity); and avidya (ignorance of our real nature.)

The beginning of meditation is to relax our minds and bodies to open up a space between our chronically fused patterns of stimulus and reaction. There are many ways to meditate, but we can begin with a simple technique of noting the rising and falling of the diaphragm as we breathe, and allowing all other thoughts to pass without engaging them in any way, returning to our point of focus again and again. Ten to fifteen minutes every day is a great start.

In this newly opened space of consciousness, we increase our capacity to observe without prejudice, and free our mind from being a ping pong ball bouncing between the paddles of conflicting thoughts and emotions. We will soon begin to notice that most of our thoughts are occupied in some way with attraction to the pleasant (raga), and the repelling of the non-pleasant (dvesha): the mind is found to be dwelling on past pleasures or planning new ones, or remembering past pains and strategizing how to avoid them the future . These forces fuel our urge to create an identity whose happiness is optimized, and whose pain is minimized. The problem is that we are stuck in a stressful, swinging pendulum of duality when we try to become someone who can stabilize the one, and prevent the other. (And, unfortunately, the making of resolutions usually arises from this very dynamic.)

Meditation is aimed not at becoming a person with masterful control over attraction and repulsion, likes and dislikes, but rather to soften the hold of such obstacles so that we may regularly experience our underlying divine nature now, while allowing the conditioning of the obstacles (kleshas) to hold less and less sway. And what is our real nature? According to yoga it is Sat Chid Ananda -- existence, consciousness, and joy. This is not an achieved state. It is simply who we truly are, the light which illuminates the film character with whom we currently identify.

A primary klesha we work with in meditation is asmita. Though often translated as "egoism;" this tells us little. The Sanskrit root of "asmita" is "asmi," meaning "I am." Asmita is the process of placing our sense of "I am-ness" in that which we are not. (At the New York Open Center I often share with my students the story of walking behind a man whom I overhear saying "there's me over there." Was he pointing to his divine nature -- or even his own body? No. The "me" to which he was referring was his Mercedes! ) Asmita is placing our identification in objects of perception, including material things, memories, beliefs and concepts -- the ultimate concept being the thought of a being separate "I." Placing our sense of self in that which we are not, prevents us from being anchored in our true ground of being.

Simply having insights into our real nature from time to time is not enough to weaken the hold of asmita. It needs the constant meditative exposure to the light of awareness, where we get to notice the mistake of placing our "I am-ness" in that which we are not, and observe that constant tendency to "become" someone.

And what is the focus of this becoming? It is driven, once again, by the force of raga and dvesha -- attraction and repulsion. We seek to maximize satisfaction and minimize discomfort by becoming someone "better" -- a thinner, richer, healthier person; a more respected, together, successful, lovable, and -- yes -- "spiritual" person.

If we don't engage in this identification process, what we may begin to notice is that there is a radiance and energy increasingly present. It is of the nature of joy -- not a "happy positive" feeling -- but something deeper and more abiding. Then something wonderful happens; the force of asmita (identification) begins to actually work for us. We begin to identify with joy itself -- at least for small moments -- and it starts to inform our bodies, minds, creative impulses and our relationships; we find ourselves making healthier, more creative and loving choices, naturally. It also illuminates our calling in life -- our dharma, and our service to the world, and alleviates the quandary of struggling to choose the "right" path. The pull to self-improve that drives us to make New Year's resolutions is fulfilled on a grander scope, and in a deeper way, through the conscious transformation of our identity made possible through regular meditation practice.
Related On Huffington Post:

New Year's Resolutions: 10 Easy Ways To Recharge, Restore And Renew In 2011

This year, don't think of New Year's resolutions as a punishment or a task; see them as a way to introduce (or reintroduce) positive behaviors...

New Year 2011: Books About Starting Over (PHOTOS)

As we begin to ring in the New Year, we reflect on the past and think about making changes for the future. Some New Year's...

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