As ever, at the beginning of a new year, many people’s thoughts turn to making resolutions. These are usually about things like: “I must do this/I must stop doing that.” It’s all about I must, I ought to, I have to….. which, let’s face it, doesn’t exactly summon up positive emotions!
Generally, with new year resolutions, we take stock of areas where things need to be improved or changed dramatically, usually in terms of our health, our work, relationships or spiritual practice – or all four! We then set an intention to do things differently, take appropriate action and frequently apply will power to help us carry out our plans. However, statistics show that nine times out of ten, we fall by the wayside after a short while.
The problem is that new year resolutions are often about things we’d like to do if we could, it’s just that we know or fear that the doing of them will bring up various layers of uncomfortability which we don’t want to face. i.e. I want to lose weight (but I hate counting calories/going without chocolate/not having the odd glass of wine/giving up the food I really love.)
Research in the field of Behavioural Neuroscience has shown that more often than not, we don’t carry through our resolutions because there’s not enough positive emotion behind our plans. We try to drive ourselves into doing things by using willpower, but, for the most part, that simply isn’t enough to get us through and out the other side – hence all the failures in this respect. On the other hand, it appears that if, when setting new plans and intentions, we’re buoyed up by a sense that it’ll make us jump for joy, feel gratitude, hope, happiness or inspiration, then these emotions are very strong triggers for growth which in turn support us in making the changes we desire.
Generally speaking people tend to find it difficult to make changes in their behaviour. So, if your resolutions are about focussing on personal and spiritual development, flourishing mental or physical health or stress management for example, the most reliable path towards lasting transformation is to find ways to sustain the changes you’d like to make.
Current research points to the fact that the best way of doing this is through developing positive emotions around our resolutions and aspirations. This fuels resilience which in turn can power our growth and support us in the achievement of aims. Taking the desire to lose weight as an example, if we can power up positive emotional states about getting thinner by regularly topping up the idea of how good it’ll make us feel, how great it’ll be to buy some new clothes and how much healthier we’ll be, we stand a much better chance of being able to lose those pounds and keep them off.
So how can we do this?
We all have an energy body which lets us know how well it’s doing via the medium of emotions. And our emotions range from fine sensations more commonly known as intuition to others like anger, joy, and depression. Emotions can sometimes be so intense they can cause physical pain (known as psychosomatic pain); conversely, when we feel the emotions of happiness and being in love, they can make us feel like we’re walking on air because our energy is at peak flow when we feel this way.
Positive EFT can help you to improve your energy flow whenever you wish and help your energy reach higher levels so that you are fuelled by positive emotions around making changes in your life or dealing with difficult issues. However, Positive EFT is NOT about positive thinking. Trying to think positively when your energy system is stressed and miserable isn’t going to help (e.g. feeling so hungry and deprived whilst on a diet that you suddenly want to binge eat!). Positive EFT is about focussing on what positive qualities and emotions we need so that we can start bringing about the changes we desire by using a simple tapping technique to ‘invite’ in those feelings. It’s simple and easy and it gets better and stronger with practice.
Positive growth doesn’t have to rely on discipline and will power. If we can help ourselves to feel happier and lighter about challenges, we’re also going to start looking generally at our lives and environments with a greater sense of pleasure and optimism. And that’s going to affect us in all areas of our lives. Positive emotions are pleasurable and have an agreeable ‘hook’ which helps us build our resources, be more self-regulating, become more flexible and balance different aspects of our lives. Positive emotions can help you shift from surviving to thriving and from flagging to flourishing.
Meditation can also be very helpful in terms of how it helps develop lateral thinking patterns which allow us to be more open-minded and aware and expand our view of the world. The Buddhist “Loving Kindness” meditation is particularly good at engendering more kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others.
Adopting certain attitudes like connecting more with the people around you – family, friends neighbours, work and school colleagues or your local community – can help banish the sense of separation which arises from negative thinking. It’s also good to keep learning new things as this stimulates the brain, makes you more confident and can also be fun. Doing something nice for a friend or strangers, and showing appreciation creates connection with the people around you. Making an effort to be always curious, catch sight of the beautiful, notice the change in seasons and savouring the moment are all positive actions which make us feel more alive and vibrant. And finally, keeping active through sport, walking or exercising will make you feel good and boost your sense of wellbeing.
It follows therefore, that if we were to put aside the usual new year resolutions about things we want to change and instead, simply concentrated on improving our sense of wellbeing by growing and developing our positive emotions through some of the above suggestions, many of the changes we seek in ourselves might actually start happening almost unconsciously. And that may well allow you to feel more able to keep up your visits to the gym, change your eating habits and generally feel so much better about yourself and your world!