It is the beginning of a new year, and I see more people on the machines at my gym and more people in the pews at church. I find great hope in every newcomer to the gym tentatively finding the locker room or the family back at church after some time away. That’s evidence of a person who believes a better life is possible and is participating in that change.
These markers, even artificial, from one year to the next are invitations to take stock of how things are going and how we want to change.
Maybe you are one of those people looking for a change right now, attempting to hit the “reset” button on your spiritual life or well-being. If so, here are a few tips for getting started:
1) Don’t try to do everything at once.
Find the one or two things that you believe will bring the most healing and health to your life, and start there. It is tempting for a list of resolutions to look like: “eat healthy, go to the gym every day, quit drinking, meditate and pray every morning, volunteer regularly, save money, be a better friend, partner, parent, finally fix that kitchen door, and do it all starting right now!” It can be exciting to start that way, but it is impossible to keep up that pace.
2) Try the theology of the capital letter
So, how do you find those one or two things that will offer the most wholeness in your life? I have a little exercise I call the “theology of the capital letter.” Imagine you are at the end of your rope, standing in the front yard in the middle of the night looking up at the stars. What realities would you call to at the top of your lungs and ask to show up in your life? Some would say, “Forgiveness, I need more of you in my life!” “Justice, I want to help you!” “Rest and Health, I need you here!” If you could put a capital letter at the beginning of its name and ask it to show up, it might be one of those few things that will make the most difference in your life right now. It might sound a little weird, but it helps me.
3) Write down what you’re practicing in your own handwriting in a place you see everyday
Dr. Gail Matthews recently completed a study that confirms the advice so many have given. If you write down what you’re trying to achieve, you’re more likely to achieve it. Other science points to handwriting specifically as leading to more commitment and deeper learning in our brains. Whether in your daily journal, a note on your whiteboard at the office, or on the bathroom mirror, write down that reality you’re working toward, and make sure you see it.
4) Start Small
Even if you’ve already prioritized only one or two goals for your well-being, start small with those, too. Habit expert, James Clear, talks about the “2 minute rule” in his work. Instead of setting the goal of becoming a meditation expert or incredibly grateful overnight, he suggests the two-minute versions of those habits to start. Try two minutes on the meditation mat each day. Write one line in your journal. Say one “thank you” out loud, and see where it goes.
5) Walk it Out
If you are frustrated at your success or feel stuck trying to solve a problem, try literally walking it out. Research shows that the movement of our bodies is linked in profound ways to how we make meaning, create, and solve problems. Physical movement of any kind is good for your brain and emotional health, but walking in particular has been shown to assist our creativity and sense of what is possible.
6) Sleep on it
After reading Matthew Walker’s great book, I’m becoming a sleep evangelist, probably to the annoyance of my friends and family. Whatever it is you are trying to change or deepen in your life, paying attention to your sleep quality will help. Physical health and healing, emotional wellness, our ability to create, forgive, remember, and learn are all intimately related to the quality of our sleep.
7) Stay Unfinished
The task of building a more meaningful life is a never-ending one. Being a human being is challenging, and none of us does it perfectly. Whatever you’re trying to accomplish this year, I hope you give yourself and others a great deal of grace along the way. None of us is ever finished, and that can be wonderful news.