A New Way to Do Your 2021 Resolutions

A New Way to Do Your 2021 Resolutions

Now that 2020 has wound its way towards closure and we reflect on the year that has passed, most of us can agree it has been a year unlike any other, full of unexpected twists, turns, and challenges. And with the arrival of a new year, you may be feeling any number of mixed emotions as you gaze towards the horizon of a new beginning ahead.

Perhaps you are exhaling a long sigh of relief that 2020 is finally at its end? Perhaps you are looking forward with renewed hope and anticipation for the possibilities to come? Or perhaps you just feel exhausted and weary from a year that has tested your strength in a million different ways.

No matter where you find yourself, and no matter what the past year has brought your way, the threshold of the New Year provides us all an opportunity to create a new beginning and to choose to move forward in an intentional way.

As you consider your New Year’s resolutions and envision how you want to step into this next chapter of your life, we encourage you first and foremost to take some time to connect with your heart. And whatever those intentions and resolutions look like to you—to greet this New Year from a place of love.

In the wise words of Bell Hooks,

“The moment we choose to love, we begin to move towards freedom.”

How to Connect to your Heart and Generate More Love

Of course, we all want to feel connected to our hearts and live with more love in our lives, but we’re only human, and connecting to a place of love is sometimes more easily said than done! So how do we take this beautiful, lofty idea and make it into a real, powerful, and palpable practice?

Here we offer a few tried and true tips, inspired by the wisdom of Ayurveda, to reconnect to the deep well of your heart and allow your love to naturally rise to the surface and overflow into your life.

Cultivate Gratitude

Gratitude has the power to instantly open and uplift the heart. Often as we go through life, we rely on our outer circumstances to bring us a sense of gratitude—meaning that on the good days it’s easy to feel grateful, but on the difficult days we can easily spiral into darkness and despair.

Luckily, gratitude is not something we have to sit and wait around for. Committing to an intentional practice of gratitude is one of the simplest and most powerful ways to return to your heart and connect to a real sense of love and appreciation for your life, even when things don’t always go your way.

Here are a few practical ways to weave gratitude into your daily life as you step into the year ahead. As you cultivate this practice, you will find that your inner sense of thankfulness quickly and naturally grows, whether or not you are having a “good” day or a “bad” day.

Take time to reflect: Carve out the time and space to look back at the past year, perhaps even writing down a monthly timeline of events to help jog your memory. Then, fill in your memory of each event with whatever you can find to be grateful for, even if it’s small.

For example, was there a friend who made you feel loved through a difficult time? Did the times of social distancing or quarantine provide an opportunity for some well-deserved rest? Did you have a warm roof over your head when the days got cold? As you recall each of these simple blessings, breathe them in and allow then to fill your heart with warmth.

Keep a gratitude journal: Take fifteen minutes in the morning or in the evening before you go to bed to list what you are grateful for. When you begin, you may only come up with a few things, but the more you practice this the easier it will become. Your lists will become longer and longer, and you will experience the feeling of genuine gratitude spilling out from your heart onto your page.

Use your memory: If you are finding it difficult to evoke the feeling of gratitude, sit quietly and recall a memory of a time in your life that you felt most alive, grateful, and full of love. Maybe it was when you fell in love with your partner, a time when you were surrounded by friends and laughter, at the birth of a child, or spending time in a special place in nature.

Once you connect to the memory, breathe it in deeply. Let it fill up your heart and spread into your body. Allow the memory of gratitude to feed your being, saturating your cells with the visceral, real-time feeling of warmth, fullness, and appreciation.

Practice Being Present

Many spiritual traditions around the world, including the Vedic origins of Ayurveda, promote the powerful benefits of tuning into the present moment. When we drop into presence, the residual emotions from the past melt away, along with any worries or anxiousness about what may come to pass in the future.

Practicing being completely present with what is true in the moment—without trying to change it or fix it—allows us to find inner stillness, acceptance, and peace, no matter what challenges and uncertainties life throws our way.

Practice meditation: Incorporating a seated meditation practice into your daily routine is an ancient, foundational method of finding your way into present-moment awareness. By quieting the mind and focusing on the rhythm of the breath, meditation leads us out of our minds and back to our hearts, where a sense of peaceful, spacious stillness is always waiting.

If you don’t already have a meditation practice, start with this simple So-Hum meditation.

Go for a walk: If seated meditation isn’t your thing, try going for a walk in nature instead. As you walk, pay attention to your breath, the way your body feels, and any sensations that surround you. Notice the sound of your feet on the earth, the temperature of the air on your skin, the sound of the birds, the rustling of leaves in the trees overhead.

Let this attentiveness bring you into a place of presence—simply becoming aware of what is going on within you and around you, right here and now.

Tune into your senses: Similar to the practice above, you can choose to use your five senses to tune into the present moment at any time of day, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Simply go through each of your senses one by one, bringing your attention and focus to each one in turn.

Start with your sense of sight, noticing everything that you see around you. Then notice what you hear, both the sounds that are far away in the distance as well as those that are nearby. Next, notice any smells drifting by, and then notice any tastes (this can be fun to play with while cooking or eating!). Lastly, explore the sense of touch. What do your clothes feel like against your skin? The touch of your sheets as you crawl into bed? The warmth of your fireplace or the chill of the winter air?

Don’t judge the sensations, just notice them. In doing so, you will find yourself becoming more and more present and aware of the subtle beauty that is available within and around you at all times.

 

Banyan friend Heather hugs a tree on a winter day

Be an Agent of Love

Once you have found a connection to your heart—a space of genuine gratitude and love—you will likely feel a generous desire to let that love pour out into the world. From this place, your New Year’s resolutions and intentions can become more than passing obligations and to-do lists, with the power to affect real and powerful change within your own life as well as your family, community, and the planet at large.

From a place of loving connection to your heart, ask yourself what you value most dearly in life and how you can put your values into practice in small, practical ways. Ask yourself how you can offer more love to yourself, to your loved ones, and to the causes you care about. Then plan out simple, doable action steps that feel exciting to you, rather than overwhelming.

Here are some ideas to get you started, but whatever commitments you choose to make in the New Year, make sure that they are rooted in your own heart and fueled by the power of love. Beginning from this place of inner clarity will set you up for success along the way!

Commit to Self-Care

The first step to loving the world is to love ourselves, filling our own cup so that it can easily and naturally overflow. Ayurveda offers endless ways to care for our bodies and souls; if you feel like you could use a little more self-love in your life, choose one or two (or all!) of the following practices to implement in your daily life:

Enjoy self-massage: Abhyanga, or the practice of self-massage with oil, offers countless physical benefits to the body, but it is also so much more than that. Use this practice to create a ritual of self-love, perhaps even lighting candles, scattering rose petals on your towel, and using an herbal massage oil that delights your senses.

Practice yoga: Get on your mat! Moving your body with the practice of yoga for even just 15 minutes a day can do wonders to shift your mood, energize your body, and uplift your heart. Use our guide to dosha-balancing yoga to create a practice that is most beneficial for you.

Nourish your body: Following an Ayurvedic diet is not so much about losing weight or counting calories as it is about deeply nourishing your being—body, heart, and soul. If you’re ready to build a new, loving relationship with food, you may want to enter the new year with a commitment to learning about the benefits of an Ayurvedic diet.

Connect with your Friends and Family

With a strong foundation of nourishing self-care, you will have the resources to extend your love outwards to those you care about most. Take some time to consider where you would like to feel more connection and love within your closest circle, and then commit to creating it in small, daily ways. Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

Gather for a meal: If you share a home or if you’re within the same “COVID bubble” as your family, commit to sitting down to dinner, turning off your phones, and enjoying each other’s company, at least two or three times a week.

Pick up the phone: Is there a friend or relative who you want to nurture a deeper connection with? Perhaps a grandparent, a friend from college, or a niece or nephew? Arrange a weekly phone call, and then stick to it!

Write a letter: In the age of texts, emails, and instant messages, who doesn’t love receiving a good old-fashioned letter in their mailbox? If you’re not a phone person, sending a heartfelt letter or card is a great alternative, and the perfect way to make your loved ones feel extra special.

Be a Force of Love in the World

Ultimately, connecting to the love within our own hearts allows us to become powerful agents of love on this planet, at a time when our love is dearly needed. When you look out into the world, notice what breaks your heart open, and begin there.

None of us has the power to do it all, but committing to spreading love in the world in even just one small way can create a ripple of change that travels further than we’ll ever know.

As you step into the coming year, what does your heart long to offer? What is one small contribution that feels most true to you? Where can you offer more love, without becoming overwhelmed or burnt out? It may be as simple as making a donation to an organization you believe in, sharing your voice on social media, or volunteering your time.

Most importantly, make sure that the resolutions and commitments you make as you step into the new year are true to you, and that they originate from a place of deep love and connection to your own heart. From this place, you can trust that your actions, no matter how large or small, will create powerful, thirst-quenching waves in a world that is yearning for your love.

And with that, we wish you a very Happy New Year, and leave you with this blessing from our heart to yours:

“May all that is unforgiven in you be released.
May your fears yield their deepest tranquilities.
May all that is unlived in you blossom into a future graced with love.”—John O’Donohue

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