By Valerie Minard
After the Turkey, Christmas shopping, and family gatherings–focusing on everyone else–it’s natural, to shift focus to one’s own well being. This is the time when most of us begin to take stock of our own inner space, and make those New Year’s resolutions that hopefully will improve our lives. Some of the most popular resolutions made last year were lose weight; quit smoking; get fit; decrease alcohol consumption; learn something new; save money; get a new job.
Perhaps you’ve made one or more of these resolutions in the past. Some you accomplished and others fell by the way side. Regardless of what resolutions you might pick this year, I bet it can be boiled down to one thing–doing something that will make you happier. Studies have shown that being happy is not only good for the soul but also good for our health.
But, if you’re one of those people who have tried and failed at making a resolution, perhaps this is the time to drill down deeper into making resolutions that will actually stick. I’ve found that before I can change a behavior, I sometimes need to change my view of or attitude about myself or others. In other words, adjust how I operate on a spiritual level in spite of stressful circumstances.
Reducing fear and stress – and the effects of that on our health – has been a key focus of Dr. Herbert Benson, a pioneer in mind-body research at Harvard. Benson advocates meditative techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, chi gong, yoga, tai chi or prayer to reduce stress. Stress has been linked to not only disease but to overeating.
I found that true while in college. I tried to loose weight, but found it difficult to keep it off during stressful times. Yes, I did try to eat better and get more exercise, but my motives were all about my outward appearance. I needed to go deeper.
Christian healer and author, Mary Baker Eddy, writes about how important our motives are in keeping resolutions in her book, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” She said, “The purpose and motive to live aright can be gained now. This point won, you have started as you should….and nothing but wrong intention can hinder your advancement. Working and praying with true motives, your Father will open the way.”
I found what helped me the most was to pray about my motives. Through prayer I realized that my self-worth was not tied to my physical appearance, but seeing myself as the image and likeness of God. I prayed to see that my value was not about how skinny or how pretty I was, but the beautiful qualities I expressed. I also affirmed that since Divine Love made me, He/She made me just right, not too much or too little– and that’s the only thing any other child of God could see. I prayed to be filled me with contentment and satisfaction– not self-loathing. I didn’t need to turn to comfort food to relieve stress or fill a void– God gave me dominion to put down false urges.
As I prayed in this way, I discovered it became easier to keep a more balanced diet than through mere human will– and the weight slowly came off.
Sometimes it’s not easy to figure out where to begin our mental house cleaning. But, Jesus, the master Christian, gave us advice on how to improve our motives and spiritual outlook. They are called the Beatitudes. Or as I like to think of them–the Be-attitudes. Here’s my take on seven of his tips….
Happiness comes as we listen to the spiritual intuitions guiding us and quit outlining.
Happiness comes when we feel at a loss; we are at a better place to appreciate the present good.
Happiness comes with unselfish giving; it fills the void of loneliness.
Happiness comes when we make spiritual progress a priority; it brings peace and contentment more than material things.
Happiness comes to those who forgive; it opens the door to progress.
Happiness comes to those who choose good thoughts over toxic behavior. It increases self worth.
Happiness comes to those who don’t react; it eliminates stress.
What does all this have to do with New Year’s resolutions? As we make spiritual progress a priority, like I found out at college, we develop the spiritual muscle needed to stick with our inner convictions. So, why not make 2014 the year to keep those New Year’s resolutions and make some progress. That’s something to really look forward to.
Valerie Minard is a health and spirituality blogger. She is also the spokesperson for Christian Science in New Jersey and a Christian Science practitioner.