Journey to the Center of the Self I: New Year, Better You

A Journey To the Center of the Self
New Year, Better You - January, 2018

I can’t believe it's already 2018. The past year has flown by, and it's certainly been a wild ride. A new year means resolutions and a fresh start, right? Wrong.
If you’re like me, you continuously ponder what you’d like most to fix. You pick something that you want to change, and in two months you have already forgotten. Each year repeats the same tiresome cycle of goals: “this year I’m going to quit smoking”, or, another popular one, “I want to lose weight”. Gym memberships surge in January,  but come March everyone is used to the new year and their resolutions are nothing more than a list thrown in the garbage.

Now is the time to forget about all that.

In 2017, I took the time to learn more about myself and my mental health, making changes to improve my health and outlook. Some days are better than others, but what has always helped me is learning to break things down into smaller tasks. When taking on a large task, or multiple tasks, I’ve found that it is much easier to accomplish anything by breaking things down. Instead of trying to jump head first into a new outlook or lifestyle, try figuring out what is most important and make a plan.

This year, I am inviting you to join me in making little changes and developing new habits. Come 2019, you will be able to look back and reflect on all the new habits, rather than remembering that time you, for the fourth year in a row, declared “I’m going to quit smoking”, only to pick up another pack of smokes one week later.

An important part of this journey is also understanding what a habit is, how to form good habits, and how to kick the bad ones to the curb. “Habits are automatic behavioural responses to environmental cues, thought to develop through repetition of behaviour in consistent contexts.” So, the more we perform a task the more likely it is to become a habit. Wander Jader (University of Groningen - Groningen Center of Social Complexity Studies)  says that “much of our daily behaviour is habitual. Habits are defined as behaviours that are performed with a minimum of cognitive effort.” Basically, once habits are formed these actions are often done on a subconscious level - sometimes you aren't even aware of their existence. Depending on the habit, this may be helpful to us, but, can, of course, just as easily be bad. Jader continues “consequently, whereas habits are frequently very efficient and necessary strategies that help us performing routine behaviour, this automating of behaviour may also cause people to behave in an inefficient or even detrimental manner,” Jader continues. In order to practice some control over our habits, it is imperative to understand how habits are formed. We can use the “power of repetition” to break down our goals and really make some changes this year. As I mentioned before, small tasks have always been truly beneficial to me and I am taking that same mindset and applying it to my “resolutions”.

Instead of working on myself on a large scale, I have selected six smaller goals to work on throughout the year. The idea is that you focus on one goal for two months and develop a good routine or “solution” for that specific goal. Once you are at the end of the two months you add the next goal, while continuing to focus on all the previous ones. As you go on, your new habits will start to become subconscious parts of your daily routine and, before you know it, you are doing it without even thinking about it!

In 2018, I will largely be focusing on continuing to work on my mental health. Here is the breakdown:

    January/February - Drink More Water
    March/April - Breathing/Positive Thinking

    May/June - Exercise
    July/August - Diet/Supplements
    September/October - Time Management
    November/December - Budgeting

I am always saying I need to drink more water because I know how essential it is, but I am terrible at making sure I stay hydrated throughout the average day. Staying hydrated goes beyond just quenching your thirst, it is vital for our organs to function properly. Guess what? The brain is an organ just like your heart, stomach, and liver, and, as you can imagine, keeping it at peak performance is essential. So, for me, that's where I want to start because staying hydrated is something that will help everything else down the road. In a post on Psychology Today, Joshua Gowin says “our brains depend on proper hydration to function optimally. Brain cells require a delicate balance between water and various elements to operate, and when you lose too much water, that balance is disrupted. Your brain cells lose efficiency.” That right there just screams I SHOULD STAY HYDRATED!

Start out this new year out right -- join me in creating new habits while getting rid of bad habits ones. The personal satisfaction you will feel from achieving these goals will be a-maz-ing. I can’t wait to start this journey with you.

Love, Sparks