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Dr. Tori Hudson, Portland, Oregon, Blog Healthline Blog

502815581It’s the beginning of the new calendar year and I can’t help myself but think about the western cultural habit of making resolutions. I was reading a bit about the history of this tradition: ancient Babylonians made promises and restitutions to the gods; Romans offered sacrifices to their deity and made promises for the coming year; early Christians reflected on the errors of their ways and resolved to do better in the coming year; other religious traditions offering prayers and resolutions; and many more….

Today it seems, New Year’s resolutions in the western culture have lost their religious aspect, and seem to mostly focus on self-improvement. I was wondering if these self-improvement resolutions even work and read the oh so bleak statistics. On how few of us are able to keep true to our resolutions.

As a naturopathic physician, my clinical practice includes not only diagnosing medical problems and recommending and managing treatment strategies, it involves a discussion with almost everyone, about making some kind of lifestyle change. These changes may be medical condition specific…ex/ reducing a specific trigger food to their irritable bowel syndrome; or, reducing the risk of a future health problem for which they have risk factors… ex/ reducing alcohol to lower the risk of breast cancer; or the most bang for the buck, regular exercise a minimum of 150 minutes/week… we’re talking lowering blood pressure, an anti-depressant, reducing the risk of numerous cancers and cardiovascular disease, weight management, diabetes prevention and treatment, osteoarthritis prevention and treatment, and more.

I’m asking myself on a daily basis, and numerous times in a day, what can I perceive about this patient I’m working with and how can I communicate, to help motivate them to make a change, that I know will help them, quite immediately and/or in the near and not too near future?

What are obstacles to making change towards a healthier life? What are the keys to be successful in making change? What are the keys in sustaining the choices that we know are positive?

It’s remarkable— that even when we have the knowledge, even when we have the resources and tools, even when we experience the benefits, it can feel like a battle… a chronic, relentless, recurring battle. Popular approaches to improve our habits include consultations with holistic medicine practitioners, psychotherapy, health coaching, life coaching, intuitive eating, mindfulness, classes, YouTube videos for everything, apps and electronic gadgets. These no doubt, can be helpful, intermittently.

I was discussing all of this…with my friend of over 35 years, on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day…. and she reflexively and wisely… offered this guidance below:

An alternative to New Year resolutions:                        

Statistics show that only 9% fulfill their resolutions of the 41% who make them.  If resolutions were a treatment for accomplishing goals, it wouldn’t. . . . . . . sell.  Imagine the marketing of something with such low odds. However, there is something energetically helpful in catching the spirit of this time, when so many people are looking to the New with such determination and hope.

So instead, I am considering taking up a “practice” this year, and foregoing any grandiose proclamations of resolutions.

This is my plan.  It starts with my considering today while gazing into the fire in the fireplace or musing amidst tall forest trees or taking a long gaze at the high blue sky in a quest of what my deepest longing is.  

I will consider once again what constitutes a zestful and vital life for me, and let the specifics of that open up before me. While basking in this picture, I know that immediately, or, for certain eventually, this will be followed by a loud inner argument from the habits which will get in the way, which have always gotten in the way, with the same old fear mongering voices.

What most of us all know so well and live in is the tension between stagnation and vitality.  That familiar anxiety that uses up so much of our energy we could use creating and sustaining, or just plain being present in the moment.

In an effort to arrive at the end of 2018 in some semblance of my more vibrant self, I am embarking on a humble practice rather than depending on my “resolve” made days or months before. This is it: I will ask myself every time I find myself at a crossroads whether the choice I am contemplating will add to my vitality or cause me to sink into the comfort that lowers me farther into the well of stagnation.

The next and crucial step is to be gentle with myself for whatever choice I make. Kindness to ourselves as we bump along the road of life can come from understanding we are all pretty much in the same condition as we huddle in the dark together around a communal fire. Somewhere down deep we all seek the freedom to arrive at a life we love which allows us to experience our goodness and wholeness.  That process is accessed (almost always) decision by decision.


Best wishes to you for a vibrant year throughout 2018, tiny step by tiny step!

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