The New Year. It generally starts with two traditions. The first is something nice–a midnight kiss for good luck. The second is something many of us do reluctantly, or avoid completely–making resolutions. No matter how you feel when you make them, they are notoriously hard to keep and most are soon broken despite all the new gym memberships each January.
But there’s no reason can’t we put the niceness of the kiss into the tradition of taking stock about what needs changing for the better. The problem is we often look in the wrong place. Let me explain.
You probably see the New Year as a time for a fresh start with a clean slate, and it is–that’s why we call it the “Baby New Year.” But there are lots of reasons that it’s also a difficult time–even a bad time–to turn over a new leaf.
First off, you just got through the busiest, most stressful time of year. Those last few weeks of the old year you probably dealt with traveling in bad weather, spent extra money on gifts, and might have put up with some crazy relatives. To offset all that stress, you also likely ate a lot of cookies, chocolates and rich foods–making weight loss one of the top resolutions each New Year. But it’s no recipe for success–more like one for failure.
On top of it all, here in the west we live in a culture of shoulds, especially about youth and beauty, which explains why you might feel compelled to make resolutions in the first place.
It’s enough to make you go a bit batty.
One friend I know took the opposite approach, and actually canceled his gym membership in early January as part of his resolutions. To which his Facebook friend joked, “When are you going to start smoking?”
In all serious though, it’s really no surprise that we break our resolutions so early or don’t bother making them at all — the cards are increasingly stacked against us throughout November and December. What is strange is how we keep repeating our “failed resolution” mistakes each January without realizing:
(1) it doesn’t make sense after the overload of the holidays
(2) it’s not the right time of year–spring or fall are much better for new endeavors, and
(3) it doesn’t work to do most things from the “should” perspective – you can’t sustain it.
So let’s learn a better way to approach the New Year.
That’s where the new New Year’s KISS comes in. (Doesn’t it sound better already?)
As you may know, the “KISS” acronym usually stands for “Keep It Simple, Sweetheart.” It’s a compassionate reminder to not make things too hard or complicated, which is exactly the spirit to cultivate as you recover from holiday madness and try to get through winter (in the Northern Hemisphere) with your spirit intact.
But the New Year’s “KISS” stands for a different set of words: the ingredients you need to take stock of in your life – not for “self-improvement” but for your deeper well-being–if you want to start the “Baby” New Year out right.
K = KINDNESS. Start with kindness toward yourself, always. As Mother Teresa said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” You probably treat strangers kindly out of politeness; how do you treat and speak to yourself? Most of us deserve far more compassion and kindness than we give to ourselves. So in beginning your KISS — at New Year’s or any time — first ask, “How could I be kind to myself today?”
I = INSPIRATION. What gives you a sense of wonder, mystery and oneness, or keeps you connected to the bigness of the universe and the grain-of-sand-sized beauty of it all? Do you have enough sacred “a-ha” moments, god-talks, or nature time? What inspires you? Whether it’s reading words of the various wisdom traditions, taking in a favorite inspirational work of art, watching the sunset or serving others’ needs, brainstorm a list and circle what you can easily or often do to feed this vital part of yourself.
S = SELF. You probably often neglect to take time “just for you” and give the deeper self what it needs. “Self” might seem a big category, but to “keep it simple,” remember there are just two main ways of spending me-time: self-soothing, and self-expression (though expressing yourself can be soothing, too). It’s important to keep them in the right balance, whatever that looks like for you.
• Self-Soothing. Lots of things fall into this sensory and receiving-oriented category: baths, walks, naps, getting a massage, reading a novel, meditating, listening to music, taking yourself to the movies, even a simple rub-down with wonderful-smelling lotion can do the trick. What gives you that pampered, “I-just-got-a-treat” feeling? How can you work them into your schedule for at least five to ten minutes a day (and bigger once-a-week or once-a-month rewards)?
• Self-Expressing. These activities are dynamic and active, and let your creativity and feelings out to breathe or play. It could be anything from making kitchen masterpieces to singing in the shower to decorating a visionboard collage, to knitting, dancing, writing poetry, journaling, or performing onstage. What is the inner expression that wants to come out? Is your artist-self getting enough play dates?
S = SOCIAL. We need each other for play, for humor, for venting, for support. Do you need more quality time with a good friend, family member, romantic partner or group of people? Game or movie nights, nature outings, playing sports, volunteering, one-on-one dinners, trips to the amusement park, chats on Facebook with old friends…any of these can fill missing pieces in your puzzle of wellness. Just make sure you get a variety of activities and people in your life, because no one is an island.
The best part is, the “KISS” is easy to remember, and good for you, too! And, you can combine many of the KISS elements in one activity, like Socially sledding or skiing in an Inspiring natural setting while squealing Self-expressively with delight. Be sure not to tire yourself out and you’ve got Kindness covered, too
Two things to watch for: you might have too much of one of these categories and not enough of others. For instance, many people feel they get too much time with others and not enough downtime. Or, you might be pulling a fast one on yourself thinking you are getting enough of one category but it’s in name only, and not hitting the spot. Make the whole KISS count.
So there you have it: Kindness, Inspiration, Self-time, and Social-time. A new tradition for taking stock in the New Year that combines the gift of a good-luck kiss with more wisdom and compassion than the tried-and-failed resolution route. Just remember to ask yourself, “Am I getting the kind of new year’s KISS I want?” And yes, please keep it simple, sweetheart!