I'm not a big fan of New Years resolutions. But since it is New Years and this is the time of year you are most likely to try making some, let me suggest some ways to do this more effectively, that are based on some findings in neuroscience. 1. Keep it Short and Sweet There is power in short, simple intentions. You can stay focused. You can stay emotionally connected to your goal. When you pile on a long list of things to change in your life, it's hard to focus on all of them. It's easier to get excited about a few simple affirmations, than a long and tedious to do list of things you are unlikely to accomplish.
2. Be Proactive - Keep it Positive You're much more likely to be successful in your resolve to change something in your life, if you frame it as a positive outcome. Imagine what your life would be like now, if you achieved your goal? Can you feel grateful for this? There is nothing like a positive attitude for priming those parts of your brain that will get activated behind your intention.
3. Integrating Power of Narrative Narrative is an important way in which you integrate your experience. Are you aware of telling yourself a story? What story are you telling yourself? Try journaling. When you string together a narrative from your diverse life experiences, you not only integrating something in yourself, but you're also actively stimulating and strengthening your left brain which will help you have a more positive and active attitude about whatever you are trying to do.
4. Your Best Ally is Your Left Brain There is plenty of information from neuroscience that correlates higher left brain activity with active, positive attitudes. Higher right brain activity is often associated with withdrawal, inactivity, passivity and depression. Of course, both sides of your brain are splendid and important, but if you want to harness the power of your intention, and activate a more active positive attitude, find ways to strengthen your left brain.
5. Sit Meditation Regularly If you want your thoughts and intentions to be effective, you need to get your whole body-mind-heart involved. There is no more powerful way to do this than the regular, daily practice of meditation.
Neuroscience has discovered that a part of the brain called "executive functioning", located on the left side of the brain, is strengthen through the practice of regular meditation. This part of your brain can help you focus, stay on task, and approach things which you would normally avoid. This is why among all the things you can do to be effective in the New Year, none will have more impact on your life than the regular practice of meditation.
If you don't know how to meditate, or find it difficult to get started or to practice, come to our Zen Life & Meditation Center of Chicago. We have developed an effective and simple course of studies for helping you learn how to meditate and making it a regular part of your life. Our Primer classes begin next week.
Happy New Ears!
by Robert Althouse