Forget the grand declarations and signing up for ambitious goals. If you really want to start the new year on the right note, try getting more sleep and frequently practising your breathing.
These are some simple and effective tips Deepak Chopra recommends for those seeking a healthier lifestyle.
The Indian-American author and leading voice in the self-help movement says New Year’s Eve resolutions often focus on grandiose goals, while neglecting smaller yet critical ones.
While many appear simple on the surface, these incremental steps all serve to expand our sense of self-awareness, a catalyst for self-growth.
Chopra further expands on this idea in Mindful Moments, a new book dedicated to younger generations.
“Mindfulness is an old term and it is basically about being conscious of the choices, of the decisions we are making as opposed to simply reacting to our reptilian brain," he tells The National.
"This is an important concept we need to learn because many people are going through a whole lifetime between the fight and flight reactive responses and it doesn't have to be that way."
While the book offers more deep analysis, Chopra has provided five steps to kickstart your own personal awareness campaign.
1. Get a good night’s sleep
It may be age-old advice but it is more important than ever.
When it comes to how long a healthy night’s sleep is, Chopra is pragmatic. He states that it needs to include at least 90 minutes of deep sleep, in addition to another 90 minutes of dream or REM sleep.
Without it, we face a groggy start to the day.
“A lack of sleep or disruptive sleep is the number one cause of premature death and that can come from a range of cardiovascular illnesses,” he says.
“It also causes an inflammation of the body as well as fatigue and a lack of creativity.”
2. Manage your stress levels
Following the pandemic, many feel more anxious than normal these days.
Fortunately, the skills to alleviate those tensions can be learnt.
"When it comes to stress management, what we are really trying to do is quiet the mind and that doesn't mean replacing it with positive thinking; because if you try to do that and you don't feel positive it will result in you in being more stressed," he says.
“While meditation is one of the most reliable ways of relieving stress, there are other options also such as watching comedies as humour is a way to tap into the paradox of ambiguity, uncertainty and contradiction while being comfortable.”
Chopra also encourages regular bouts of gentle reflection to reorient the mind.
“This can be done by asking some questions such as: 'Who am I? What is it that I want? What’s my purpose and what am I grateful for?'” he says.
3. Get your mind and body aligned
Practice mindfulness through yoga or t’ai chi exercises.
“They also incorporate breathing exercises they are useful in coordinating the mind and body,” Chopra says.
“These kinds of activities stimulate a part of our nervous system which has the vagus nerve. Taken from the Latin word meaning vagabond in English, it is a nerve that goes everywhere within your body and it is often viewed as the ‘healing nerve’.”
4. Build your interpersonal skills
As many industries adopt a hybrid model of working from home and the office, building skills to adapt are paramount.
"Your professional relationship is a reflection of how you deal with your personal relationships and you can't separate the two," Chopra says.
An important step in melding both together is understanding what makes you tick emotionally.
"You have to be in touch with your emotions and feel in your body what you are going through. Ask yourself if you are feeling angry, hostility, shame, mistrust, fear or depression. These are dysfunctional emotions that separate us from others," he says.
"To build that compassion and empathy in order to connect with others, we need to consciously communicate our needs. This way we limit conflict because hostility comes from the notion that you have your idea of how things should be and everyone else should feel the same.
“All conflict is ideological and this inability to consciously communicate or ask for forgiveness creates a state of emotional belligerence.”
5. Understand what true love is
Chopra disagrees with the portrayal of love in media, describing many of the relationships seen on screen as rooted in insecurity.
“People think of love as a mere sentiment or emotion or melodrama,” he says. “That's not really love. That's self-importance and self-pity and self-concern and insecurity that it often follows this idea of: 'I love you, so do you love me?'”
Chopra says a more accurate description of love is found in the ancient traditions, in that it often follows several stages of emotional growth.
“At the source of it all is awareness,” he says. “The more we understand that the more we can expand our awareness, show more compassion and empathy and become less judgemental.
"True and authentic love is attained when you only grow together and go through these stages. And no, you cannot skip the queue."