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Goal Setting in the New Year: For Your Mind and Body

goal-setting-585If you failed to set a New Year’s resolution — or have already fallen off the bandwagon — it’s not too late to set a new goal. In fact, did you know that you can set a goal any time of year? I know, it’s crazy but true. One of the goals I’m always setting and failing to keep is making meditation a regular part of my life. Here to help is Joey Klein, author of The Inner Matrix: A Guide to Transforming Your Life and Awakening Your Spirit, as he shares his tips on making meditation a regular practice. Plus, according to Klein, meditation can help you break out of a pattern of setting and failing resolutions. Cool, right? So below, we’ve got tips on starting a meditation practice — which can help you achieve your goals — plus a bonus way to apply the tip to a fitness goal. Win, win, win!

Goal Setting for Mind and Body

1. Start with a modest time commitment. Research shows that a small amount of daily meditation, just 15 to 20 minutes a day, actually alters the size of portions of the brain, the blood flow in the brain, and what parts of the brain are active in any given situation — all changes for the better. Just sit with the mind for 20 minutes a day — do not play music, focus on your breath, meditate or use any techniques to try to quiet the mind. Instead, just sit in a quiet place, close your eyes, and give the mind permission to think whatever it wishes.

Apply this to a fitness goal: Remember setting goals for baby steps on the way to bigger goals. Don’t just jump into fitness thinking you’ll run a marathon in a month or lift heavy weights straight away. Instead, make a modest goal of working out three times a week and add on from there.

2. Stressful thoughts? No worries! People often find stressful thoughts come flooding in when they first try to meditate. The key is not to try to suppress them but let them unfold, Joey says. “When you have a thought, acknowledge it: That is my mind thinking a thought. The thought is not good or bad, positive or negative; it simply is an expression of energy created by my mind. Do not judge or become attached to what shows up in the mind; just be an observer of the mind’s internal function.”

Apply this to a fitness goal: Sure, you want to have good form and avoid injury, but when you’re just starting out or getting back into working out after a hiatus, don’t worry about doing everything perfectly — just do it, period. Like, say you plan to do a workout DVD and you have to keep running to the other room to referee your kids and you miss some reps? That’s fine. Or you want to join a group class but don’t want to look silly? Everyone is there for their workout, not yours!

3. Sit up straight and breathe! “When meditating, always sit with the spine straight, either on the floor or in a chair, close the eyes, and breathe in and out through the nose,” Joey says. “In this practice, your attention is on the breath. As you begin to breathe, focus on your center. Your center is located approximately two inches below the belly button and an inch back toward the spine. Gently inhale through the nose, drawing the breath into your lower abdomen while imagining a small golden sun in that space. Imagining a sun or a star in your center gives your mind something to focus on. Then just continue breathing a circular breath — breathing with as brief of a pause at the top of the inhale or the bottom of the exhale as possible.”

Apply this to a fitness goal: When you’re doing something challenging, like planks or lifting weights, it can be tempting to hold your breath. It’s simple, but true: Always breathe.

4. Pick a set time each day. “As you engage in certain activities in your daily life, your brain connects these circumstances with certain ways of being in the world,” Joey says. “Knowing this, you can structure your mindfulness practice so the brain’s love of pattern is at work for you. Routinely practicing in the same place and at the same time of day is just one small way that we can use the fact that the brain likes pattern to support our transformative work.”

Apply this to a fitness goal: Plan your workouts for the same time of day and week to help you get into a pattern. If you love a certain class at the gym, make it a goal to get there each week. Consistently have a sitter on a certain afternoon? Fit in a quick workout then!

Thanks to Joey for the tips! Maybe this is the year I’ll start to nap meditate more! —Erin

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