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New Year’s Resolution: “Unitasking”

Make It a Lifestyle!

While mulling ideas for a theme for my first-ever New Year’s Day yoga class, I came across a number of New Year’s superstitions and traditions, including the following gems:

  • The New Year’s midnight smooch helps ensure that your loving relationships will stay with you through the coming year.
  • Lucky New Year’s Day foods include lentils, pork, and black-eyed peas. In some Latin American traditions, eating 12 grapes in a row at midnight can also be a good omen: each will bring a month of happiness.

    Want to get rid of a creepy ghost boyfriend? Make lotsa noise!

  • Also good luck: Making noise (hence the worldwide traditions of noisemakers and fireworks) scares away bad energy  and evil spirits (including, for all you American Horror Story fans, creepy basement-dwelling Frankenbabies and even creepier ghost boyfriends).

What’s no so lucky? Lending money or paying back loans on New Year’s Day is a no-no; it guarantees you’ll be shelling out simoleons all year long.

  • Even more unlucky: Breaking things on January 1st may wreak wreckage down the road–so be extra careful when handling your Hummel collection.
  • Terribly unlucky: Lock up your laundry detergent, because doing the wash on New Year’s Day means that someone you love may “wash away” in the new year. According to Chinese superstition, sweeping the floor on New Year’s Day is also a bad choice, as you may sweep away your good luck along with the crumbs.

I could use a lucky year, so I’m planning to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day while listening to my Black Eyed Peas “Energy Never Dies” CD–at top volume–thereby doubling my chances for a fortunate start. And to be on the safe side, I might skip doing the laundry for a week.

Next, I’m going to practice my New Year’s resolution of cultivating the fine art of unitasking. We often pride ourselves on our multitasking abilities: We juggle work deadlines, doctor appointments, and child care with one hand, while vacuuming with the other. Yet at the end of the day, we often feel that we haven’t done enough. Sound familiar?

If your “to-do” list never gets done, consider making it shorter to begin with. (Setting the bar high is one thing, setting it “stupid high” is another.) And allow yourself some time each day to “unitask”–do one thing only: relax. Make doing nothing, in a sense, your focus. Turn off your busy mind, swing your legs up on the couch or chair, and close your eyes.

  • To keep your mind off the “gotta dos,” focus on your breath.
  • Notice the inhale: how does your belly or chest move with the inhalation? Does the breath make any sound? Do you feel any sensation in the nose?
  • Likewise, observe the exhale. What sensations do you feel in the belly, chest, or shoulders? Can you hear the breath leaving the body? Can you feel movement of air around the nose or mouth?

As you focus on your breath, you will quiet your mind. That, in turn, will soothe your overstimulated nervous system. Even five minutes of this multitask-free timeout will help relieve fatigue and frustration. The laundry can wait. Let the machine answer the phone. And maybe you don’t have to work quite so hard.

Give yourself a gift in 2012–make time for you. Don’t let it be a cliche; rather, make it part of your lifestyle.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Confronting Your Inner Sourpuss

Have you ever seen how horrible you look when you’re frowning? Several years ago, while shopping in Kohl’s, I noticed a young couple walking toward me. As they passed, I heard the guy say something like, “Whoa, did you see her face?” as if he’d just spotted a possessed Linda Blair from The Exorcist.

I knew he was talking about me, and made a split-second decision to freeze my expression. Don’t move a muscle, I told myself. I turned to one of the jewelry department mirrors, and–yikes! Think Maleficent, only without the horns. I didn’t think I could possibly look as bad as I did that day–angry and mean–and that was many frown lines ago.

Recently, while in the parking lot of the Scarsdale A&P, I caught myself scowling up a storm in the rear view mirror. To calm my nerves and soothe my face, I thought of how I’d feel if I ran into one of my yoga students while shopping and they saw me looking so hostile. Just thinking about my students brightened my face with a natural, honest smile. Sure enough, I ran into several people I knew at the store, including one of my students, and thankfully did not send them running from the produce section in terror.

We all go a bit mad sometimes, and frowning, grimacing, and the like (personally, I’m rather fond of seething) are natural reactions to our emotion. Denying anger isn’t healthy, but neither is letting the effects of anger linger–whether they etch lines on our face or help trigger illness in the body.

Is your smile eluding you these days? Do you feel grouchier than Frau Farbissina? If so, try this exercise to brighten your mood and your face.

Meditation on a Smile

Sit quietly and let your hands be still. Close your eyes. Think of someone who you like to smile at. Someone who, if you ran into her on the street, you’d want to greet with a joyful expression, even if you were in a bad mood.

Are you smiling? Maybe a little?

Notice the effect of your smile on the shape of your mouth. Your lips might feel softer, or tingly. They may part slightly, the teeth separating.

Observe how the smile makes your cheeks feel. Allow all tension in the face to release.

Perhaps you’ll sense the effect of the softening on your forehead. A little smoother there, maybe?

One of my students told me she could feel the smile in her eyes. Can you?

Imagine how your belly would feel if it were smiling…

Bring the smile to your heart–how does that feel?

Can you allow your lungs to smile? Your brain?

Thank of a place in your body that could use a little extra love, and send your smile there. Ahhh . . .

During the course of a busy day, it’s easy for some of us to get lost in our worries. If this sounds familiar, pause, especially while running routine errands, and take a few minutes to steer your thoughts to a smile. Not only will your troubles feel a bit lighter, you’ll also be less likely to scare the neighbors.

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011
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