It’s that time of year again. The time of year when we all head to the gym in an ambitious frenzy vowing to show up, build our biceps, test our endurance and reach our fitness goals. And that is so great – I’m a firm believer that health and wellness and simply getting out of your mind and moving is intricately linked to becoming your best self.
But if your goal for the new year is to become a better more whole more loving you (and who’s isn’t?) then you can’t neglect your spiritual and emotional health. I’m no expert, but here are six elements I have found through personal experience to be essential to the betterment of my inner being.
- Face Facts – You know when you step on the scale and convince yourself that all of those extra pounds are merely the result of the boots and heavy sweater you’re wearing rather than the daily dozen cookies you ingested from Thanksgiving through New Years? Well looking at the state of your soul can be like that. We don’t want to see our faults, we make excuses and blame others and tell ourselves everything is fine because it’s painful to face the truth. Terribly painful. And that’s okay – because growth comes through pain. Like a field left fallow, nothing good is going to grow until that hard layer of earth is ripped open and plowed, allowing the best parts to come to the surface and sifting out the hard and fruitless pieces. It is only through seeing our truth that we can transform.
- Know You Can Do It – When you take a deep look at who you are, you’re going to find so many faults with yourself. My faults could fill a list from here to the moon and back. To realize that can be completely daunting and make you question, “Can I really change all this or am I doomed to be a bad/unworthy/insecure (etc., etc.) person?” It’s enough to make you lay down and give up. Don’t. Don’t believe the lies – live in the truth of your goodness and your unique beauty. Because the truth is you are good. You are human and you are broken and you are full of faults, but essentially you are good. If you believe you are a bad person, you will be. But if you believe you are a good person, nothing in the world can stop you from becoming your best self. No one ever succeeded in running a mile when they convinced themselves they couldn’t.
- Feed Your Soul – Just like eating a burger isn’t exactly going to propel you towards the gym, ingesting negativity will inhibit your spiritual strengthening. So block out the messages that make you feel empty – log off Facebook, quit complaining and comparing. It’s true what they say, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Feed your soul with encouraging and uplifting words and images. Not sure where to start? If you’re a Christian, the Bible or a good devotional book (like Jesus Calling) are a great places. If you seek something more secular, Eckhart Tolle and Brene’ Brown are incredible teachers. There are so so many honest and encouraging and uplifting blogs out there to turn to. Some of my personal favorites are: Momastery, A Cup of Jo, The Happiness Project, Marc and Angel Hack Life, and The Happsters. Or just Google “inspiring and uplifting blogs” and you’re bound to find something great. Whatever resonates with you personally is what you need to read, and re-read, and re-read, and read one more time just for the heck of it until it sinks in and becomes a part of your being.
- Work Hard Every Day – If you go to the gym once and walk on the treadmill for a half hour, that’s great, but it’s not going to make a lasting difference. You have to be willing to drag yourself up, pull your brain and heart out of the numbness of daily living and really work – read, write, meditate – whatever works for you. And don’t be mistaken – it will be hard work. Your calves may not ache and your biceps may not throb, but your heart will ache and your head will throb. But that’s okay, that’s part of the process. I’m a firm believer that all truly good things come through truly hard work. So make a commitment to put in the effort, block out time everyday and do something, anything that strengthens your soul and sense of self.
- Seek Out Support – There’s a reason that programs like Weight Watchers and group fitness classes are so successful at attaining and maintaining results – they provide a support system and accountability. Though strengthening your soul may feel like such a personal and solitary journey – uncovering parts of your personality that you may feel ashamed to share with the world – it’s still so important to have support. Support of others who truly love you allows you to uncover those tough parts of yourself, while still knowing that you are loved and good at your core. Support helps you work through your fears, doubts, and weaknesses by providing a perspective outside of yourself. Support holds you accountable to making and sticking to the necessary changes in your life in order to become your best self. Opening yourself to support allows others to believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself.
- Stick With It – Not seeing the results you want? Remember that life is a marathon, not a race. Even if you’ve been working out consistently for a month, it can take weeks upon weeks before you see noticeable change on the outside. But with each step you take, your insides are becoming incrementally healthier. Again, strengthening your soul works in much the same way – transformation starts from the inside out. So though you’ll face times of frustration and setback, stick with it; then stick with it some more.
Often like an uphill climb, becoming your best self and cultivating true strength within your soul is not guaranteed to be an easy journey. But those glimpses of truth, beauty, and hope you’re sure to experience along the way make the struggle so very worth it.
Keep climbing friends – we can grow in strength in solidarity together!