Happy Year of the Horse

True life is lived when tiny changes occur.

-Leo Tolstoy


Chinese New Year is an important traditional Chinese holiday celebrated on the first day of the year of the Chinese calendar. Chinese New Year celebrations traditionally run from Chinese New Year’s Eve, the last day of the last month of the Chinese calendar, to the Lantern Festival; on the 15th day of the first month, making the festival the longest in the Chinese calendar.

Within China, the New Year is an occasion for Chinese families to gather for the annual reunion dinner. It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly cleanse the house, in order to sweep away any residual negative energy from the previous year and to make way for good luck and positive energy. They also decorate with symbols of ‘Good Fortune’ or ‘Happiness’ ‘wealth’, and ‘longevity.’ (Check out my New Year’s Abundance Balls Recipe here). Other activities include lighting firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes. Also, mainly in Southern China, red envelopes with money are typically given by the married to the unmarried, most of whom are children.

Another Chinese custom dictates that every year is governed by a zodiac sign which determines your birth year (this year is the year of the Horse). The belief is that your luck is affected by the sign of the current year. Many people give charitable donations at this time to ward off any misfortunes in the new year.

Many of us like to begin the New Year (Chinese or otherwise) by making resolutions. We’ve all been there. We take a vow to de-clutter our spaces, lose weight, exercise more or spend more time with our family. We start the year with great intentions, but then we often risk falling back into old patterns.

Big changes do not require big leaps. Permanent change is more likely to happen gradually than through one big restrictive plan. Just as the Year of the Horse has galloped in steadily, allow yourself to move towards your goals one step at a time.

Having just begun to recover from the New Year buzz just over a month ago, we have yet another opportunity for a new start and a second chance at our resolutions of choice. By now many of the earnest endeavors to make positive changes in our life may have begun to fizzle out. Why is it that we are unable to stick to our resolutions and commit to the changes that we know will benefit us in so many levels? The answer is more simple than it seems. We keep trying to pile things onto the existing “garbage” from the previous years without clearing out the stuff that is no longer serving us. If a pot is full of food and you keep trying to add more food to it, it simply won’t be able to contain it. Each year brings its own energies to the pot and we each also bring our baggage of the emotional type that we generously season the soup with.

The Chinese habits of clearing and cleansing the old at the start of the year and then giving charity to banish negative energy and welcome the positive may be the secret ingredient for a successful recipe.

Try clearing and cleansing your space and your emotions this month. Give away what you don’t need anymore, release  people that are draining you and forgive those who have hurt or disappointed you (including yourself). Next it’s time to add in some good karma. Give charity with the intention of welcoming all the positive changes you desire. This is the secret ingredient to creating lasting changes and achieving your goals. Now you have made space for the goals you desire and have created a positive environment for you to achieve them.

Once you have done this, follow my guidelines below on how to make gradual lasting changes that will last a lifetime.

Here are some ways you can make your intentions a reality this year:
1. Write down your intentions and keep them in a visible place, like taped to your bedroom mirror or even on the dashboard of your car.
2. Be honest with yourself about the source of whatever is keeping you stuck. Are you in a stressful relationship that causes you to eat a tub of ice cream every night? Are you stressed at your job and feel too tired to exercise after work? If you don’t tackle the root of the behavior, it will be much harder to achieve your desired results.
3. Spend time visualizing what your life would look like once you achieve your goal. If you want to go to the gym more, how will this benefit you? Get connected to the benefits of your action, and you will be more likely to stay on track.
4. Talk about your intentions with friends and family. Hold each other accountable for achieving your goals. If you want to go to the gym more, have a friend call you a few times a week to check on you or get a buddy to join you in your workout.
5. Reward yourself with every achievement. If you want to lose weight and you lose 1/2 a kilo a week, treat yourself to a spa treatment.

Happy Chinese New Year!

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