Forget About New Year’s Resolutions! Think Bigger.

I mentioned recently in my Assorted Oat Shortbreads post that I’ve been contemplating the idea of New Year’s “resolutions,” and how instead of making explicit goals for 2013, that I would like to choose a handful of feelings I’d like to experience more and more (and more) in the new year. Here’s why.

There is something that feels disconnected from the bigger picture, from myself, when I choose specific resolutions like “I will drink a green smoothie everyday,” or “I am going to go running every morning.” Those statements and goals feel like tasks. Cold obligations. Where’s the joy in those statements? Give it two weeks and I’m resentful and potentially beating myself up if I didn’t do them. There’s no feeling or emotion in them, and we all know that nothing motivates more than feeling something in your whole being—to your core.

But if I were to say, “I want my body to feel fit, clean and strong all year long,” there are many things I can do to achieve those feelings. Eliciting on the reg also leaves room for improvisation—for life’s curveballs, for new ideas to be added to the routine, to keep it fresh. Catalysts for awesome feelings are what you want more of.

This practice will also help YU connect more—to listen to signals and symptoms that your body is always giving you (that you may have become used to, and sadly, ignore).

Too often, we just don’t listen to our bodies. If you have a headache, stop and think about why. Not enough sleep? Are you allergic to something you ate? Too much partying? Not enough water today? You can drink enough green smoothies to sink a ship, but if you aren’t taking care of your overall well-being by truly listening, you’re only going about half as far as you can on the wellness train.

Disconnection is one of the biggest obstacles to optimal health, yet we don’t realize this because we don’t slow down enough to see—emails, tv, jobs, kids, activities. We do too much, too fast, too often. The western culture of moremoremore is making us sick.

So, let’s not add more to the pile with obligatory resolutions that (around week four) will ultimately make us feel badly about ourselves. Let’s connect not only with each other, but with ourselves in 2013. Let’s try a new approach—focusing on feeling our best, understanding what gets us there and doing those things. If it feels good to say “no” to more projects, buck up and start saying “no.” If it feels freeing to only check email a few times a week, set up an auto message that tells folks the deal and why (who knows, they may take your lead). And let’s help others achieve what makes them feel their best. Everyone wins that way. Everyone connects that way.

And instead of saying what YU don’t want to feel. Let’s say what we do want to feel. I want to feel calm, or I want to feel free. It’s a little of that positive attracts positive thing you hear so much about these days. Can’t hurt, right?

I’ve been trying out this “feeling as the goal” approach this past year and I have learned so much—mainly, old habits die so hard (ha). Stay with me though, this is a good thing…

Anyone who knows me, knows that I can get a lot of work done in a short amount of time. Project after project. And I’m one of those people that loves to do everything—but hey, I find the most joy when I’m creating. While I have friends who marvel at this supposed “gift,” the past few years, I have noticed that it is taking its toll. Bigtime. And while I have my diet on lock-down, I have yet to get my stress level under control.

Last year, I found out that I have severe adrenal fatigue (and what’s sad is that many Americans do). But those who know me well, also know that when I set my mind to something (like getting well), I do it 110%. Part of my problem, as well, I guess. Adrenal fatigue was a humbling diagnosis, and I knew that I had to go out of my comfort zone to make the changes I needed to. But where to start?

Well, in the short-term, I needed to sleep. I cannot tell YU what a major difference getting my butt in bed by 10pm every night has made. I was the textbook night owl, who did her best work from the hours of 10pm-2am (unfortunately, for years). Sound familiar?

Now, long-term adjustments were where I really needed to rethink things—where I really have squirmed around, uncomfortably knowing what I have to do, but not quite sure how to get there.

For years, I have been juggling a design career and trying to build YumUniverse, all the while saying that I wanted things to be “…simpler. I want to feel calm. I need balance…” without making the major moves to attain those feelings. And what I love about life is that sometimes the wrong choices (see working all night long, trying to do it all) bring us to the right places (new approaches and new chapters). Adrenal fatigue kicked my butt in gear to finally go for it. Because I have no choice.

“Sometimes the wrong choices bring us to the right places.” — via @YumUniverse

I love my Chicago. Me and my kitties moved here with enough money to pay for two month’s rent, and a 3-day-a-week-one-month-freelance-gig, and the bravery paid off. The last 16 years have been full of adventure, my share of frozen eyelashes and inspiring friends who I consider dear family now (pause—grateful moment). Chicago is a big part of my identity. It’s my home. But life changes, as we all know. Instead of live music five nights a week, I love to listen to those same bands on my iPod, digging in the rich earth of my garden and breathing fresh air instead of cigarette smoke.

Instead of painting for a gallery show, or sewing steampunk-inspired costumes for a fashion show, I find ultimate joy by baking kale into beet cupcakes and making quiches out of cashews. Instead of doing a hoop performance in front of 60,000 peeps at Soldier Field (ah, the old days), I like to have a handful of friends over for a lovely picnic-style tea party.

Oh, Chicago—there’s something amazing to get into every second of the day. But until I can police myself a bit more on the stress-tip, I have to opt out for a while.

Some of YU may know that my sweetheart and I got a little place in West Virginia last year to split time between the country and Chi. It was to try on the simple life in a way that wouldn’t induce complete panic for this city slicker (I am owning the patheticness of that statement). While this year has had it’s share of mini meltdowns (I did better than I thought), the guiding light for me has been this simple question: what makes me feel “simple, calm and balanced”?

And right now, if I’m honest, it’s… gulp… the country. There. I said it. My spirit needs more nature. Less activities. Fresh air. Walks along the Potomac River…

… hikes in the mountains. Daily walks to the tiny post office with my love. Intimate yoga classes (that, sorry Chicago, are the most challenging I’ve ever had). And more focus on what brings me my greatest joy, which is building and sharing on YumUniverse. Which is really YU—my plant-based fam.

So, this year, I will continue to listen to my “spirit” more. I will use my guiding themes of “simple, calm and balanced” to help me set themes and make important decisions, like making my new main “home” hub this adorable historic town in West Virginia, this spring (yep, I’m moving). I will continue to reorganize my life and shed the projects that keep me from focusing on what I love to do most. The people in my life, including myself, hopefully won’t have to hear how busy I am as much. I don’t want to be part of this nations’s glorification of “busy” anymore. Yay!

Happiest New Year to YU. And thank you 2012 for the lessons, and hellooo 2013—let’s do this.

I’ve made it official by sharing with YU what I aim to do this year.

Now, I want to know, what feelings do YU want to experience more of in 2013, and what changes do you think may unfold if you follow that theme?

Comment below, I’d love to hear from YU.


Read the comments or add yours.

Comment Rules

  1. Cara

    Thank you, Heather! That was a lovely read and I could relate completely.. Going to spend some time writing in my journal and considering what feelings I want to experience this year. Listening to ourselves (our TRUE Selves, not the mental chatter) can be one of the most challenging lessons of all. Becoming 100% raw vegan this past month has ripped the bandaid off so to speak and I almost CAN’T avoid that voice anymore… My intuition is louder than ever. At a different point in time I was so clouded with drugs, food abuse, alcohol, unhealthy relationships, and self destructive thoughts there was no space for the positive changes to come in. The progress I’ve made since then is nothing short of miraculous.
    THANK YOU again….

    • Heather Crosby

      Oh Cara, High five, sister. It’s amazing when we realize how powerful our bodies are—how they can tell us what we are doing right, what we are doing wrong, and if we listen, they can guide us to places we never imagined. Keep up the great work. You’re not alone ;) Happy, Happy 2013.

  2. This is good! I just recently put together that I got more done and felt better about myself/my life when I wasn’t making goals and was living from my spirit. I feel like I have stopped living instinctively and this has caused a huge disconnect for me. This year I have officially decided to go with my gut and focus on how I want to feel. I’m so glad someone else feels the same way I do. Best of luck to you!

    Also – I haven’t stopped by your site in a while – It looks amazing! Congratulations, you have built something wonderful.

    • Heather Crosby

      Oh Mandi, thank you so much for sharing, and for your kind feedback. Our instincts are there for a reason, eh? I am excited, energized and a tad scared by the thought of slowing down, but I know (as you have experienced, too) that my spirit is going to take me to where I need to be. It always has, and I look forward to where I will go if I really tune in more. Happy 2013 to you, and welcome back ;)

  3. Kylie

    It’s funny that your post is so similar to my Facebook status yesterday. I told my friends, family and others that I was not going to make any big promises this year (I haven’t made a real resolution since I was twelve, ha!), but my “resolution” was going to be to respect myself enough to stop focusing mainly on my weight loss and start focusing on my whole person physically, spiritually, and emotionally/mentally. Last year, we had our first child, and I feel like I used that as an excuse to become a recluse. I spent very little time with my friends, and I truly had a lot of anxiety about not spending every moment possible with our little guy. That also turned into a lot of stress in other areas of my life, though, because I wasn’t really taking care of my whole self. Even though I had researched plant based diets like a dog (how I ultimately found your blog a few months ago) and lost 35 pounds in the past year, there are still so many days I felt tired, sluggish and emotionally heavy. I have always tried to pride myself on listening to my body, but this past year, I really ignored it’s message and tried to convince myself that I just hadn’t figured out the optimal way to eat yet. I tried a lot of the different plant based ways of eating ranging from no processed, no sugar at all (including fruits for awhile), fat free vegan, but I have found now that there is no one way that works for everyone (if only it were that simple! :)). I can research myself to death on soy products, sugar, glycemic index, raw foods, etc, but at the end of the day, none of that research tells me what my body is already trying to tell me. So, this year, that is my resolution. I am going to spend less time worrying over the research and more time listening and interpreting my body’s language. I know where I am and where I came from (a pretty miserable and sickly place that I had truly accepted as normal). This year, I just want to feel like I have given myself the right to enjoy time with my son, time with my friends, time alone, nature and my creative outlets. Thank you for your inspiring post! And as for living in the “country,” we live in a very rural area about 2 hours south of Chicago, and I cannot imagine going back to “city” life. I find plenty of things to stress over in this quiet place. ;o) Any time we go into a big city, I have to pace myself because I feel myself tense up almost immediately. People are always in such a hurry, and I just don’t live that way anymore. Good luck on your ventures this year. We will be here for the ride! :)

    • Heather Crosby

      Kylie, I can’t thank you enough for your honest and thoughtful response. It takes guts to share, it takes guts to be honest with yourself and it takes guts to go out of your comfort zone—and that is where true growth is waiting for YU. I agree 100%—everybody is unique, has different needs and has to learn how to listen. One step at a time, right? Happiest New Year to you and keep us posted on what unfolds for you in 2013. I have a feeling it’s going to be a great year…

  4. Pamela

    First of all, thank you for sharing so much of your knowledge with us. I can’t even begin to count the number of people I’ve told about your site, and those that were ready for a change have used the information it contains as stepping stones towards a healthier life. You are a generous soul.

    I know your upcoming move is a well thought out one, and I admire the fact you took a long, hard look at yourself, your life, your obligations and said, “I’m putting all of me first from here on out.” When I first communicated with you my desire to try a plant based diet, sharing with you my health issues, you told me that it often takes a health scare to get us going in the right direction. I’ve always remembered those words, and they immediately shot to mind when I read about your recent diagnosis. I thought to myself, “Heather’s correct, sometimes our bodies have to say, ‘enough!’, and let us know there’s a problem.” Your body spoke up, and you listened. That’s not something that everyone can, or is willing, to do. I am happy for you, so very happy you took the positive steps necessary to have the life you desire.

    What feelings do I want to experience more of in 2013? It’s interesting that you should ask that question, because I spent all of today working that out for myself. I set aside the day as a water fast and meditation/quiet day. I unplugged my land line phone, turned off my cell phone, and stayed in my home from six o’clock this morning until seven o’clock this evening. No computer, no music, no television. No human contact. Nothing. All I did was meditate, think, meditate, and think. I loved the peace I experienced. And it was midway thru the day that I realized what I am missing from my life–there are many things, but above all, I am missing inner peace. The type of inner peace that comes from clearing out the negative influences in my life, including those that I, myself, have brought into my being. Once I made that realization, made that connection between what I was feeling on a daily basis and why, I started to experience a touch of the peace I so desperately need. Some of the negative things I am experiencing will take time to change. But I also realized that it’s the process of working towards a positive change that is just as important as the change itself.

    Transitioning to a plant based diet has made a world of difference for me. My blood tests are all well within normal limits, and my kidney function is holding steady, no decline. My nephrologist is now willing to credit the plant based diet for my excellent results. And yes, I’ve pointed her to your site.

    The most critical issue I am facing, the one that looks like a mountain right now, is my lack of sleep. I arrive at work at 6:30am, and get home anywhere between 7:15 and 8:30pm. It takes me at least an hour to unwind, and then if I’m lucky, I fall asleep within 10 minutes. I don’t remember the last time I got eight hours of sleep . . . but the good thing is that I now have free time during the day to rest, and although I’ve never been a napper, I may start taking one. It’s not the same as a long sleep, but it’s a start. Again, part of the process of working towards a positive change.

    The second thing I must learn to do is what I call shutting off my brain. I’m always thinking, always analyzing, always storing away information. I’ve been this way my entire life. As a quiet (not shy) young child, I was more of a watcher than participant. And during those quiet times I observed people around me and stored away in my brain what I was seeing. As I got older, I shed my quietness, but still kept storing away that information. In retrospect, that ability is probably what led me to my career as a family therapist–you watch, you listen, you analyze the information. But all that mental activity can be difficult to stop, as I’ve discovered. Laying in bed thinking about things, ugh, story of my life. So I need to find a way to shut off my brain. Val B. suggested yoga. Now I just have to find a class I can get to at a reasonable hour . . . I live in Chicago, work in the ‘burbs. Not easy, but I know there has to be a class during the day near work. I need only find it.

    When I get my sleep issues eradicated, learn to shut off my brain, and toss out the other negative influences and traits that have become a part of my life, then I will have true inner peace. And from there, only good things will come. I have no idea what those good things will be, but they will be welcomed with opened arms.

    • Heather Crosby

      Thank YU for being so open, for sharing your experience here and for your inspiring goals for 2013—your response will end up helping many folks, I’m sure of that. YumUniverse is about being on this journey with friends like YU, and it isn’t just about me and my experiences ;) So thank you.

      I absolutely love how you spent Day 1 of 2013—and I have to say that I read it and thought “now I should be taking notes here.” I think I’ll be taking your lead this weekend—a no-computer, meditation day sounds truly divine. I have two projects left from 2012 to wrap up, and then I am continuing to implement “no work weekends F-Sun” (which is a huge step for me as a self-employed, workaholic lady) and “workday ending at 5pm no excuses”. I’m retraining my go-get-’em self to get comfy with nothing to do. Gulp.

      You’ll find that inner peace. Knowing that you want it is the first step, so pat yourself on the back, sister. And remember, you are not alone. We all struggle with mental chatter—we are biologically designed to have it to protect ourselves. Check out the podcasts from Tara Brach (this is a great one), I think you may like her (funny, genuine and spot-on). I love to listen to her when old habits are dying hard, and definitely while I am wrapping up work commitments that are making me cranky.

      I applaudapplaudapplaud your success health-wise and you should also be proud that you are demonstrating to a medical professional (your nephrologist) the benefits of a plant-based diet—that is no easy feat.

      Now for sleep, I also needed help with this, and after about two weeks I can say that my body (the amazing, self-healing body) adjusted to the new sleep cycle pretty easily—but you may want to talk with your doctor about the possibility of taking Theanine/Gaba and/or Melatonin around 9:30pm to help your hormones shift into sleep mode and quiet that incessant mental chatter. Get in bed by 10pm at the latest and try a sleep mask and/or earplugs to get into the zone, too. Prepare a dinner to take with you to work, so you eat around 6pm before you head home instead of around 8ish (digesting food that late may contribute to keeping you awake).

      I have to say that Val’s recommendation is a great one—yoga has been one of the most important additions to my life these past few years. If anything, no matter how busy your day, you have that one hour to focus on breathing, connecting and strengthening your body. And sometimes, one hour is better than none.

      Also ask your doc about adding more magnesium to your diet. I get this product called Calm plus Calcium and add it to a glass of water every day. It naturally helps quiet the mind, relax you and reduce stress on a cellular level while keeping you sharp as a tack. Whole Foods has it. Also, Epsom salt baths before bed can’t be beat. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve drifted off in the tub before bed in an epsom salt soak ;)

      Here’s to a happy, healthy and slower 2013. Hearts.

      • Pamela

        Somehow, thank you doesn’t seem sufficient. But . . . thank you, Heather. :)

  5. Awesome, Heather! I wish you the best there in WV, in finding a place to get away from it all. only to find self. I pray that self rises stronger in this move. God Bless!


    • Heather Crosby

      Aww, Josh, thank you so much. Here’s to you and an insightful 2013!

  6. Mandi

    I can not say enough how much I loved this post. These were things I was feeling but not understanding enough yet for me to put them into words or even whole thoughts. Reading this was a huge YES THIS IS IT moment. I feel like I could have written this and can’t thank you enough for putting my thoughts into words. ;) Here’s to an awesome year of listening to ourselves and what our body and mind needs. Thank you!

    • Heather Crosby

      I have a feelin’ 2013 “IS IT,” Mandi. Thank you for your thoughtful comment and keep me posted on how “listening” goes for YU this year. Hearts.

  7. Lena

    Oh Heather, I loved this post!!!!!! And the photos are amazing. Bravo for making a tough choice… and I wish you the best of luck in WV. I look forward to continuing to follow along. Muuuaaaa!

    • Heather Crosby

      Thank you so much, Lena :D I think 2013 is gonna be a great year. Happy. Happy.

  8. This is possibly my favorite post ever. I am so in love with the idea of attuning our attention to what we wish to FEEL. It’s funny how we get so used to living our lives on autopilot and become so disconnected from our instincts. But oh, how easy it is to look around in a rare moment of stillness and think… how the hell did I get here? If we can ask ourselves every single day, with every action and decision “will that make me feel _____ (empowered/ calm/confident/etc)?”, we can actually consciously build the existence we crave.

    This has make me recognize that I make so many of my decisions based on other people’s opinions. Ummm, no more. Thanks for the inspiration and thoughts!


    • Heather Crosby

      Thank YU so much, Blaine. I can’t tell you how much it means to have this post resonate with so many lovely people. It’s pretty powerful to know that I won’t be alone with this approach moving forward. Be sure to keep us posted on your journey and share any tips you come up with along the way. xx

  9. Octavia

    What a wonderful read. I related in so many ways.
    It just made me feel fantastic to read this, it seriously just made my day.
    Thank you so much Heather for creating such a huge repertoire of knowledge for health and well-being. It’s what every BODY needs. :)
    Well done.
    Love and Light girlfriend. :)

    • Heather Crosby

      Oh Octavia, my pleasure. YU all inspire me every day. e-HUG!

  10. Heather,
    I stumbled on to your article via a click on “Daily Candy” and eventually signing on to YUMuniverse. The “adrenal fatigue” tag really caught my eye. I totally relate to having to go through some unhealthy fazes to find the true definition of health for ourselves. Can you share some natural remedies for adrenal fatigue? I’m working on better sleep, saying “no” when I want to and focusing on what makes my spirit happy after seeing a lot of doctors for a heartbeat that pounds quite a bit. Nothing wrong except too much stress. HELP!

    • Heather Crosby

      Thanks for your question and feedback, Maggie. For me too, sleep and learning how to say “no” to projects/extra work is where I need to improve. I have the food sorted out (but I have been adding MORE fats to my diet since diagnosis). I am one of those types that loves to collaborate and create, and that can get me into trouble because I take on too much. And stress comes in many forms (physical, emotional, nutritional), so balancing and reducing all triggers is key. I don’t think there is one particular magic food to fix it in a flash, because it doesn’t take just one thing to throw us out of whack in the first place, right? But keeping nutritional stress to a minimum will help so much, and the big picture way to achieve this is to eat as many alkalizing foods as possible—greens, greens and more greens. Balancing the acid in our bodies on a cellular level reduces inflammation, which reduces nutritional stress, which makes adrenals happier. It’s also so important to eat healthy fats—which sadly our country is so afraid of. Nuts (almonds are most alkaline), seeds, unrefined virgin coconut oil and avocado are great sources of beneficial fats. Natural fats give us sustained energy, are necessary for nutrient assimilation and are necessary to build endocrine hormones.

      Dandelion root tea also helps to remove toxins from the body, and for coffee drinkers, it’s a less acid-forming drink to start your day off with (nice roasted flavor). Overall, though, I would say that the path to rebuilding adrenals is rest, balanced nutrition and physical activities which help build the body and relieve stress, like yoga. I’ll keep you posted on my progress if you keep me posted on yours! ;)

  11. Heather, I can’t thank you enough for this post! It truly resonated and inspired me. I’ve been feeling much the same way, working FT and also running Wellness From Within. I ended the year feeling completely beat up but haven’t been able to put my solution into words. You did and I am going to keep coming back to this post to remind myself to listen to my spirit. Thank you! xo

    • Heather Crosby

      Thank YU Heather, for sharing your experience here and reminding us all that we aren’t alone. While I talk a lot about the transition into a plant-based diet, the transition into following our hearts and working towards a career that we are 100% passionate about is another transition that takes time and care. Sigh, I know it well. I wish you the best this year—I feel like it is going to be a great one for us all. xx

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