There’s a lot of talk this time of year about making resolutions, setting goals, and planning your best year ever.
While I appreciate the spirit in which these blog posts and social media exhortations are made, and while I myself have spent Januaries past madly scribbling in a crisp, new notebook with my favorite pen, now I find myself asking: is this really a healthy and helpful way to spend our time?
Because it feels like another manifestation of our culture’s addiction to busy-ness.
Goals are good. Saving up to get out of debt or take that dream vacation is good, as is implementing a system that will measure your progress. Committing to move more and eat healthy foods is good, and a pantry purge is a great way to spend a cold and dreary winter weekend.
But the cycle of unrealistic expectations and subsequent shame when you fail to meet them only hurts. It doesn’t help.
Part of the reason we fail to keep our resolutions or meet our goals is because we don’t have a solid foundation upon which to build these new additions.
When you are fundamentally malnourished in body, mind and spirit, as so many people in our culture are, how can you possibly muster the resources to create something new? How can you give birth to your passions when you’re barren and exhausted? The seeds of your dreams may be viable, but they cannot grow in an inhospitable environment.
Instead of making resolutions and setting goals for the new year, perhaps we can commit to build up the soil of our bodies and souls, until we are fertile ground for a life’s work.
Get back to the basics, and don’t try to quantify them in ounces of water consumed or minutes on a treadmill:
Eat whole, healthy foods as close to their natural forms as possible.
Drink plenty of fresh, clean water.
Move your body.
Work through your emotions; release what doesn’t serve you and cherish what brings you joy.
In traditional Western herbalism, there’s a class of herbs called nutritives. These herbs are used to remedy the atrophic tissue state, which is characterized by dryness, weakness, and wasting.
Some nutritive herbs coat dry mucous membranes with their nourishing mucilage (marshmallow, slippery elm), while others are rich in minerals and help move water into atrophied tissues (nettle, dandelion leaf, chickweed, milky oats and oatstraw). Still others contain fixed oils that improve digestion and lubricate cellular membranes (flaxseed, burdock, sesame).
Knowing whether or not you’re manifesting the atrophic tissue state can be a little tricky for the layperson. But in our stressed-out, overwhelmed culture, many people can benefit from nutritive herbs as a matter of course. Nettle (Urtica dioica) is one of the most famous nutritives, highly regarded by herbalists for its nutrient content and ability to stimulate the elimination of wastes via the urinary tract. “When in doubt, give nettles,” says David Hoffmann, author of The Holistic Herbal and Medical Herbalism.
Fresh nettles are still a few months off (they’re one of the first herbs to emerge in the spring), but dried nettle leaves are an excellent substitute. Their nutritive properties are extracted well in water, so brew them as an herbal tea, or tisane, or add a handful to your bone broth, soups, stews, or cooked grains. You can also grind dried nettle leaves and use them in herbal salt blends or gomasio, a Japanese condiment made from sesame seeds (another nutritive!) and salt.
So if you’ve yet to make your resolutions for the year–or if you made some but they’ve already fallen by the wayside–consider these questions instead: