This month we focused on mindsets, because January is the month that feels like a fresh start and an opportunity to change something. Your mindset plays an important role in whether we are able to stick to those plans or whether they fall flat. Anouk Poppelaars started the month explaining what the difference is between a growth and a fixed mindset. Babet talked about how we develop different mindsets as children and what role teachers and parents have in this. Aniek wrote about the importance of a growth mindset for our mental health.
To end the month I'd like to share my experience with my New Year's resolution, why I was able to stuck with it and how it built my growth mindset.
On the first day of 2018 I saw a post from game designer Owen Harris (who works with our lab: https://twitter.com/TheAllThing). It said this: "Tomorrow the latest 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene will kick off. If you looking to pick up a new habit this month you could do a lot worse". I don't know why but I got excited about it right away.
I've been doing yoga occasionally for the last few years, but never really did it consistently, even though I loved it. I did ballet for 13 years, but when I moved to Nijmegen I never found a nice school that I wanted to continue ballet at. I tried many many different sports, but none stuck (except for cycle racing, but I only do that from April to October and not every week). So guess what my New Year's resolution was every year: "find a healthy (sports) activity that I want to do at least once a week and that I stick to" (I've even tried several behavior-change-apps). Never worked... Until now. Because of this month's theme I've wondered why.
First of all, it was the "you could do a lot worse" of Owen that made it feel doable for me. Not this great "this is going to change your entire life" message which in my mind sounds like "that's probably too much for you". Also, I don't want to change my entire life, I just want to change this one thing.
So I signed up for the program (http://true.yogawithadriene.com/) and I read what it is about: "You don’t need fixing, you don’t need to waste energy searching for tools to help you get what you don’t have. You have everything you need." OK, that sounds good. I can do this. (sounds like a growth mindset already doesn't it?).
Then I met Adriene (https://twitter.com/yogawithadriene). She is a very positive, fun, experienced yoga instructor with a very clear growth mindset which shows through all her videos and the things she says. Three examples (and how they match the growth mindset factors that Babet mentions in her post):
- On Orientation day she said: "When I really pause to think about it I realize how incredibly awesome it is for you to say “yes, count me in.”" I thought: yes, that is awesome! (praise of efforts).
- Then on Day 2 (which was called Trust) she said: "Trust me, the yoga instructor. Your job is to come to the mat. I'll take care of the rest." I thought: that's comforting. I don't have to worry about whether or not I will be able to do it, I just have to trust that she designed it in a way for me to do it. And after a while I saw that I was able to do it and change, thus further growing my growth mindset. (it takes practice to improve).
- In learning new things it's OK if you're not able to do it right at the beginning. It's about the learning itself. How parents help kids with learning strategies, Adriene did that for me with yoga strategies. She took small steps and suddenly I was at Day 10 and I was able to go through poses I couldn't imagine doing two weeks before, but without constantly focusing on achieving those goals (a growth mindset is about prioritizing learning, not just effort).
Another thing that really helped me was that I was not alone. My colleague Joanneke was doing it, my new friend from Australia Jane was doing it, Owen was doing it, and with us thousands of people (which I could see by the number of views per video) were doing it. It was a global effort and it showed me that if they can go through with it, so can I.
And to go back to Aniek's point about how a growth mindset is related to better mental health: I actually do feel more relaxed and balanced. Of course the yoga really helps with that, but I'm also proud of the fact that I've been able to integrate this small thing (30 minutes a day) in my life that makes me feel better (and happy) and that I now really want to continue (beyond the 30 days).
So, to end the post: I'm not saying everyone should now start this 30-day yoga challenge (but if you want see the link above), but I'm saying that it's about taking small steps, finding something that works for you, having people around you who help you with it and believing that you can change (and help someone else with it too). For me it was this yoga challenge, but for others it can be something completely different. At GEMH lab we are looking at ways to do that through games and even though this theme month is over, we'll keep you posted on that!