The beginning of a New Year offers a natural opportunity to press reset. Many people decide that January is the best month to dive headfirst back into a healthy lifestyle or begin the process of getting to a healthier place. This might include better food choices, more activity, a workout plan and healthier behaviors all around. We go crazy cleaning out the fridge, buying a new gym membership, planning out our workouts for the month and buying new gear that’s sure to help us stick to it this year.
While January is a great time to wipe the slate clean and start anew, adopting an all-or-nothing approach to the New Year (and a new you!) is likely to backfire. Instead of resolving to lose 20 pounds, work out every day or eat clean each meal, try this New Year’s resolution:
“I will be consistent with my wellness pursuits this year.”
This powerful mantra will guide you and lead to better results than simply choosing a behavior to add or eliminate. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of this New Year:
Life is too short to judge yourself by one “bad” choice.
First, it’s important to note that it’s not helpful to label choices as “good” or “bad” when it comes to health and wellness (except for obvious things like smoking, of course). The minute you start labeling desserts or not working out as bad, you begin keeping score. And, when the score is “down” you may abandon your plan all together. And this has a tendency to move you in the wrong direction.
Instead, strive to make choices that are right for that day and that moment. Treat life more like a balance sheet than a scorecard. Some days you’ll make the “best” choices, other days “better” choices and, from time to time, “lesser” choices related to your nutrition, sleep, stress and activity levels. But if you choose mindfully each and every day, saying yes to dessert or relaxing on the couch for a day instead of going for a run will not ruin your efforts. Instead, you’ll simply take mental note and offset that choice with a balancing choice on the next go round.
Most important, avoid letting one day of “lesser” choices snowball to two days, and then three, with the need to “reset” again each Monday. Keep the wheels in motion by consistently monitoring your choices and getting right back on track when you can.
Wellness is a journey, not a destination.
Goals such as losing 20 pounds, running a marathon or competing in an event are wonderful motivators. But if we focus whole-heartedly on the ultimate goal and attempting to achieve it within a certain time frame, we may be willing to make unusual sacrifices in the short term for the quick payoff or benefit. And this might not set us up for long-term success.
Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with setting goals big goals, but while you’re heading toward them, make sure you avoid combining big goals with short-time frames. Getting fit enough to run a certain distance or restricting yourself and working out enough to see quick movement on the scale might be gratifying in the short term, but it may also lead to fatigue (both mentally and physically). The worst thing you can do is reach the goal and undo all the hard work by taking time “off,” such as not working out for a week or two, or making a series of “lesser” choices when it comes to food.
Wellness is a new way of life that will ebb and flow. While challenging yourself with new goals can keep you engaged, know that sometimes not going backward should be considered a victory. Be consistent with your new choices so they become your normal, rather than your exception.
Small achievements lead to big accomplishments.
While losing weight may be your ultimate goal, whether the number is a large or small one, it can take some time for the scale to budge. And from time to time, the number may even fluctuate. If this is all you’re focused on during the process, you could lose your steam. Instead, choose small actions that will positively influence the ultimate outcome, while also providing you with a little ego boost along the way.
Start small with your goals and choose actions that allow immediate positive feedback. With food choices, don’t go cold turkey and stare at the scale expecting it to change. Instead, start with something simple such as increasing water intake. Track it and congratulate yourself when you achieve a certain number of glasses for three days in a row. Then, make the goal a bit bigger by adding another small action item to the water intake, such as adding a small green salad to three meals in the week, and so on.
The same is possible for your workouts. Start by choosing one day you’ll work out this week and make it happen. Then, perhaps next week you can aim for two workout days. Or see how many push-ups you can do in one minute and repeat the test each Monday to see how much you improve. Each time you get a “win,” move the target.
Visibly chart your progress and trust that each of these small achievements will add up to big ones. It’s less about how challenging you make your goals, but how consistently you add on new, positive actions that lead you to what you want to accomplish.
As you can see, consistency is key. Becoming fit or healthy is an ongoing process comprised of countless tiny choices made on an hour-by-hour basis. As long as you stay committed to consistency, you’ll be achieving your wellness goals in no time.