Now that we’re in the second month of 2014, it seems timely to do a resolution check-in. Although, I must admit, I question the logic of this annual ritual of giving up long-held habits and shooting for difficult goals during the bleakest season of the year (at least for those of us who live in the northern part of the Northern Hemisphere). And especially this particular winter (yes, I’m talking to you, polar vortex). But since many continue with this practice, including yours truly, I’m presenting some tips to help us all get over the hump until spring makes healthy living easier.
It seems most of us could us some help: a study published last month from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania indicates only eight per cent of Americans who make resolutions actually keep them. To help with some common New Year’s goals, check out these hints for your resolution check-in:
Resolution check-in 1: Eat healthier
As much as I embrace healthful living, I’ve never been a fan of giving up what I love. So instead of focusing on depriving myself of faves, as I wrote about in this post for MindBodyGreen, I concentrate on the healthy foods I can add to my diet. For example, in my green morning smoothie, I’ve recently started adding flaxseeds, which are high in both omega-3 essential fatty acids and lignans, plant chemicals that exert an estrogen-like action. They also feature antioxidants and fibre. And I’ve added kale to my go-to greenie veggie dinner rotation of broccoli and asparagus. So even if I have a particularly indulgent day (or week) of eating, I know that this influx of fresh veggies should help fend off aging (and scurvy).
Resolution check-in 2: Exercise more
A tough one for many people: between work, family obligations and fatigue, it can be a chore to hit the gym regularly. But here’s the thing: you don’t have to. I remember a magazine interview in which the fabulously fit-at-52 singer Sheryl Crow said she’d given up gym workouts to only do physical activities she loved, such as hiking and surfing. Now, most of us don’t have an ocean conveniently close by in order to surf in, but we can still embrace Ms. Crow’s philosophy.
Take, for example, walking, which is an activity literally at your doorstep. Need incentive to put on your walking shoes? As a starter, check out the Mayo Clinic’s walking primer, which advises the activity can help people maintain a healthy weight, manage various health conditions, including Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and improve mood, balance and coordination. You may also want to look up Real Simple‘s February cover story: “Yes, Walking Works!”, which promises a step-by-step plan on getting fit.
If you’re scared off by this winter’s arctic temps, just layer up. This season I’ve been doing power walks wearing two layers of yoga pants, a yoga top and jacket, topped by a fleece jacket with a parka as the outermost layer. A little bulky, but it keeps the chill out.
Resolution check-in 3: Manage stress better
Whether it’s the iPhone’s incessant ringing, your overloaded email inbox or a family member’s unexpected illness, stress comes at us in all directions. A regular meditation practice is an antidote to anxiety, but I know how challenging it can be to allot time to a daily sitting ritual. So why not try fitting it in when you can? Get started by checking out YouTube for guided meditations.
But when you need to calm down fast (how’s that for ironic…), a little magnesium can go a long way. This mineral nourishes the nervous system and there’s evidence it helps prevent fear and anxiety. In the past year I’ve been taking a magnesium supplement called Natural Calm when I need to take the edge off. It comes in a powdered drink form and whether it’s the placebo effect or not, I find it gives me a little Zen when I’m feeling anything but centred.
Resolution check-in 4: Get organized
There’s something about being disorganized in one area that can make you feel like your whole life is out of control. But while you may feel the pressure to clean up every hanging thread in your closet, most organization experts advise starting small. To that end, I like this one-minute rule from Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.
This tip drew me in because it’s dead easy: do without delay any task that can be done in 60 seconds, whether that’s answering an email, cleaning the sink or flossing. Will this rule fix your whole life? Likely not, but it’s a start that may give you momentum to clean-sweep another life corner.
While resolutions can be tough to tackle, there’s also good news for those that make them. The same University of Scranton study that shared the discouraging numbers on the sticking power of New Year’s changes, also advises that people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than those that don’t. Encouraging news, for sure. But also remember the point of resolutions is to live your idea of a best life, and hopefully that means along with the goals, you prioritize a little fun…