Most of us, me alike, look at the New Year, and think – this is the year that I am going to make things happen. Lose weight, reduce my stress levels, get fit, and live an overall healthier lifestyle. Believe me, even when you work a full-time job at a gym, it is still difficult to create a healthy plan for yourself. However, like so many of us do, getting the jump start is issue #1 – where do I begin? And then there’s #2 – how do I keep the momentum going for myself throughout the year? Let’s face it, after the holidays we are exhausted, unmotivated, and stressed from all our energy having gone into celebrating the holidays with co-workers, family, and friends. Trying to spring into action of eating healthier and exercising more can be a daunting and challenging task. Let’s face it – we are sometimes our own worst enemy. We self-sabotage ourselves creating excuse, after excuse, only to be left with under achieving results. So, here are some tips of where to start to truly achieve, and maintain, those healthy lifestyle habits:
- Reflect and start small. Allow the yourself the compassion to dig deep and then ask – what areas are of most concern for me and most importantly – why do I want this? What is motivating me to achieve these results? Your why belongs to you, and only you. Use this as a method of encouragement to yourself.
- Drill it down. Make a list of all the areas you have that you desire to see a change in. Now look at your list. Are there some areas that can be combined? Are there some that will automatically be resolved once you complete others? Try to get your list down to 3-5 main areas of concern.
- Now that you have created a short list, let’s drill this down even further. Which concern has the most significance for you. Remember your why. Which one will have the biggest impact on your why. I know, hard to do because they all have significant value to you, but this is not about winning the gold medal by February. This is not a race against yourself, but a shift in how you take care of yourself and the habits you create. Then complete your list with the other goals you have.
- In your face. GREAT! Now you have a starting point. While I know it is difficult not to think about all the items on your list, try to stay focused on just the first one. I like to take my list and write it down on sticky notes for myself with my why at the top of each item. Then, I put it in a couple of places that I know I will see every day. Some of my favorites that have the most power for me are my mirror at home, my refrigerator, my car dashboard, and my office computer, just to name a few. This is a quick way to remind myself and give myself the little extra encouragement I need when I start to revert to making excuses. These visual reminders also help to prevent de-railing.
- Create a plan. One of my favorite ways is to use the “SMART” method when setting goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound. I know this may seem like a lot of work, but preparation can be key to achieving your goals.
- Be Specific and Start Small. Remember, this is not a race. This is a plan to create realistic habits that are achievable for YOU. I like to make a list of all the small ways that will contribute to my success. For example, when I focus on eating better, I make a list of all the healthy foods that I “could” eat that will help me feel better about my nutrition. This makes it easier when I need to make decisions at the grocery store. When I am focused on weight loss, I make a list of how many steps I am going to walk each day, and I include a small workout that I know is realistic for me to fit in.
- Give yourself key points that you can measure over time. For example, if I am focusing on weight loss, it is important to have an end goal, but it is equally as important to have small incremental goals as well.
- Achieve the win! Small successes lead to grand results and create habits that become second nature. Every week I allow myself a little extra time to reflect on my accomplishments from the past 7 days. For each small win, allow yourself a pat on the back. It is important to note, that while you may not have achieved your weekly goal, maybe you did try your best, so forgive yourself, and still celebrate the effort. Now, this does not mean that you get to go eat your favorite container of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream! I like to create a list of healthy “gifts” for myself. Things that I like to do or feel good doing, that I consider a treat. For example, taking myself to a new park for a hike or bike ride, taking a bubble bath, getting my nails done, cooking my favorite dish. For those bigger wins: a spa treatment, purchasing and reading a new book, or going out to dinner at my favorite restaurant! Celebrate the wins. Each one is important in contributing to the large goal and feeling good about what we are doing.
- Keep it relevant. By putting the notes up for yourself in visible areas that will remind you each day, keeping it relevant will become second nature over time. Remember to forgive yourself in the beginning but remember- this is about creating a new habit.
- Time bound. Make sure that you add in time frames for yourself that are realistic and achievable. This is not a battle against yourself, but rather a gift of healthy habits just for you. Allow room for forgiveness. There will be days that you mess up. Life happens, as we all know. The kids are sick. You must work late. Traffic on 95 was horrible and it took longer than expected to get home, etc., etc., etc. Showing self-compassion is one way to help prevent excess stress. It is ok, and healthy, for you to allow for those days to happen. Tomorrow is another day, and another opportunity to get back in the game.
- Repeat, repeat, and repeat!!!
So in conclusion, make 2019 your best year possible for you! Love yourself by giving the gift of a healthy year through planning, execution, forgiveness, and achievement, over and over again. Remember, it is not a race to the finish line. It is simply the habit-forming, healthy journey of self-discovery of what you are capable of!
Jeff Rouse Swim and Sport Center