What if you didn’t have to make that New Year’s resolution to lose weight or to get in shape or to eat healthier? What if you were able to get to 2013 without the guilt or the disappointment or the frustration that tends to greet so many of us with the coming of each new year?
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius
When I was just a boy my dad told me something that stuck with me and that has certainly shaped me (in more ways than one). He said, “it’s a lot easier to stay in shape than it is to get in shape. So the more you maintain your fitness now, the easier it will be to maintain it as you get older.” I may have very well rolled my eyes when I first heard that (the way teens tend to do these days when someone older shares insight), but my ears were obviously tuned in on his words. I’ve experienced the difference between staying in shape and getting back in shape. One is easier. The other makes things a bit more complicated.
This is the time of year when moods shift and spirits fall like the leaves, as if some sort of emotional gravity begins tugging at our minds and our hearts more and more as we amble through what remains of autumn and trudge into winter.
Part of that is due to shorter, darker, colder days. We are solar powered, after all. But it’s also the result of our living even more indoor lives after spending a summer reconnecting with the outdoors.
It’s this time of year, right now, when many of us start to disconnect again from the outside world. As a result, we also start to disconnect from ourselves. And, in some ways, that plays a part in our need to make those resolutions with the coming of the new year.
According to an article in Psychology Today, the most common resolutions are: losing weight, exercising more, and quitting smoking (as well as reducing stress, taking a trip, volunteering). What’s surprising about the most common resolutions that people make, however, is the fact that, according to Time magazine, these are some of the most commonly broken resolutions: losing weight, exercising more, and quitting smoking (as well as those others mentioned above).
We often set ourselves up for failure. It goes back to what my dad said all those years ago. It’s easier to maintain something (like health & fitness) than it is to undo it or to get it back once you’ve let it go. Of course, that doesn’t mean if you’re already out of shape you shouldn’t bother. It means that if you start now to put a new habit in motion, your chances of maintaining that habit in the new year increase. And right now, before the holiday season really hits, is the perfect time to start.
There are a number of online sources claiming that it takes 21 days or 28 days or 29 days or 30 days (you get the idea) to create a new habit. Let’s say it takes 30-60 days (I’ve been told, fifteen minutes a day for fifteen days can help you develop a consistent writing practice or thirty minutes for thirty days can help you establish a consistent fitness routine and I’ve found both to be true). Sometimes, on day 17 or on day 32, life throws us a curve ball. The more days we’ve been at that new thing, the more likely we’re able to work with (or around) the curve balls.
So rather than wait until January 1st to put into motion those elements necessary to be healthy and fit and to feel good (physically and mentally and emotionally), why not start now?
Here are 5 things you can do right now to reduce the need to make those health resolutions in 2013 (and to help you stick with them if you do):
- Get to a Gym – fitness centers provide a few things that are great for developing and maintaining a healthy practice. They have other people there trying to do similar things as you which can add motivation and also provide a sense of belonging (the lack of which are often two emotional triggers to those down moods the coming months often augment), they have classes, they often have trainers.
- If getting to a gym will not work because of a lack of time or money, invest in a piece of equipment, but let’s be honest, how many people do you know who own a piece of exercise equipment – like a treadmill or stationary bike – that they got with the intention of achieving a New Year’s resolution, that’s become a clothing rack? I think equipment works best for people who’ve been working out at a gym, but who desire the reduced time restraints that come from having access to equipment 24/7. And the reduced cost over time is also a motivator for equipment, but not the motivator that is most likely to keep you using that equipment “over the long haul.”
- Walk – did you know just going for a walk can often help reduce some levels of depression and anxiety – thanks to an increased production of endorphins (which make you feel good) and serotonin (which reduces stress)? Walking is an effective way to lose weight, over time, is less hard on the body than running, and it’s also a wonderful way to work through challenges or to come up with solutions to problems. There are physical benefits, but also emotional benefits as walking every day can “enhance self-esteem and combat depression.”
- Yoga – you may have noticed that gyms tend to have lots of mirrors, they tend to be filled with people doing a lot of looking at and analyzing of their appearance (which is fine if you’re already in shape, but can be a bit of a stressor if you aren’t). Yoga is built upon a philosophy of non-judgment. It’s not about comparing yourself to others in the class. It’s about turning inward and it mostly comes down to you and your body. Not only can yoga be an incredible workout for the body, but it often serves as a way to calm the mind, to assuage stress, and you learn techniques for mindfulness that can carry over to pretty much any part of your life where you might need or want more presence.
- Eat Quality – forget diets, forget about forbidding yourself the things you want . . . eat only the very best quality of whatever you’re going to eat anyway. If you’re going to eat a hamburger anyway, buy grass-fed, organic and local beef. If you’re going to eat chocolate anyway, buy the highest quality and darkest chocolate possible. If you’re going to eat chips, buy baked, organic, vegetable chips. By the time the holidays get here, you’ll be so accustomed to great quality food, which tends to satisfy you sooner and more completely, that you’ll be less likely to over-indulge in all the junk that causes most of the problems to our health anyhow.
By getting your body moving regularly now, by eating high quality foods regularly now, you give yourself a better chance of already having these two things as established habits by the New Year (which increases the chances that you maintain those good habits consistently in the future and also means you won’t have to spend a lot of energy trying to undo damage that bad habits can cause). This is a simpler way of getting to where you want or need to get.
“We’re mired deep
in what the Greeks called “akrasia”:
deciding on the best course of action,
then doing something else.”
- Oliver Burkeman