Re-New Year’s Resolution: Spring Restart
The first day of spring is upon us. According to the calendar, the season is changing, and will soon herald the imminent arrival of green grass, tree leaves, and blossoms of all sorts. It is a New Year for nature. Winter is winding down, and although there could still be more snow here in the Midwest, the light at the end of the winter tunnel is shining bright.
Renewal is a good thing. Nature depends upon it. Every 365 days, Mother Nature starts over, and shows her stuff. And it’s good stuff.
Perhaps the advent of spring would be the time to make resolutions, better, perhaps, than in the dead of winter.
If your New Year’s resolutions are a thing of the recent past, then consider a jump re-start. Consider trying again. Think about a second chance to make those resolutions stick—maybe a bit modified so that they will stay stuck.
The vast majority of New Year’s resolutions involve improving one’s health. Among the most popular:
- Lose weight
- Exercise more
- Stop smoking
- Reduce stress
- Get more sleep
- Drink more water
If any of these sound familiar to you, then you are not alone. Most of us have at least one area of our health that could stand to be improved.
If, like the vast majority of the population who did indeed make resolutions, yours are already broken, then consider a renewal. Chances are, though, if they didn’t work the first time, then they probably won’t work the second time around.
So let’s try something different. Let’s break it down into small, manageable bites. The smaller the bite, the better.
Let’s take the exercise resolution. If your goal is to walk 30 minutes a day, and you are currently walking zero, let’s start with one. Just one minute. That may sound pointless, but it will build upon itself. The next day, walk for two minutes. The next day, three, and on and on. Adding just one minute daily will make it seem less of an effort, but it will help you reach your goal.
If you want to start with more than one, consider beginning with the day of the month: if it is the 10th, then walk 10 minutes. If it is the 17th, then walk 17 minutes. You get the idea. And every day, add one more minute to coincide with the day of the month. Sounds simple and perhaps a bit silly, but having this external monitor, this accountability factor has helped many people succeed.
And speaking of accountability: having another person to buddy with is an incredible motivator. If you commit to someone to meet them at the gym or the park at a certain time, you will be much less likely to forego your exercise. If you have a willing buddy, but your schedules don’t mesh, consider a daily check-in by phone or text to hold each other accountable.
The same can be done with weight loss. If you are accountable to someone else to avoid, let’s say, bad carbs, and you know you must report to them as such, you will be better able to keep your resolution.
If smoking is your bad habit to break, another smoker would likely understand more than someone who doesn’t smoke how hard it is. However, if your goal is to reduce/eliminate cigarettes, and theirs is to commit to exercising, you can set up your plan accordingly. The main idea is to have someone besides yourself to be accountable to. Most of us humans are weaker when we are trying to do it alone.
Drinking more water is perhaps a resolution that should be made more than it is. The vast majority of us could stand to drink more water. Set a goal, and add an ounce daily until you reach it. Fill a measured pitcher daily with your set amount, and add to it daily. Just be sure to drink it!
Water can be boring to many people, and this may keep many of us from drinking enough. Many of us substitute colas—both diet and regular—that have zero value for our bodies—less than zero, actually, as they can be quite harmful. If sodas are your downfall, consider carbonated water. If you drink pop in a can, find it in a can. Same for a bottle. Sometimes the carbonation is enough to provide the thrill, and it’s without all the chemicals.
Our human brains are incredibly complex, but they can be easy to fool, too. Simply holding a cold can and feeling the fizz—even though you consciously know it is not a soda—can be enough to satisfy the craving when you are trying to quit.
If it’s sleep you need more of, your brain responds well to tricks there too. Going to bed earlier, of course, is a no-brainer. Adding to that, is the routine you normally go through. If you shower, brush your teeth, climb into bed and read a book every night around 11:00, just do the same thing a bit earlier. Your brain responds to these external cues, and tells your body it is time to shut down.
The importance of reduced screen time at bedtime cannot be understated. The light from screens of your television, computer, phone or other device emit light rays that are stronger than normal light, and alert your brain that it is time to stay awake, because it is so bright. Our brains respond to daylight and night, and act accordingly in their sleep and wake cycles. Soft light for reading is best, and complete darkness is best for sleep. Screen light at bedtime keeps your brain stimulated longer than normal light, and your awake time increases.
Increasingly, studies are showing the importance of adequate, quality sleep for good health in the short and long run. Our culture may not reinforce this, but the joke is on our culture: poor and inadequate sleep cause poor health, not to mention poor mood, reduced mental acuity, fatigue, and increased risk of accidents.
Bad habits are hard to break, and good ones are hard to start. Many people however, have done both, and with the right tools, so can you. Each of us has unique gifts and weaknesses, but as humans, the vast majority of us respond to these simple suggestions:
1: Take small steps toward a larger goal.
2: Consider an accountability buddy.
3: Recognize your patterns/habits, and make small adjustments to “trick” your brain into changing them.
Good health is a gift, but it is our birthright as well. We have more power to effect change in our health than we may think, but it does take thinking, followed by effort. Change is hard, but changes toward good health are important. You hold the power, so use it wisely.
HAPPY SPRING, AND HAPPY RE-NEW YEAR!