I try to go to yoga once a week. It’s a way to help me de-stress from my busy life, and I’ve been really committed to doing this for the past couple years. Every single year, I notice the same thing. In December, I can show up 1 minute before class begins and have my pick of any spot I want. Come January, there’s literally 1/8” of space between everyone’s mats. Come March, it gets back to a normal level, and I see all the familiar faces that I had always seen last year. We’ve all seen it, and we’ve all done it, set New Year’s resolutions and failed to make any real, long-term changes.
I’m not trying to discourage you to change. Realizing that there’s a part of your life that you’d like to live differently is great! Self-realization is always a good thing, but to make real change in your life, you have to have a different kind of mindset, as well as, a strategy on how to achieve that lifestyle change.
Last August, I came face to face with a scale for the first time in a while, and I have to tell you, the number that popped up was a little scary. When people talk about gaining 10 pounds the first year of marriage, they aren’t kidding. I also felt like crap and, having lived a pretty healthy lifestyle on and off throughout my 20’s, and also knowing that in my 30’s my metabolism wasn’t going to be doing me any favors, I decided to do something about it.
Since that fateful weigh-in in August, I started going to the gym 5 days a week, kept track of my calories on “My Fitness Pal” and resolved myself to give up refined sugar in the form of delicious crap, like the cookies and desserts that my husband and I had become accustomed to eating after dinner every night. I also know myself, and decided to keep the aspects of my food life that I really, truly enjoy, like wine and the occasional cheeseburger and fries. In the last 4 months, I’ve lost 10 pounds, and better than that, I feel fantastic! I want to feel this way all the time, and I’m totally committed to doing that because I’ve decided this is how I want to live my life from here on out. I’d like to share with you my 5 tips for lifestyle changes that can be applied to your resolutions in the new year.
- You can set resolutions any time of year, it doesn’t have to be January 1st
I was sick and tired of feeling like crap, so I was truly committed to changing my lifestyle for good. That was back in August. Often, people think of January as a fresh start, but if that’s the only reason you are setting resolutions, they aren’t likely to take. You have to be really, truly committed to what you are trying to achieve, and that may be when you are feeling the effects of that holiday cookie bender, but, most likely, you will be inspired by someone else and what they are achieving in their life. Inspiration like that can strike whenever, so please, no matter what time of year, seize upon that inspiration and make a change.
- Set small, reasonable goals
My goal in my weight loss was 10 pounds, but that number was a little intimidating. I also wanted to make this a sustainable lifestyle change, so eating nothing but spinach and quinoa wasn’t going to work. I like to go out to dinner and have a glass of wine and enjoy my life. So, I broke it down, to 2 pounds a month, and that was doable.
It’s all about laying out the long-term goal and seeing all the little steps it will take to get there. This also involves a heavy dose of honesty with yourself on your lifestyle and how quickly you think you can change. Try small changes and see if they are sustainable. Once you master them, add a new challenge.
Also, don't be too vague about your goals. If your new year's resolution is to "take better care of yourself," define what that means to you by writing it down and breaking down step by step in concrete terms how to make that happen (i.e. go to X yoga studio by my apartment for the 6PM class every Tuesday).
- If you screw up, all is not lost!
So that bowl of candy on your co-workers desk was too tempting, or you got stuck at work and missed that evening yoga class. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! It’s easy to give up on long-term goals when you feel defeated after a set-back. That’s true of a lot of things in life, but having one tiny “failure” doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your long-term resolutions. Tomorrow’s a new day, and you can re-commit yourself to your new lifestyle and healthy habits again.
- Tell people about what you’re doing, lots of them
That’s what I’m doing right now! I hope you all hold me accountable to this (Ha)! The best way to stay accountable is to tell people your resolutions. If they are good friends, who listen to you, they will ask you about them later. If they are really good friends, they will be a partner in your goals and commit to them, as well. The buddy system works great for holding you accountable for your goals. Find a friend or family member who you can talk to about your resolutions and who will hold a continual dialogue with you about it. Shame and guilt, emotions we inflict on ourselves via other people, are tremendous motivators (not saying this is emotionally healthy, but it does work, at least for me), and the avoidance of those emotions will be incredibly important in those first few weeks or months of your resolution.
- Know that you’re not just setting goals, you’re making small decisions every day
Setting a goal is nice, but making continual decisions to honor that goal is better. Every day you wake up, you make a million decisions, whether to get out of bed or not, what to eat for breakfast, whether or not to look at your phone right away when you hear that beep. Tap into your higher self when you make these decisions to see if they correspond with your goals. Having these little strategies for yourself helps, and after a while, the behavior you’re trying to train in yourself will feel more natural.
A silly example of this that I used, was that quote by Kate Moss, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” This is terrible, embarrassing, totally un-feminist quote, but I used it (kind of in a tongue and cheek way), whenever someone offered me a sweet. I can’t tell you how many eye rolls it got me, but it really did help me to make better decisions. A far healthier thing I asked myself when faced with temptation (either sweets or skipping the gym) is, “How am I going to feel after I eat this/after I workout?” I know the answer to that question, and if I’m honest with myself, 90% of the time, I won’t eat the thing and I won’t skip the gym.
I hope this helps a little in your staying with your goals, whether health, career, or socially related. I know I used weight loss as an example, but this can be applied across the board from starting that novel you’ve been dying to write, or trying to gossip less, or going to bed by a certain time every night. I’d love to hear any new years resolutions you might have in the comments or any strategies you might have for bringing those goals to fruition.
Wishing you a happy, healthy, and successful new year!!