To be honest, I am not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. Don’t get me wrong: I am all for goal setting and making positive changes in your life, but there are just a few things about resolutions that concern me.
New Year’s Resolutions tend to be big, life-altering goals: “I will go to the gym six days every week, rain or shine, tired or energized, I will go.” “ I will stop eating all sugars.” “I will not raise my voice to my family members.” These are all admirable goals, but they are not always sustainable. What happens when your co-worker brings in your favorite brownies and you eat half of one? Or you get the flu and can’t go to the gym for a few days, or your teenage daughter gets home at 1 a.m. when she was supposed to be home at 11 p.m.? Life happens, and I think the best way to make change is to make sure that your goals work with your life, not against it.
Another concern regarding resolutions is that they can sometimes lack a roadmap. Goal-setters need to consider not just the “what” but also the “how.” For example, when trying to decrease sugar consumption, do you have a friend who will help to keep you accountable? Should you include more protein and more frequent meals in your day to keep sugar cravings to a minimum? Can you keep healthy snacks at your desk for when sugar cravings creep in?
You may find more success by setting achievable goals that you can reach gradually, and with a little flexibility. For example, you can go to the gym six days a week (most weeks), decrease your sugar intake (and let yourself have a treat sometimes), and have a more positive relationship with your family (including give and take from both sides and the ability to express yourself when something doesn’t go right), and these slightly modified changes will still likely increase your health and well-being immensely.
Here are some 2014 resolutions that are achievable and can take you on the path to a healthier self! Go ahead and pick one a month to work on, start them all at once, or make your own list. If the big goal resolutions work for you, keep doing what works.
We all know that water is so important to our health, and yet most people also know they aren’t drinking enough. Most people should aim to drink ½ their body weight in ounces of water per day, but talk to your doctor to see if you have any medical conditions that change how much you should be drinking. Herbal teas count, but caffeinated, sugary beverages and fruit juices do not.
Tip: Having a water bottle on hand throughout the day is a helpful reminder. You can even label water different levels on the bottle to show you how much water should be gone by certain times in the day.
Naturopathic doctors love using hydrotherapy (the application of different water temperatures) to help boost immunity, improve blood flow, and hasten healing time. It’s so easy (and free) to incorporate this powerful modality into your daily life for free! Simply turn the water temperature cooler for 30 seconds at the end of your shower.
Tip: You can alternate between warm and cool water a few times for additional benefit. Just make sure to be warmed up in between each alternation and finish on the colder temperature.
Eat sitting down
Digestion is so important to health. Improving digestion can be as simple as being mindful when you are eating and having your parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest and digest” part, active while eating. Turn away from screens and work and take a few minutes to sit and chew your food.
Tip: Eating with friends or family can help boost mood and improve digestion.
Laughter is really so important to our health. Surround yourself with people that make you laugh, read a funny book (David Sedaris is my favorite funny author), go see a comedy show, or join an improv class. Find something that makes you laugh and enjoy it regularly.
Tip: We know that when we are happy, we smile, but this can go the other way too! Making yourself smile can improve mood.
If you hate the gym, don’t make this about the gym. Find something else you love to do that gets your body moving. There are so many great classes for all different types of activity and so much nature to explore on foot. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Consider: Zumba, kickboxing, hiking, skiing, walking, yoga, pilates, biking, trail running, rock climbing, dancing, joining a recreational sports team, swimming, etc.
Tip: Finding something that you actually enjoy doing can help keep you active all year long.
Sally Machin, NCNM Naturopathic Medicine Program. Edited by Dr Elise Schroeder