Most of us make the same ‘ol resolution every year – whether it’s to lose weight, go to the gym, quit smoking, travel more, volunteer or get involved in a new hobby or group, save money and so on, right? Each January, almost one in three Americans resolve to improve themselves in some way. However, a much smaller percentage of people actually make good on those resolutions and less than half (46%) of us are still on target six months later one recent study found. Sticking to resolutions is not impossible if you don’t expect overnight results. That means planning ahead for the almost certain bumps in the road on the journey.
Each year I’ve written New Year’s Resolution tips on what most of us want to accomplish as mentioned above. But instead of being redundant I wanted to share some NEW ideas to consider from health experts I’ve recently come across concerning mindfulness and positive thinking:
1) Be a Little Nicer to Yourself! – We tend to be our own harshest critics, whether we are aware of it or not. Shift from negative self-talk like “I wish I was ____”, “I should have” or “I’m not good enough” to Positive self-talk! Think about your accomplishments or successes. What is the best thing about you that makes you unique? What are you really good at? (make a list). Look in the mirror every day and say out loud three positive things about yourself and make it a habit! Mental health and internal well-being is so important. Positive thinking helps with stress management as well as your attitude towards yourself.
2) Aim to Be Present! –Whether you’re with friends, loved ones, exercising or working – try to stay more present and create moments of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. The difference is when you’re ‘doing’ you’re just going through the motions without much thought – like day to day. Being ‘present’ on the other hand means you are being intentional and focusing on what you are doing. For example – instead of rushing through eating dinner and looking at your cell phone, try to enjoy the meal and focus on the conversations. Make ‘being present’ a habit.
3) Eat While You Are Eating! – It is healthier to focus on your food and stop the mindless eating! We all know what that is. Focusing will help you be more satisfied with your meal, feel fuller and eat less calories overall, which could help lead to weight loss over time.
4) Figure Out What You Really Want! – Listen to your heart and trust your gut. When we stop and are still and think deeply about what is important, things begin to become clearer in many aspects of life. Sometimes is time to let go of things that aren’t working for you – whether it’s a relationship, a job or something else. And sometimes it’s time to go for what you really want!
5) Explore Mindful Movement! – If beginning an exercise program or getting more exercise is your resolution this year, consider a slightly different approach. Rather than setting a goal around losing weight or logging in a certain number of minutes of exercise each week, focus on making exercise or any kind of movement you do more mindful or meaningful. Whether you run, lift weights, do yoga or something else, try to be fully present in the moment and reflect on and express gratitude for all of the amazing things your body and your breath enable you to do. This is a good way to improve not only your body, but your mind and spirit as well.
6) Plan Meals by Thinking Protein First! – This is a simple, action-oriented resolution that can help you put together a more nutrient-dense and calorie controlled meal every meal you eat. When you plan your meal, first decide what the protein and vegetables will be. Protein and vegetables drives being satisfied and feeling full more than carbs or fats do.
7) Meditate for at Least a Minute a Day! – It’s important to know there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to meditate, so start small with a single minute a day, then over time increase to several minutes. Meditation centers on being conscious or simply being aware of what is happening around you as well as within you without feeling the need to change anything about the moment. It’s a time where you can truly look at and reflect on your own thoughts or feelings without judgement or expectation or interruption. Just being present in the moment.
8) Take a Walk After One Meal a Day! – One walk a day may seem like nothing, but 80% of Americans do not meet the CDC’s exercise guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise a week. Studies are showing that even something as simple as a walk can have a positive effect on your health. If you can walk right after a meal, you will have the added benefit of improving your body’s ability to use and process the carbohydrates in that meal, which can improve insulin resistance!
9) Give Mindful Eating a Try! – We’ve talked a little about being ‘in the moment’ in whatever you do. So it’s also a good idea to truly think about what you eat every time you put something in your mouth. At mealtime, stop all else you are doing, portion it out and sit down to eat so that you can truly enjoy the taste of your foods. This could help being satisfied with less food which in turn can help manage your weight long-term.
10) Push Your Regular Workout a Little Harder! – Exercising more is fine, but pushing that exercise a little harder may have bigger benefits. Don’t just exercise, exercise hard and long enough to get somewhat out of breath. If you can carry on a full conversation without pausing to breathe, you’re not working out hard enough. On the other hand, if you can only get one word out in between breaths, you may be working out too hard. So somewhere in between – short sentences in between breaths – is a good workout intensity.
No matter what your New Year’s Resolutions might be (quitting tobacco, feeling less stressed, eating healthier, saving money, taking real vacations, being more physically active, going back to school, cutting back on alcohol, losing weight, the list goes on and on), being ‘mindful’, which is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not over-reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around us, along with positive thinking can provide wonderful health benefits.
For information about the services or programs provided by Scotland County Health Department or for health information or presentations, contact Kathie Cox, Health Educator II/PIO and Active, Healthy Living Partnership Coordinator, at 910-277-2470, Ext. 4478.
Kathie Cox is a health educator and public information officer at the Scotland County Health Department. Reach her at 910-277-2470, ext. 4478.