We've reached the New Year. A turn of the calendar which causes many of us think back on the year that has been and, of course, eagerly await the year to be. Over the last few weeks there have been a many festivities, gatherings, shared meals, and high expectations. In the aftermath of this comes “holiday remorse” and a series of grand, sweeping resolutions.
The celebration of the promise of a New Year somehow seems to be tied to over-reaching expectations for the year ahead. I will….lose weight, start to exercise, get more organized, etc. The challenge is that many people do this in an absolute fashion. It’s all or nothing for the diet, the gym, the insert-your-choice-here. Many trainers at the gym will laughingly tell you that although the gym gets very crowded in January, in another 30 days it will empty out again. People will start the New Year with good intentions and lots of motivation. But if all they've done no mental preparation other than making a vague promise to themselves, it is overwhelming. And ultimately it doesn’t last long.
Instead of working in absolutes consider how you can slowly and mindfully make changes. If you implement just one or two at a time, they are more likely to stick. For example, if you are trying to break a fast food habit instead of never ever ever going to a fast-food restaurant again start small. Perhaps you give up the soda. Then cut down on the number of times you actually go out for fast food. Next downsize the meal (get a Jr. burger and a small fries). Eventually it will not even be a temptation. If you start by saying, “That’s it, I’m never eating fast food again” chances are higher than average that you will not have much success. Often within a short period of time you may find yourself once again standing in line to order and feeling really bad about it. Feeling bad about it may be modestly motivating in the short term, but I believe it just helps build up that “I don’t care” callus and gets in the way of making positive changes.
Don’t make grand sweeping resolutions. There is no need to tie all of your motivations and changes to one day. Instead try to live mindfully; to make thoughtful, achievable choices. Don’t make a huge, possibly overwhelming, promise to yourself. Consider a modest goal that, when you reach it, will make you feel good about yourself and encourage you to keep going.
Some suggestions might be
- adding a gratitude practice to your day – writing down 3-5 things a day that you are grateful for
- planning to turn off or not answer the phone the first 15 minutes after you arrive home from work to give yourself some decompression time
- deciding that at least one day a week you will set a beautiful table for yourself and your family to eat dinner
- choosing to eat one more serving of vegetables a day than you normally do
- Learning to read food labels and understand them so you can make healthier choices
Think about what you want to achieve, why you want to accomplish that goal and a small step as part of the process to get you there. With this kind of mental preparation and reasonable expectations you will achieve your goals.
Mira Dessy is a Certified Nutrition Education and author of The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what's really in your food. Mira is a professional member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior, and the American Holistic Health Association. She can be found online at http://grainsandmore.com.