The New Year
Updated: May 11, 2021
2019 is here and there's no shortage of resolution talk flooding the media. But the reality is, most resolutions fail before the end of February . . . leaving us feeling pretty crappy before the year even gets started. So this year I have a few resolutions that are actually worth keeping:
Ditch the *Goals*
As a health and fitness professional I've been taught, over and over again, that those SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) are everything. For years I believed that the only way to measure progress was by checking off one SMART goal after another. Now I recognize that all this rampant goal setting has done is convince us that the only meaningful successes come in the form of six workouts per week or five pounds lost in a month.
What if instead you decide you'd like to be more physically active in the new year? Maybe that means walking more or taking the stairs. Maybe it means trying a new yoga class. It doesn't mean you have to get up at 5am to make it to the gym or workout when you're already super sore and exhausted - especially if it's just to achieve some meaningless goal.
It's difficult to quantify feeling better, increased confidence, or improved sleep. But these are important benefits of exercise - even if they don't fit into the SMART goal model.
So give yourself some flexibility in the new year. Don't be a slave to your goals. Honor your body by giving it what it needs every day - whether that's movement or rest, cookies or kale. Let your resolutions adapt as needed and you’ll find they’re much easier to stick to.
Get Some Sleep. Seriously.
If you're hoping to improve your health and wellness in the new year, your very first priority should be getting enough sleep. Before you buy a gym membership or a subscription to a meal delivery service do yourself a favor and make sure you’re getting your zzz's every. single. night.
Guy. Sleep is really important! The hours that we sleep give us time to reset so that we can approach every new day with energy and vitality. But when we are constantly running a sleep deficit our bodies face prolonged stress without much hope of recovery. Inadequate sleep has many health consequences - it’s been linked to increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes - all the stuff we usually blame on weight.
So how can you improve your sleep in the new year?
Set a bedtime and stick to it. If you usually get up at 6am, try to go to bed around 10pm. Of course, by the time you get into your PJ's and fall asleep, it might be a bit later and that's ok. But be mindful of when you're going to bed to ensure you have seven hours of quality sleep.
And speaking of getting to bed, work on limiting your screen time in the evening. Our devices are highly stimulating and can make it harder to fall asleep. Try reading a book or journaling before bed instead of watching TV or playing on your phone.
Use caution with caffeine and alcohol. Too much coffee, especially in the afternoon can make it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep. And while alcohol might help you knock you out, it can reduce the overall quality of your sleep.
There's no need to perfect your sleep routine all at once. Try choosing one behavior to focus on every day/week/month to begin building long-term habits for a better quality of life.
Sure, self-improvement is great. But are we glorifying constant progress over our own physical and psychological needs? What if instead of focusing on goals and resolutions and successes and advancement we let 2019 be the year we were simply more kind to ourselves?
When we have a little self-compassion it becomes much eaiser to reflect and make positive change. If you're always beating yourself up about not working hard enough at _______ you won't recognize that maybe you just need a break from _______ and when you come back to it in a few days/weeks you'll be more productive.
That voice in your head that pushes you to achieve might simultaneously be your best friend and your worst enemy:
"Come on, you can do it! You're awesome and you've totally got this!"
. . . OR . . .
"WTF, you're the worst. If you could just do this you wouldn't suck so much."
Maybe that second voice DID serve you at some point in your life. Maybe it motivated you to push forward. But over time it gets easier and easier to believe you actually do just suck. At everything. And guess what, that's not motivating. It's not helpful. And it's definitely not kind. Make 2019 the year you practice talking to yourself the way you'd talk to a friend. Acknowledge your challenges - they aren't excuses! - and let your kinder voice work out how you'll face them.
Wishing you all the best this year!