by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
It’s here! A New Year, full of opportunities and wonder. Make 2011 a year of self-celebration. Your healthiest life lies ahead. Awaken it. Live it…
As we approach mid-January, we’re still on a motivational high in reaching our New Year resolutions. Charged with the novelty of trying new, healthful dishes and learning new exercise programs, we’re well on our way. Bring on the unsalted soy nuts at three meals a day, in between 10 hours of vigorous workouts. Sound a little overzealous? Just a tad.
When setting goals for the New Year, we often use tricky language. “I’m going to start exercising/eating better/minimizing stress/spending more time enjoying life.” Start we do, often throwing ourselves 150 percent into everything at once. Disappointment is inevitable as burnout squelches the best intentions.
Instead, try this: “I’m committing to exercise/better nutrition/…” Everyone can start something, or even multiple things. Long-term commitment is often the real challenge.
Goals need to be precise and upbeat.
Bad: “I’m going to lose weight this year, even if it kills me. I’m also going to tone up, stop smoking, and get more sleep.” This reads more like a wish list, and the holidays are over.
Good: “I’d like to lose 20 pounds over the year. I’m going to 1.) skip late-night snacking and 2.) add a mini 20-minute workout to my regular routine every other day.”
Good: “This year, I’m committing to exercise. In January, I’ll try a new Group Fitness class. In February, I’ll experiment with new exercise equipment. In March, I’ll re-evaluate what’s working for me and proceed accordingly.”
Perhaps enjoyment of that new class will lead to participation in other similar classes. Soon, you could be a Group Fitness guru. Detailed steps on how to proceed are essential. A plan-of-action should be created in advance. You know what needs to be done, so your former habits are less tempting.
According to MRI studies by brain scientists, such as Antonio Damasio and Joseph LeDoux and psychotherapist Stephen Hayes, habitual behavior is created by thinking patterns that create neural pathways and memories. These patterns are the default mode that activates during decision-making. To make a change, you need to create a new habit. With a specific plan-of-action, you already know how to respond when faced with the smell of homemade cookies. Walk away. No thinking required.
Don’t Worry. Be Happy.
Try to begin the year with an open mind and heart. A landmark study showed success is usually preceded by being in a “flourishing emotional state where positive emotions outweigh negative emotions by three to one.” Often success is achieved because we are happy, rather than the reverse.
However, some may never reach the ideal state-of-mind. Physical and mental health issues can be an understandable deterrent. In such instances, support in the form of friends, family, and a wellness community can help you make the commitment, even during challenging times. So true the saying: Sometimes you have to jump and get your wings on the way down. It’s amazing how many people soar when they leave the nest of their comfort zone. Go for it! You have so much to gain.
It’s essential to remain motivated, not only as we kick off a new year, but also throughout the year. Work, travel, sickness, and the occasional rainy day can threaten to derail our best intentions. Take it one day at a time. We all know how quickly the days pass. Soon, you’ll have succeeded in your efforts for a week, then four weeks, followed by months. And, do your resolutions a big favor: Don’t write off the entire year because of one bad day. Each day provides another chance, a fresh start.
Sprinkle in small goals that may be easier to achieve. Succeeding in these provides an opportunity for positive reinforcement. It’s great motivation and a confidence builder. Some small steps toward a healthier lifestyle may include: improving your posture, noticing your breaths, taking five quiet minutes daily for self-reflection, or doing a morning stretch.
Consider someone who wishes to lower cholesterol levels. Success is far more achievable if s/he doesn’t overwhelm with thoughts of a complete lifestyle transformation. Instead, an action such as becoming a Center member may lead to that transformation through multiple, more achievable ways (for example, nutrition classes, nurse counseling, and customized workouts).
Stick with small changes toward better health. As you progress, you may then become honestly ready to let go of any unhealthy behaviors. Confidence builds a positive mindset, which is the best climate for setting goals.
All Revved Up with a Place to Go
Unlike a warm, sunny summer’s day, New Year’s resolutions are made in a less inspiring setting. Dark, dreary weather could have your mindset frozen in a work-eat- TV-sleep pattern. (Unless, of course, you live in tropical climates, in which case you’re probably resolving to wear more sunscreen and pick your own fresh fruit. Ah, the life.)
Member Heather Sensi finds Group Fitness is the ideal solution to this winter-doldrums mentality. “In a fitness class, I work out harder than I would on my own. And, I do it alongside the best people in the area.”
For those challenged by seasonal fatigue (including all four seasons), energize through Group Fitness. One member indicates the enthusiasm shared in a supportive group environment motivates her to accomplish more workouts, which creates more energy and leads to increased exercising, calorie burning, and overall happiness. It’s cyclic. Jump in!
Fitness takes center stage at the Biggest Center Loser contest. Experts recommend making your resolutions public for better success. Join a fitness contest at the Center or participate in a community athletic competition. These are great ways to hold yourself accountable.
The Biggest Center Loser contest begins in February. Be challenged to try new classes, learn new programs for the Exercise Floor, and experiment in the Pilates reformer studio. You even earn points by completing your complimentary nurse and personal training evaluations. These routine checks offer a great chance to acknowledge your accomplishments along the way, a critical boost to propel you further along your journey. Everyone walked away a “winner” last year.
Group Fitness holds quarterly Body Training Systems (BTS) launches. Fun themes introduce members to the newest fitness moves. Excitement radiates from the instructors and members who consider this a fitness pep rally that energizes their routines. Changing up your exercise routine eliminates boredom from a stale workout. It’s also more effective at obtaining results.
See “This Holiday Season– Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy,” (www.fitnessandwellnessnews.com/health/this-holiday-season-eat-drink-and-be-healthy, November 24, 2010) for more on keeping the momentum.
Often in life, we don’t really know what we want. We know what we do not want. We know what others want. Perhaps we even know what others want for us. Before you consider making any changes, improvements or otherwise, determine what’s at the heart of them. Why? How? What does it mean to you? Make it personal and make it clear. A goal that is not meaningful is always just out of reach.
“Why Most New Year’s Resolutions Are Guaranteed to Fail,” by Robert Pagliarini at www.moneywatch.bnet.com.
“Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail,” by Ray B. Williams at www.psychologytoday.com.
“7 Common Reasons People Fail New Year’s Resolutions,” by Lawrence Cheok at www.dumblittleman.com.
Introductory photo: www.flickr.com/photos/kelvin_luffs/3457687245/
Grains of sand: www.flickr.com/photos/mark_bowman/4084738913/
Woman in thought: www.flickr.com/photos/reconstructionist/3141529069/