Ah the sweet smell of New Year resolutions! Maybe your's sound like: “Time to get healthy,” “I’m doing Dry January," or “This year I’ll run a marathon..." All of these and many other resolutions are great in that they are all aiming to achieve the same final outcome: live a healthier lifestyle in 2018. The problem is that these resolutions are a bit too broad and don’t contain smaller, more actionable, and therefore more achievable goals.
Great, you want to run a marathon, but what does that actually mean? Does that mean you follow a specific training program? Or does that mean you actually… start…. running? :-)
And how does one “get healthy” exactly? Does this mean you skip the cake at the office birthday party? That’s certainly no fun.
Or that you practice more self-care? More bubble baths and pedicures? Yes please!
It’s clear that many of us resolve to live a healthier life in 2018, but by making broad, un-focused, un-actionable resolutions, we set ourselves up for failure and disappointment. So I’ve created a short-but-strong list of six habits we can easily begin to implement today that will result in significant health gains over the course of 2018.
Wake Up Ten Minutes Earlier and Have a PLAN!
We’ve all heard the saying “the early bird gets the worm.” Let’s face it, if you want to be successful in most careers (and in some cases simply KEEP your job) the standard work day hours favor the early riser. Is there that one colleague that is always first to the office and cheerfully boasting about their 5 mile run at 6am that morning... in the subzero, windy, foggy weather conditions no less? Don’t you just want to strangle that person, while secretly wish you would BE that person? The natural “Night-owls” amongst us might think this sounds impossible. I too am very much a night owl by nature but several years ago I resolved to become a morning person, and did so. A few tips for success…
Be Realistic in your expectations. Plan to wake up 10 minutes earlier than your usual time every morning for a month.. Then another 10 minutes the next month, and so on. If you normally wake up at 9am and try to jump to a 6am wake-up call that likely won't last through the week.
Have a PLAN for every minute of your morning routine. Don’t tell yourself “maybe I’ll go to the gym.” Instead, plan the class and/or workout you are going complete including what time you have to walk out the door AND return from the gym by. Setting yourself up for success and fulfilling your commitments to yourself makes getting up early more desirable when you immediately see the impact.
Have your bags and clothes laid out and ready to go the night before. Not because it will save you time in the morning (that’s a nice perk), but simply so you don’t have to think about it. Even though I’m able to get up earlier most days now, that doesn’t mean it turned me into a high functioning, chipper, “morning person,” it just means I manage to get my day going earlier. My brain still takes a while for the fog to clear, so the less I have to think about in the first hour of the morning the more likely I am to get out of bed knowing I don’t have to make any big decisions. Making my morning coffee? Easy. Figuring out which #LadyBoss power outfit to conquer the world in that day?… not so much.
Exercise in the Morning at Least 3x Per Week
Planning to exercise is one thing, but executing on it is entirely different. When we schedule workouts in the morning we are much less likely to cancel due to reasons such as being stuck in the office, a work dinner popping up, anything relating to the kids. By scheduling your workouts in the morning you simply have a much higher likelihood of not canceling on yourself. Three times a week is totally doable too. Keep that contract with yourself and the next thing you know you’ve worked out at least 144 days by the end of the year. Using apps like Strava can be a great way to track your progress too. I love the social element of connecting with friends and giving each other “kudos” for completed workouts.
Try Intermittent Fasting
Do we even need three square meals a day? In relation to human history, this practice is relatively new. Intermittent fasting has received a lot of attention lately and for good reason, it seems to work well for most people. Always consult your physician of course before starting any new diet plan, and use common sense. If you are someone who is an extreme athlete, skipping meals might not be wise simply because you NEED more calories than most. But if you are someone who spends a majority of their time at their desk and not cycling 30+ miles per day, it might be worth a try. The human body is an amazing thing in that it can adapt to pretty much anything: exercise, heat, cold, and even diet. Just as with the most successful exercise routine being one that involves “changing it up” so too does this work with diet. Your metabolism can’t get slow if you are regularly confusing it with calorie intake or lack there of.
This sounds so simple but I’ve found it’s the number one thing most of my clients struggle with, especially when It comes to supplements. In January we get super ambitious, (and maybe feel a bit guilty regarding the recent holiday indulgence?) and order a slew of supplements only to end forgetting to consistently take them a few weeks later. News flash – many supplements simple don’t work unless you take them regularly. Popping a few turmeric capsules after a big night of drinking in an effort to reduce facial swelling and help your liver detox, while nice in theory, simply isn’t going to work. BUT, take your Turmeric every day on the regular and you can bet your liver will thank you, regularly, the morning after a junk food marathon!
Go To Bed 20 Minutes Earlier
Arianna Huffington has made us all extremely aware of how important a full night’s sleep is for optimal brain function, longevity, stress reduction and elevated mood. So, need I say more? (Can you say Sleep Shaming?) Try aiming for at least seven hours of sleep at night and ideally eight and be sure to schedule your bed time. If I’m waking up at 6:30am the next morning, I plan for eight hours of sleep and then aim to be in bed 20 minutes before that eight hour cut off. Ie: A 6:30am wake up means I have to be asleep by 10:30pm and since I’m not someone who falls asleep the instant my head hits the pillow, I aim to be in bed by 10:10pm to allow for the natural wind-down to dream land.
My yoga mentor always reminds me of what I think is probably the best habit to have in today's fast-paced, instant gratification world. She found in her years of teaching that so many type-A personalities just couldn’t be still and trust the lack of movement at the end of a yoga practice, during Shavasana. Clients constantly needed something to “DO,” a goal, a task, a purpose. So one day she simply instructed them to “DO……Nothing.” This made all the difference.
We are so tightly wound by the constant bombardment of media, marketing, bosses, spouses, etc. trying to get our attention that the idea of not being productive or consuming media, or simply not doing, is so foreign to us that it’s physically uncomfortable. We literally need to be instructed to just be. This year I’m kindly instructing you to make it your job to find those moments in the day where you choose to do nothing.