There have been plenty of Decembers when I’ve made resolutions about things I’m going to change “in the new year.” But I don’t do that anymore…

Why don’t I make New Year resolutions now? There are at least a couple of reasons.

Reason number one is that when I was younger, I embarrassed myself by making a big fuss about the latest dramatic healthy lifestyle change I was going to make on January 1st and then failing miserably in just a few days. My thinking was that if everyone knew about my resolution, I would feel more pressure to follow through with it – but that didn’t happen; I just failed more publicly. I failed because I wasn’t actually ready to make the change, and because I set my sights too high. If I’d aimed lower, I might have been more successful.

Reason number two is because if I’m serious about making a change, I’ve found that I’m much more successful by taking action when it seems fresh and urgent or when it feels that the time is right. Which is to say, when I’m ready to make the change. If I have an arbitrary timeframe (like “the new year”), then I don’t feel the same sense of commitment to the change.

So instead of putting so much pressure on yourself to make big changes as of January 1st, think about the changes you’d like to make. Imagine the life habits you would have if all you had to do was snap your fingers…what would they be? Here are a few ideas for you to try on for size and a few tips on how you might pull them off:

Eat more fruits and vegetables, and eat three or four plant-based meals each week

  • Spend time with your cookery books, or browsing through recipes on the internet (including those on CALMERme.com!).
  • Choose recipes that incorporate more fruits and vegetables, that sound good to you, and that you think you’ll be able to make without too much trouble. (Don’t start with recipes that call for 30 ingredients and cooking utensils that you don’t already have!)
  • Make a meal plan that incorporates those dishes, spacing them out through the week.
  • Make a shopping list that includes any ingredients that you’ll need.
  • Follow through with your meal plan, and repeat for the next few weeks until eating more plant-based meals has become a habit.

Be more physically active

  • An easy way to kick this off is to make walking part of your daily activities, if you can. Take a walk each day – even if it’s only 20 minutes – before the rest of your activities get underway. The good feeling will stay with you all day long.
  • Try parking your car in the farthest space at the grocery store or at work.
  • Walk or bike to work instead of driving, if practical.
  • If you take public transportation to work, consider shortening your trip on the bus or train by walking to the next stop, or getting off one stop sooner.
  • If you can’t walk outside because of the weather or environment, walk around the hallways at work during your lunch hour.Image shows a woman being more active by weeding her garden, as described in this post on CALMERme.com
  • Tend to your garden, whether your speed is full-on vegetable growing, pulling weeds, or dead-heading roses.
  • Have some fun with it – join a dance club
  • Get a skipping rope and jump rope for a few minutes each day. (This is definitely one of those “much harder than it looks” activities!)
  • Use the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.
  • If it would be something you enjoy, join a gym or fitness class. Maybe the monthly fees will motivate you to keep at it. (That never worked for me…)

Spend at least 20 minutes each day on something that pleases you, whether it be talking to your best friend, playing piano, reading, or listening to your favorite music

It can be so, so hard to carve out time for ourselves, but the benefits can’t be denied. (See Ruth’s recent post, Finding time for the good stuff, for more on this.) If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else…

Image shows a woman taking some personal time to listen to music, as described in this post on CALMERme.com

If your guilt or sense of responsibility prevents you from managing 20 minutes at first, aim for just 10 minutes.

Until you get used to the idea that it’s actually a good thing to have some me-time, it might be easier to set aside those few minutes for when the rest of the household is out of the house, or in bed, whether that’s in the morning or at night. If everyone else is asleep, you’ll probably feel better about doing some quiet me-time. Listen to your music through headphones. Read in your most comfortable chair in the calm quiet house. Spend a few minutes with your favorite craft. Once you’re loving your me-time and no longer feeling guilty about it, make as much noise as everyone else in the family!

Have more connection with my community

Community. It’s kind of a big word and generally has a big meaning, but communities come in all shapes and sizes.

A community can be wherever you find it – at your dance club, at your book club, at work (if you’re lucky enough to work with people you enjoy), in your neighborhood, at your church, even with your fellow commuters – any place or situation that involves a connection between you and other people. Even your relationship with your best friend counts as being a community of two. (And there’s no denying that that relationship can be among the most important in your daily life.) You can be part of many communities at the same time. Those few minutes when you connect with others over a shared hobby, interest, problem, or task, can make the difference between feeling alone, and not. (Ruth’s recent post, The power of community as medicine, talked about how beneficial a sense of community can be.)

If none of these ideas resonate with you, maybe you could try volunteering. Every volunteer situation I’ve been in has given me a sense of community, even if only with the few other volunteers that I worked with. There is no shortage of groups that need an extra pair of hands to help out in every conceivable genre. There are plenty of websites that can help you. Take a look at CreateTheGood.org, GreatNonProfits.org, and UnitedWay.org. These are just three that try to match up your interests, location, and time availability with compatible volunteer opportunities.

Image shows a person sitting beside a lake, thinking deeply about what lifestyle changes to commit to, as described in this post on CALMERme.com

So, try not to jump into 2017 with a bag full of resolutions. Instead, take a few minutes to think about what you really want, and what you can commit to. In all cases, it’s perfectly fine to start small and build up to what you want. No one is looking for – nor can expect – perfection. Incremental progression toward a healthy lifestyle is an achievable, powerful, and empowering resolution to embrace. We’re rooting for you, so let us know how you get on!

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