It’s January 2. It’s a new year. Are you feeling just a slight twinge of guilt for imbibing a bit too much bubbly on New Year’s Eve, or for eating too many chicken wings during the college games on Friday?
If so, stop beating yourself up over it and realize that the rest of the year stretches out in front of you. You won’t fail for the year based on one misstep (or several). Take a deep breath, take stock and move forward, confident that this is the year to adopt healthy habits and achieve new goals — some of them that have nothing to do with diet and weight loss.
It helps to realize that physical wellness contributes to overall health; getting fit promotes satisfaction, productivity and an enhanced sense of well-being in all the areas of your life. So if you made some health resolutions as the old year ended, now’s the time to put them into action. If you didn’t bother, why not resolve to take the first step?
You’ll do your heart, lungs, complexion, muscles and bones a big favor by losing weight, eating more nutritious food and getting more exercise, not to mention increasing your happiness quotient by adding some other good habits.
Just remember that if your plans include an active exercise program or an extended plan for weight loss, it’s wise to get a go-ahead from your doctor first. Then, take those first steps; it all gets easier over time.
Here are some ideas to help you stick to those resolutions:
- Set a goal that has nothing to do with food or the number on the scale. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a weekend in the mountains, a Caribbean cruise, a weekend fishing trip or a regular game night with friends. Plan to reward yourself with enjoyable activities as you work towards wellness and a well-ordered lifestyle. Don’t necessarily tie those good things to specific goals, but at the same time don’t let yourself off easy when you backslide. Just get back on track.
- Have your significant other or a close friend take a picture of you today. Follow up with another the first of February, and every month thereafter. If you have no specific weight loss goal in mind, the photos will be a reminder of your year’s journey to betterment, and you will notice — and appreciate — the changes a year makes.
- Unplug regularly. Put your phone down. Turn off the radio or television. Sit. Sit alone. Think. Or not. If you’re at work, walk away from your desk and find a quiet place in the lobby to watch other people. Take a few moments to do nothing. This is not the time to engage in active medication or to practice yoga routines. This is the time to do nothing. Simply. Do. Nothing. Don’t buy a coffee at Starbuck’s. Don’t listen to music. Walk away from friends. Sit on a park bench. Think. Or not. Just be.
- Get out in nature daily. You don’t have to be in training for a marathon to take a walk around the block. Plant flowers, mow the lawn, rake leaves, stack firewood. Build a snowman. Deliver some library books to a homebound friend. Look at your surroundings, smell the flowers, listen to the birds sing. Connect with the world. Even if you simply sit outside on your patio to drink a cup of tea, time spent with nature is beneficial time. Psychologists and medical doctors agree.
- Set an eating schedule: Breakfast, lunch, dinner and a couple of healthy snacks each day. Try to stick to a routine that works for you, but remember that if you really aren’t hungry at the appointed time, you don’t have to eat. Learn to listen to your body, and stop eating when you are satisfied. Minimize always. Supersize never. In the same vein and for many of the same reasons, try to get adquate sleep each night. Getting up and going to bed at roughly the same time each day is mostly a matter of habit. However, indulge yourself once in a while. There is absolutely nothing wrong with spending an entire day at home in your jammies, curled up in bed or on the sofa with a good book and pleasant music.
- Learn what your body likes, as well as the foods that are good for your body. Learn to cook. Simplify. Eliminate packages and try not to rely on takeout. Master a repertoire of one-dish meals, simple to prepare entrees and crock-pot recipes. Learn to love salads and raw veggies. Concentrate on fresh ingredients, great flavors and appealing colors. Prepare a vegetarian dinner once a week. Grow your own fresh herbs and experiment with spice. Schedule a cooking weekend once a month and package individual servings, ready to thaw and serve in a hurry. Allow yourself breakfast for dinner on occasion. Scrambled eggs? Okay. Cereal? You bet. Remember how good that was when you were three or six? It can be just as good at 30 or 60! Comfort food earned it name for good reason. Go for the comfort when you need to.
- Smile and laugh. Really. Part of living the good life involves happiness. Even the Mayo Clinic agrees that “highly healthy” people share certain specific qualities. Cultivate friendships. Look on the lighter side, even if it’s watching silly reruns on late-night television. Think about planning an amateur comedy night with friends. Play dress up with your kids. Restore your inner child and make a serious effort to be anything but serious, at least part of the time. Both your mind and your body will benefit.
The new year has just begun. The days that remain are yours to do with as you wish. Why not make each one a day to remember? That way, in 365 days, you will be toting up all that you have achieved and gained (or lost) during 2016.