Lose fifty pounds. Work out for an hour every day. Get in better shape. Stop drinking. Eat healthier. Run a marathon.
New Year’s resolutions—most everyone makes them...and most people fail to keep them. According to numerous sources, approximately 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail, yet the majority of folks still make them every year.
There are many reasons that resolutions fail, including making goals that are just too overwhelming and unrealistic. Simple steps and changes can be easier to achieve and still have desirable results.
Niki Campbell, owner of The Flourish Group, suggested five keys as the foundation of good health when planning resolutions: stress, sleep, hydration, food, and fitness.
“Stress is the biggest barrier in achieving a healthy lifestyle. We stress eat, we can’t sleep, we let it interfere with our lives,” she said. Managing stress can take many forms, ranging from making time for hobbies and exercising, to improving time management, talking about your problems with someone supportive, or even just taking a break.
One area that many people don’t examine is sleep. “It is so important to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Look at your sleep hygiene,” Campbell suggested. Your bedroom should be free of all distractions including phones and other devices and light. You should also have comfortable bedding and keep the temperature at about 68 degrees.
Hydration is particularly important and is often overlooked. “Try to get one-half of your body weight in ounces a day, especially if you have an active job. You really need to hydrate your body,” Campbell said, adding that it helps to fill a large glass or water bottle and keep it beside you to sip all day.
Food and fitness go hand and hand, according to Campbell. “Fuel your body for what you do. If you sit behind a desk, you don’t need as much as someone like a lineman out on the job,” she said.
She added that surprisingly, many women aren’t eating enough calories. “Women who have been used to dieting over the years may not take in enough, and the body will not perform as well and will adapt to not putting out more energy. Carbs give you energy,” she explained.
Choose quality over quantity and choose wisely. “If you have a sweet tooth, grab a piece of fruit for that afternoon slump—it will help satisfy your sweet craving as well as give you a quick shot of energy and fiber,” said Campbell. “And fat is not our enemy. It gives things flavor and helps you feel full. You need to find a balance.”
Everyone knows that exercise is important, but fitting it into a busy schedule may be difficult.
“The first thing you should know is that you don’t have to do an hour a day all in one chunk. I recommend 30 minutes five times a week,” Campbell said. Vary your exercise program with cardio-aerobic, strength building and flexibility exercises and perhaps most important of all, break it up into manageable segments.
“After you get the kids out the door, do 15 minutes of exercise, then do 15 at lunch,” she said. “Do whatever fits into your schedule.”
Yoga therapist and meditation instructor Cindy Ballard shared many of the same tips. “Be realistic. Take one or two tools that call to you and work with them within the time you have in your schedule, whether it is 10 minutes or one hour,” she suggested, adding that that time can begin before you even get out of bed.
“Take five to 10 minutes before your feet even hit the floor to notice breathing, thoughts and emotions. Connect to your ‘self’ before you start your day,” she continued.
Ballard suggested having a regular time and place for exercise. “ For example, if you work at an office or even at home, take a short walk at lunchtime, try a 15-minute stretch or yoga session, put some fun music on and dance. Another tip to get more exercise into your day is to park at the end of the parking lot to incorporate a brisk walk to and from your destination.”
Ballard also talked about managing stress through several techniques including conscious breathing, meditation and prayer, exercise and being in nature. “A few scientific benefits of a regular meditation or prayer practice are increased energy, stress reduction, increased focus and attention, lowered blood pressure, improved sleep, reduced depression and anxiety, a slower aging process, and increased productivity,” she said, citing Harvard University studies.
Simply spending more time in nature can also be a health benefit and if you can get in your exercise while being in the woods or enjoying a park or beach, why not?
“Some benefits of being in nature are increased happiness, more natural light (Vitamin D), increased space between thoughts, shift in perceptions, improved focus and attention, awareness of the vastness of nature, and increased immunity,” Ballard said.
Switching to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) can help with healthier eating as well. Not only does a subscription mean healthier, local food, you support local farmers. There are numerous local CSA farms including Who Cooks For You, Tiny Seed Farms and Harvest Valley who offer seasonal service as well as year-long service from Harvie Farms.
“Add instead of taking away,” said Ballard. “Adding a tool to your daily regime instead of trying to replace something will help to maintain consistency. For example, just add food that is nutritious without taking other foods away. Eventually, the foods that feel good for your body and energy levels will increase and the other foods that are not so good for you will fall away on their own,” she said.
Remember, resolutions don’t have to be an all or nothing idea. “It’s a process. This is for the rest of your life. Find something that you like to maintain,” Campbell said.
And don’t expect to be perfect. “You aren’t going to be. If you get off track, pick one thing and start doing that again,” she added. “You can’t do it all well all of the time.”