There are so many “New Year, new you” articles and offers out there at this time of year. The message: Your New Year’s resolution should be some kind of drastic change to your life.
I just… disagree. For one thing, you don’t need a new you—the “old” you is pretty awesome as is. And even if you indulge like crazy over the holidays, the antidote isn’t punishing yourself.
Think about it this way: If you have a plant that isn’t blooming as well as you want it to, do you tell it that it looks terrible, deprive it of water and sunlight (or give it massive doses of both), and generally treat it harshly? Of course not. If you did, its condition would get worse. Well, guess what—the same is true for you.
Here’s what I propose instead: Let’s make 2020 the year that you celebrate yourself. The year that you treat yourself with kindness and love.
Now, you may be thinking, “But I have goals! I want to lose weight/run a half marathon/look more toned/eat less sugar/insert your goal here.” Of course you do, we all have goals around our health. And no doubt you feel super-motivated as January 1 approaches to make this the year you do it, for real.
And you can. But instead of pledging to never eat sweets again or go to the gym 6 days a week or some other well-intentioned but likely unrealistic ideal, which will leave you feeling like you failed when it doesn’t stick, take some smaller steps. Make them simple and painless, and high-five yourself like crazy whenever you do them.
Baby steps aren’t sexy—they don’t make good Instagram posts or cocktail party chat. But they are attainable, and they give you wins to celebrate along the way. As you do that, you gain confidence, and you see real change, which propels you forward. The result: You don’t give up January 15th. And as the months go on, you see results, and your new healthier habits actually stick.
Here are some small steps to start with:
Go to bed 15 minutes earlier. We all need more sleep; better, more consistent rest makes literally everything else in life easier. Good consistent sleep boosts immunity, helps you perform more efficiently at work, helps you focus and make better decisions, boosts your mood and reduces depression and anxiety, and even helps you make healthier food choices. Bonus: More sleep = better libido. Instead of pledging to be asleep at 9:30 every night, just start with going to bed 15 minutes earlier. Bonus points for doing it without screens—read a real paper book or magazine instead.
Drink 1 extra glass of water a day. We don’t think of hydration as much in the winter, but it’s every bit as important as in the warm-weather months. Staying hydrated can help keep colds and flu at bay, aids digestion, keeps your skin looking fresh, boosts your performance at the gym, and more. Add one extra glass to your daily routine. Pick a time of day and make it a habit (if you aren’t already sipping a glass when you wake up, that’s a great place to start). Never leave home without your reusable water bottle.
Add movement to your day. Notice I said “movement,” not “exercise.” Of course working out is super important. But moving around all day is also critical. It can be a walk around the block after lunch, a set of push-ups or dips when you’ve been sitting at your desk for a while, taking the stairs once per day instead of the elevator, doing a set of crunches or just stretching a bit while you binge that Netflix show. This isn’t your workout; it’s just incorporating bits of movement here and then when you’d otherwise be idle. It doesn’t sound like much, but small bits of movement over time can boost mood and focus, help calm anxiety, improve circulation, help keep blood sugar stable and aid bone health.
Try these baby steps one at a time for a week or ten days. Once it becomes second nature, add another one. Give yourself giant props every time you do any of them—yes, every time. If it were your bestie, you’d encourage her with every step she took, right? Do the same thing for yourself. If you miss a day or slip, no biggie—pick right up where you left off. Before long, you’ll find you’ve incorporated a bunch of new habits, and your 2020 is looking great.
Beth Lipton, Health Coach