Many people make New Year’s resolutions. Maybe it’s weight loss, a fitness plan, quitting smoking, or finally getting all that laundry done and put away regularly. We are six or so weeks later, though, and how many resolutions are still in place? Change is hard. And no one can wake up the next morning and be a different person. Maybe you’ve been stuck in a rut or feeling like your mental and physical health aren’t what they ought to be. Or perhaps you’re just tired of winter.
Making profound and sweeping changes all at once can often result in getting overwhelmed and tired. The brain uses up a lot of energy, more than any other organ in the body. If you’re finding that your will to keep on with the changes you’ve tried to make is waning, you’re not alone. Making lasting changes to your physical and mental health requires thought and planning. Here are some ideas for creating lasting change in your life:
We’ve learned better. This is not the way.
- Be gentle with yourself. Especially right now. Everyone’s mental health is challenging these days. A lot is going on in the world. COVID, rising prices, work situations, the world situation, and even things going on out in space. Be gentle. Take your time. You’re doing the best you can. Be mindful about how you’re talking to yourself. What are you saying? Is it negative, or are you telling yourself that you are doing just fine, and it really is ok?
- Get specific. What do you want to change? “I want to lose weight, or get outside more, or quit smoking” aren’t specific actions. They’re aspirations. “I will walk for ten minutes four days a week.” Now you have a specific action. Some other ideas for working on your mental health might be “I will use my CALM app for ten minutes and meditate three times a week” or “I will put on my favorite music and dance for a song once a day” or “I will call my best friend this week and talk to them.” The idea here is to be specific about what change you’re adding.
- When making changes, make them small. Notice what all the changes listed above have in common? They are small and manageable, not just specific. Working out at the gym every night, following your food plan perfectly, or spending an hour in mediation every day might be lofty goals, but they are not sustainable. And the key to change is making small sustainable changes. Pick one or two small things you can do. And these things can be REALLY small. If you’re trying to eat better, make a plan to buy five bananas a week and eat them or one head of lettuce. Don’t try and change anything else, just one small change. Same with moving more. Even small changes in physical activity can have huge impacts on mental and physical health. Even if your first goal is “Spend five minutes a day outside,” that’s just fine.
- Track your changes. You can use an app, a note on your phone, or even go old school and use a pen and paper. It doesn’t matter. If your goal is to do five minutes a day on the treadmill, or ten minutes of walking, or eat a vegetable at each meal, or meditate daily for two minutes (remember, your goals are SMALL), write out Monday to Sunday and then log it each time you do the thing. Whatever your thing is. See where you’re at by the end of the week. Did you do it? How did it feel? Whatever it is, you are now on the path and further down it than a week ago. Can you keep doing this new thing? Your changes should be easy, specific, and sustainable. The last thing you need is more hard things in your life.
- CELEBRATE! Celebrate this change. Tell yourself how awesome you are. Smile, take a deep breath and congratulate yourself for starting on the path to lasting change. There’s no magic bullet for change. There’s no quick and easy way. But choosing to start making changes that will improve your mental and physical health by making small, specific, and sustainable changes is the first step in the right direction. Step by step, small change by small change, you will go further on the path each week. And if you need help, we’re only a phone call away, and we can help you get the confidence to make a lasting change in your life a part of your life.