New Year's Resolutions: Do they work?
As we move into January, we meet a new cycle, a new year and it can offer us a time to reflect and ponder and move on with new plans concerning our health and wellbeing. However for so many of us, these plans end up stumbling at the first hurdle…we know we want to improve our health, feel more vital, less grumpy, exhausted and lacking in confidence so what stops us from following through with these plans? Why is it that every year when January comes along so many of us feel inclined to make big gestures concerning our health, with New Years Resolutions etc which usually by February have fallen by the way side and we are left feeling guilty and put off? Do we set ourselves up to fail?... and why are so many of us deflated by February because we have not kept our often well intentioned resolutions? Making the New Year Special It is true that we are completing a cycle, there is a change of sorts, but in reality the December 31st is not really different from January1st. We are the ones who make a big deal out of it, the planet continues to spin, the sun rises and sets, the seasons change, but for one reason or another we have got slightly resolute or panicky when it comes to the end of the year and making changes in our lives. It does not matter what day of the year we start, it is the fact that we start that matters. If you are feeling the pull to change something, that can happen on any day of the year. Making it about every day small choices and not big gestures once a year, is more realistic and way more supportive. Resolutions of Giant Proportions
All of those regrets and guilt about not taking care of ourselves can build up over the year and can often turn into a bucket list of giant proportions come the 31st of December. We try to go cold turkey on nicotine, alcohol, sugar, carbs, and learn the guitar, go to the gym 3 times a week and not swear etc...all in one go! I exaggerate, but we put so much pressure on ourselves and do not put in place any realistic goals and then berate ourselves when we fail to achieve what we have set out to do. There is a clue here, the magnitude of our resolutions list may be telling us that it is more supportive to respond to what needs to happen throughout the year and not ignore and override the signs our body shares, the health issues and those beautiful moments of inspiration and clarity that come to us to make changes. Not living with regrets, is rarely about driving through Arizona on a motorbike or reaching the summit of Everest…it is really much more about taking care of our body into old age, nurturing and maximising our relationships and not ignoring the inner voice that lets us know when things are not feeling right and we need to shift something in our lives. So it is vital to keep any commitments that you make to your health: realistic, simple and tangible. Making Changes on a Shaky Foundation You cannot build a house on sand, we all know this….so how come most of us over-indulge and exhaust ourselves over the Christmas break and then believe our bodies will respond to 3 intense gym sessions a week with a zero sugar and carbs diet in January?! Making sustainable changes to our health comes from developing and building our foundation steadily, from the ground up. We can do this every day, beginning with everyday seemingly small changes, be it drinking a little more water, watching less TV, spending more time with our loved ones, replacing processed sugar with fruit or honey, taking a regular walk etc…Doing so you will find a foundation can be established bit by bit that supports more apparent ambitious activities and experiences, such as cutting out all processed sugar, a new gym programme and yes perhaps even hiking up a mountain or two if that's your thing… January is Cold in Northern Europe January is often colder than December in the UK, when we make that plan to go running every morning, we often neglect to bring our attention to the season, it is dark, cold and waking up in the dark can be tricky for some of us. If we ignore what the season is reflecting we are more likely to call it quits when the dark, cold days continue. We can still be active and be outside, but be realistic about what this will mean, whether it is a 30 minutes walk, or run once or twice a week, or you could try a swim or the gym until the weather improves. Build up your exercise programme gently, make it work for you and enjoy it and then move on to develop it further, spring will be along soon and this season offers a time of growth, expansion and exploration. Some Keys to Health: Keep it simple and steady. Do not underestimate the power of exercising and stretching 10 minutes a day at home or going for a short walk regularly. The regularity is the key here, it does not need to be an hour at the gym threes times a week to start off with (although great if that works for you!) Even breaks from the screen at work for 5 minutes, a stretch before bed, drinking more water, checking in with how we feel, going to the bathroom when we need to, having a bath instead of watching TV all support our every day wellbeing.
Claim It for Yourself. No diet, fitness routine...etc will be sustainable if you do not feel like it is meaningful for you and so make it your own. Often we seek solutions from others without looking at what we can do for ourselves in every day life. There maybe a professional, a therapist, a friend, an inspirational presenter, a book that supports you to explore your health and wellbeing, but without making the journey your own it will not last and you may wonder why you are doing it and lose focus and commitment. Make sure that everything you choose is for you to support your body and your health. Do it your way. This may seem to take longer, but it is the long game, born out of true commitment, experience and understanding. When things get tricky or difficult as they sometimes do, understanding your own journey and not just following someone else's ideas will bear fruit and be deeply supportive. Listen to Your Body. Keep listening to and learning from your body. It tells us everything we need to know concerning our health and wellbeing. If you feel like you need a change or detox, allow your body to guide you and give yourself the space to go steady with it. Do not try and eliminate everything you think is ’bad’ for you at one time, take your time, and explore what does and does not support your body. Listening to your body can also be a great confirmation and motivation as we get to feel how even simple small changes can make a big difference in a short time.
Be Honest. When we make it about doing something new, we do not resolve or deal with the old habits we have…it is a little like putting a small plaster on a very big cut…the plaster just will not do the job. For example if you have reached into the fridge for a glass of wine and slumped on the sofa in front of the TV, most evenings for the last 15 years it is a habit the body remembers as much as your brain (although your brain being part of your body, but sometimes needs reminding..) It is almost near impossible to change habits if we do not look at how they are entrenched and fueled by our everyday choices. Being honest does not mean being critical or judgemental, but observing the habits we have and why we might be hanging on to these habits. So making changes to our health and wellbeing is about making simple and practical daily choices regarding our lifestyle to support sustainable long term changes, but significantly it is about being honest about what does not support us with our preexisting established everyday choices. Have Another Go... Do not allow yourself to be put off, feel bad, feel ashamed for going off track. Be honest and responsible about it, if you happen to notice you forget to exercise for 3 weeks and have started to feel achy in the lower back, take note, move on and have another go.... Do not hinder yourself. Any day and any moment is an opportunity to change and every moment choosing self-care is a worthwhile choice that supports you. It is never too late to make changes. It does not matter what has gone before. Just brush yourself off and have another go again..and again… Appreciate. There is no point in deciding to start to shift things if you do not appreciate the changes you are putting in place. Being aware of the subtle changes in how your body feels, whether it is more flexibility or feeling more vital, sleeping better, hair and nails looking more healthy etc, means you will be motivated to give it another go, because you can feel the benefits. Framing your perception around the times you forget, that you are not doing well enough, or enough, or as good as someone else, means that whatever changes you have put in place are just not going to be sustainable, you will see them as chore that you are just not very good at. Be it keeping your house or admin in order, going for a walk, stretching, attending an exercise class, being gentle with yourself…always be honest and take a moment to appreciate when you say 'yes' to self-care and be understanding with yourself when you say 'no' and look at why. When you appreciate the yes moments they build up and this is your precious and sustainable foundation. Have a wonderful New Year with all that it brings in way of life, learning, exploration and remember the 'Keys to Your Health' are whatever supports you to live and feel vital, confident and well - this is very much a self embodiment of self care for every day wellbeing. No perfection required, just appreciate and if you stop, get despondent and deflated, gently get back up, have another go again and again….Enjoy!
About the author: Samantha Mooney. I was a self-confessed 'gym phobic' and 'treat seeker' a few years back: sofa slouching, wine glugging, excuse making and self doubting were habits that were well...habitual, I was not someone who would be moved through guilt, carrots or sticks.…or other people's ideas...so no brussel sprout detox or mantras would move me to regain my health or vitality...besides I liked my treats. Any change that was going to come had to come from my choice, my willingness to embody (actually feel the benefit) of the changes made. I am now committed to my health and wellbeing and enjoy living well to support myself and others, and without doubt I recognise the benefits of making small, seemingly subtle steps towards self-care.
“The only way that I could make a real difference to my health was by getting honest, honest about how my body was feeling, I was bloated, I slept badly, I was achy and tense, I was exhausted and lacked confidence. Being honest is not about being hard on ourselves, it is about taking stock of what does and does not work and developing, nurturing and supporting habits that do work. Getting honest about the impact of those so called 'treats' has re-framed what I see as a gift to myself. This is a self esteem building exercise of significant proportions…understanding that I was well worth caring for and yes, if I forget, resist or sabotage my next steps toward true health, I brush myself off and with understanding start again and again and again…because it works and because I and we are worth it.”
You will find me running the clinic, North Cornwall Physiotherapy Inside Out Health & Wellbeing with my husband Andrew Mooney, understanding that true health and wellbeing is from the Inside Out. I run stretch & flow classes, I am a massage & complementary health therapist, I host workshops to support others with their journey back to true health, I enjoy making nutritious meals for friends and family without a glass of wine in sight and adore being with my two children, husband and dog walking around beautiful Cornwall. Please feel free to get in contact with us for advice concerning your *health and wellbeing. We have qualified physiotherapists, a remedial massage therapist and complementary therapists available to support you.
*Be aware that this writing is a personal reflection from the author and is not meant as a replacement to conventional medicine or medical advice and as a clinic we are very much committed to being a complement to conventional medicine and advise our clients and readers to seek appropriate advice from their GP and relevant specialist as required.