Here we are, in February. How are you doing with your new year’s resolutions? I have to be honest: I did not set year-long goals for 2019. But a few months earlier, I did create a list of health goals that I had been working toward before the new year and now. Recently, my boyfriend had talked with me about his own interest in adopting many of the same health goals that I had. He wondered how I did it.
Everyone has different goals in their lives. I always believe that it’s important to have goals, because otherwise you would never be able to reach them. You need to set yourself up for success in order to get there. The foundation of a goal is in the simple expression of it. I personally wanted to improve my health back in October, after a week #vanlife-ing around the wine region of Western Australia and when I moved to Amed, Bali to teach yoga and enjoy resort life. My goals were many: 1) Exercise daily until sweaty 2) Practice yoga everyday 3) Meditate every day 4) Take a nap everyday 5) Follow intermittent fasting protocol 6) No sweets 7) No alcohol 8) Take my vitamins, and 9) Floss daily.
I am doing great. I started running again and got back into shape. I followed intermittent fasting, limiting my eating window to just eight hours or less a day. I practiced and taught lots of yoga, meditated daily, stayed sober and generally avoided sweets. Naps are awesome and feel wonderful. So is flossing, and I’m talking dentistry and not dance moves.
Today, I’m generally doing all of those things in between working, playing my ukulele and traveling. How does one integrate healthy habits into one’s life? Try these tips:
- Write down your goals. As I mentioned, the first thing to do is to make an executive decision to do what you want to do. It’s one thing to think about it. It’s another thing to write it down somewhere that you’ll see it again. You want to do what you say you’re going to do. It’s good character. Thus, you want to start working toward your goals if you write them down first. Goals are usually big-picture: lose weight, get out of debt, be a better partner. Once you have a big-picture goal, you then need to build on the foundation. What is the infrastructure to find success? It’s usually pretty obvious stuff, it’s just a matter of commitment. Lose weight? Eat healthy and exercise more. Get out of debt? Cut up credit cards, limit purchases and find another means of income. Be a better partner? Figure out what’s stopping you from loving fully by talking with a professional or with your loved one. Those steps are the new habits you need to foster. The habits are the infrastructure from which you create a new reality, one in which you’ve reached your goal. You can do it, but you have to work at it.
- Hold yourself accountable. There are many ways to do this. I remember when my dear friend and roommate Kerrie wanted to stop smoking cigarettes. Man, that girl was smoking a pack of Marlboro Reds a day! But she was ready, and we created a plan where she would wean herself off the Reds, change over to Marlboro Lights and then start to wean herself off of those. We tracked her cigarettes using the white board we hung in the living room. Every day that she succeeded in only smoking her budgeted amount, I gave her a star. She asked for my help, and what I gave her was accountability. And it worked! That was – zoinks! – 20 years ago. When I wanted to get healthy last year, I signed up to work with an online health coach who checked in with me and called me out when I was being lazy or felt like I “wasn’t getting anywhere.” Today, I hold myself accountable with an app called “Productive.” I am able to check my new habits off the list everyday and track how many days I skip (sometimes an ice cream calls me, what can I say?). I recommend signing up to work with a professional. Maybe this is a mental health therapist or a physical trainer. Whoever it is, they should be offering positive peer pressure to improve. You’re paying them to help you, so you might as well do it.
- Prioritize your time. We all have time in the day to do exactly what we want to do. That’s the cold, honest truth. If you say that you’re too busy for something, the reality is that you just don’t really want to do it. Now that it feels great to run up hills – seriously, today I felt like such a champ – I prioritize my morning run as something that I do right when I wake up. I know that if I try the same run in the mid-day, it’s going to be too hot and it won’t feel as good. But in the cool, morning air, it’s lovely to jog. So, I prioritize that over luxuriating over a cup of coffee … which I enjoy even more after my run and my morning meditation anyway. When I have early work calls, I may head down to the beach afterward and play in the ocean for a while or take a sunset walk. An hour and a half walk adds up to the mystical “10,000 steps” goal, but regardless I have to move my body. I like to exercise until sweaty. I want to do this. I make time for it.
- Feel the benefits. I didn’t drink alcohol for the month of October, and again, I did not drink alcohol for the month of January. And you know what? I felt great. I feel really good when I only eat a few hours a day; I eat whatever I want, just not whenever. I wouldn’t do that if it was a burden. I’m not interested in the drama behind change. I just want to change. By taking time to notice how you feel a couple weeks into the new habit, you should recognize if it’s working for you in a big-picture way. Another way of feeling the benefits is to engage in gratitude. I keep a daily tally of things in the day that I’m grateful for in my Gratitude Diary. I also write gratitude prompts for my friend Justin, who created a Gratitude 365 App. Whatever the method, this is worth integrating to find the success emanating from your new habits.
- Keep it up. One foot in front of the next: That’s the only way to climb the mountain. If your goal is “lose five pounds,” it’s not happening tomorrow. You have to focus on the journey of it, the actual new habit that you are creating to reach your goal. If your goal is to “stop being so anxious,” you have to put energy into making calm, mindful decisions every day. You determine where your energy goes. You’re moving your energy in a way that will realize your goals if every day you do a little or a lot to make it happen. Consistency is key. It’s like tapas, one of the niyamas taught in the Yoga Sutras. Tapas is all about the fire that is stoked within the body and mind as you burn off your obstacles toward uniting with your highest self. But it’s like boiling water: You won’t get anywhere if you keeping turning the water on and off. That fire has to go for a little bit before the water boils. You’ve got to keep at it to see results. And if one day you lose your resolve, recommit to your goal and get back on that horse.
Creating new habits for ourselves isn’t easy, but it’s really the only way you’re going to get what you want in life. And what do you want, really? I doubt you’ll say that you want to plop in front of the television more, that you want to scroll endlessly through your social media and that you want to judge others and yourself more harshly. There are certain things that we can all benefit from, and frankly, that’s the idea. The better we feel, the better we act and the more we work to improve ourselves, the kinder we are to one another. Then, the more improved our community will be – and the more improved our region, our countries and our world. Thank you for joining me in this effort. I’m cheering for your success!