By Dr. Bikat Sahle
As we excitedly and boldly dive into 2014, most of us are filled with new inspiration, high hope, and energy to make the year our best yet in every aspect of our lives. We want to work towards living a healthy life, strive to achieve our impassioned goals, and see our dreams materialize. We become motivated to be physically fit, mentally strong, and strategically efficient to balance all areas of our lives so we can follow the path towards living our life to the fullest.
Usually by February (if not by second week of January) this passion and inspiration fades and our living will return to the usual humdrum existence. As the energy and motivation diminishes, the sight of the big picture is lost and we are back to where we were last year. This article aims to suggest the small changes that we can make to keep the flame of our inspiration aglow and to sustain our energy and motivation throughout the year. These are basic self-care strategies that are within our control and can help us persist in pursuing healthy and goal-directed lives.
1.Take time to sit down and right your goals that you envision to accomplish in the new-year, break them into achievable small goals; then ask yourself what the anticipated barriers are, as well as having strategies to overcome those barriers. Ask honest questions, of what made it difficult for you to achieve some of your goals in the previous year and what you can do differently this year. Be daily committed to the changes you want to see in your life.
2.Remember the 21-day rule. When we make healthy behaviors repetitively long enough (exercise, healthy eating, reading, etc.), they become a habit engrained in our brain, and so they become much easier for us to do them. There is scientific data supporting the 21-day rule, that is when you repeat a behavior for 21 days, it becomes a habit. Thus, be determined to make the extra effort in the first three weeks to not miss the behavior realizing that once it becomes a habit, it will be an easy ride. This also means that once you develop the habit, you have to be careful not to let them slip when a distracting event occurs in your life. When that happens, have a plan to get back up.
3.In your daily duties list, include getting physical exercise as one must-do activity. The numerous health benefits of physical exercise in preventing physical ailments, helping in the recovery process of illness, strengthening one’s physical and mental stamina, counteracting with negative effect of stress, etc, cannot be overestimated. You can always start with just 20 minutes of daily exercise. Even those with a very busy lifestyle can find creative ways to incorporate exercise into their daily routine. You can be very creative with this. Remember, when you exercise, you can be more energetic and efficient to accomplish your other daily tasks.
4.Watching your diet. Today more than ever, we are learning about the connection between what we eat and our physical/emotional health. Making small changes of adding more fruits and vegetables to our diet and eating less fatty foods can be highly beneficial to our health. Some even advocate plant based diet. Making a habit of healthy eating can make the normally unpalatable foods more desirable. Eating healthy also does not mean starving yourself, which is equally destructive to the body. Moderation is key in trying to develop a healthy lifestyle.
5.Make sure to get enough sleep. When we don’t get enough sleep, we cannot function to our full potential the next day. Lack of enough sleep can significantly affect your physical and mental energy and functioning. So be disciplined to get the 7 or 8 hours of sleep per night. I remember a friend’s comment once, “there is nothing I value more than my health to allow it to take my sleep’s time.” Your dedication to get enough sleep means you are making your health number one priority. Watch for your sleep hygiene.
6.Take time for daily reflection. Whether it is journalizing, meditation, or prayer, there is scientifically proven benefit of taking time to relax, be still, and evaluate one’s life. Such activities give us a chance to be away from others and listen to our personal feelings, needs, and thoughts. One can always start with 10 or 15 minutes of quiet time and increase the time as much as he/she would like. Such daily self-reflection, meditation, or spirituality can give you clarity and empowerment for your daily tasks as well as your bigger goals that you strive to live for.
7.Feeding our brain with real food. Our technology based era seems to give us tidbits of information giving us a false sense of knowledge and learning. Real reading can enrich our lives by enhancing our understanding and facilitating behavioral change. Often, we rely on others to inform and educate us and we don’t try to check the facts for ourselves. By reading good books on our topics of interest or specific need, we may find our own answers. The learning and knowledge we get by reading can enhance our understanding of ourselves and others, inform us to make good decisions, and help us achieve our goals of improving ourselves.
8.Taking time to laugh and play. Laughter and play with others can be a good stress reliever as well as a way of connecting with others. When your daily schedule is filled with all the mentally draining and physically demanding projects, you need an outlet to relax your body and mind. Laughter is one good practice. But hobbies, social interactions, and other pleasant activities can serve the same purpose.
In summary, these health tips are about recognizing the benefit of the small self-care habits that we tend to neglect. To reach our grand wishes and goals, we have to be strategic in how we live our daily life, and focus to sustain ourselves to remain physically fit and mentally motivated.
The small changes that we make in our daily activities may be the key to achieving our goals this year! But the million dollar question is whether we consider our well-being and personal goals important enough to make the small necessary changes. If not, this may prove to be just another ordinary year.