The usual knee jerk reaction from that toxic feeling of too much food and drink during the festive season is to get on a health kick in January. And so begins the resolve to eat less, excercise more, give up alcohol etc. Depending on our will power these resolutions typically last afew weeks before reality sets in. Getting back into the swing of life after the holidays reminds us how hard it is to find the time to go to the gym. We begin to miss the pleasure of all those foods we know are not the best for us…but they just taste so damn good! And the alcohol? well, we know that we were going to lay off it for a while…but making it through that first week back at work…we deserve a glass of wine come Friday afternoon!
Yes, its not easy. Thats why many people dont even bother with new year resolutions any more. Experience has taught them that they just dont work. The dissapointment and feeling of defeat that follows these unsuccessful attempts at changing our bad habits becomes too much and we eventually decide we are better off not to continue to put ourselves through the whole ordeal.
In fact what is supposed to be a good thing we are trying to do for ourselves turns out to be an unpleasant cycle of self-punishment and failure. No wonder many people just resign themselves to the comfort of the couch with a glass of wine or a packet of Tim Tams.
Set Your Intentions
Instead of making resolutions I know I am likely to break I prefer to “set my intention” regarding the things I would like to change in my life.
Assuming we have the power to change these things. Sometimes things beyond our control can interfere with what we are trying to achieve. In these instances acceptance is required so that we do not beat ourselves up over things we have no control over.
For example, it may be easier for you to succeed if your partner decides to join you in exercising more, not drinking during the week, or not having unhealthy foods in the house. Maybe having the kids back at school may make it easier for you to be in a routine, less sugar treats around the house etc. Or we can choose not to meet workmates or friends for drinks after work and go to the gym instead.
Aiming for perfection is unrealisitc and rigid. Life simply isnt perfect. Sometimes our resolve is strong, other times it is weakened by how we are feeling and what is going on elsewhere in our lives. Being too regimented in our approach to change is holding on to the illusion that we “know” life is going to be better for us once we have achieved our changes. Life is still the same with its ups and downs, victories and dissapointments whether our bodies are slimmer or more “buff”. We are not worth more as human beings just because we fit into a perfect size 10 or have bulging muscles. Certainly we can feel healthier and more comfortable but the secret is not in focusing on a fixed result.
Again, there are excternal factors that sometimes align with our intention, some within our control, some just coinincidence, that increase our chances of success.
Be Kind To Yourself
I recently had a conversation with someone struggling with a long term substance misuse issue. As anyone can imagine addiction is a very difficult thing to overcome. Many people are able to break free of this affliction, however there are many who cannot and never will.
For some of us our struggle with overeating or drinking too much is every bit as much of an addiction. It comes with all the same feelings of self loathing, powerlessness, hopelessness and despair.
My advice to this particular person, who was amazingly talented, intelligent and kind but suffering and very much in pain, was just to be kind to himself. Be loving, be kind and be gentle with yourself I said, and just keep trying. That is all you can do. You can set your intention and just make small steps each day towards your desired outcome.
His response was that he did not believe in “trying” and that he felt that the concept of “trying” was a cop out. His argument was that you either make the change or you dont, anything else is an excuse.
I couldnt formulate the words at the time, to explain to him what I meant. What I would’ve liked to have told him is that making changes in any area of our lives must become our “practice”
Make It Your Practice
A very small percentage of people are succcessful, in some instances, in giving up a habit and being successful on the first try. For the rest of us it usually takes several attempts. We have to be realisitic in our attempts. In our technical culture we expect everything to have a quick fix. We want results instantly with a minimum of effort. We often dont consider that when trying to achieve something worthwhile it can take time, patience and regular practice. Learning to play the piano takes loads of practice and many years to become an accomplished pianist. Think about how many years you studied and then worked in your chosen career to achieve the skill and experience you now have. Anything worthwhile takes practice, commitment and dedication.
We need to take this same approach to our health and lifestyle choices. We have set our intention to be more healthy or live more of a balanced life, now we need to put this into practice.
“Practice is the act of repeating something over and over for the purpose of learning and gaining experience.”
I make my intentions my daily practice. My intention is to listen to my body and what it is telling me. Do I need to slow down and be more present. Am I feeling disconnected? Do I need to spend more time connecting with friends and family and reminding myself that I am part of something more than just myself and work.
Am I feeling tired and sluggish from the foods I am eating? Do I need to make it a proirity to bring a healthy lunch to work or have more veges in the fridge so that its easier to whip up something more nourishing for my body when I get home from work? Depending on how much you drink, is it possible for you have a couple alcohol free days during the week or leave drinking for the weekend? Will this make it easier for you to get up a little earlier in the morning so that there is time for you to go for a run or bike it into work?
In this way we are not focusing on a rigid plan to perfection but we are re-affirming our intention every day to be good to ourselves, give our bodies what they need and really tune in with what is best for us physically, emotionally and mentally.