Well, the year is coming to an end in just a few short hours, and many people spend this time reflecting on the year that's passed and creating hopes for the year to come. How about you?
Resolution or Intention?
Personally, I don't like New Year's resolutions because they're too easy to break. To me, resolutions feel like promises I'm making to myself under duress, knowing full well that the majority of resoutions are not really accomplished.
While it may seem like splitting hairs, I prefer to set intentions for the New Year rather than make resolutions. For me, intentions feel like things that I would like to accomplish and will do my best to do, but it falls short of the sacrosanct promises that resolutions seem to engender.
So, I set intentions for the year, release their fulfillment to my highest good, and move on with my life, keeping my intentions squarely in mind.
Dietary Resolutions: Never A Good Idea
In my book, one of the worst things to do on New Year's Eve is to make a resolution to go on a diet beginning on January 1st. We all know that the majority of diets fail, and if you happen to be looking back on a year wherein you ate poorly and made bad nutritional choices, why would your behavior suddenly change when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st?
Rather than making a resolution to stop eating sweets on New Years Day, why not set an intention to simply be more conscious of your eating? You could set an intention of keeping track of what you eat for a few months in order to get a handle on your eating (sort of like keeping track of your expenses and income when creating a budget), but spare yourself the self-flagellation for not sticking to the South Beach Diet for the first six months of the New Year.
Exercise is a lot like nutrition and food: our best intentions can often go awry. I also don't like resolutions about exercise, like "I'm going to work out five days a week starting January 2nd". This type of resolution is doomed to failure in most cases. Again, this may seem like splitting hairs, but resolutions have a pretty bad track record, if you ask me.
If you're determined to make a major lifestyle change in the new year (and I do indeed encourage you to do so), try to look at ways in which you can build accountability into the scenario.
For instance, perhaps you have a friend who also wants to exercise more in the new year. You might make a pact to walk for an hour together twice per week, and your accountability will be having to show up at the appointed time and place every week---or explain why you didn't! This puts you and your friend in the position of being "accountability buddies" for one another, and that's (usually) a very good thing.
Accountability can also be created in the form of a chart. Sometimes, such charts can be counterproductive, but some of us like the satisfaction of filling out our exercise calendar each day. For some, writing "30 laps at pool" on the chart or calendar means more than simply thinking to ourselves, "I swam 30 laps today". And when there are 20 days filled out with a positive record of exercise, that can feel like a pretty great accomplishment.
Only you can know if you need an accountability buddy or other technique for encouraging yourself to fulfill your intentions. It's personal.
Be Gentle and Reward Yourself
Finally, be gentle with yourself in terms of your intentions, and be gentle with yourself when you don't fulfill them.
Also, be sure to reward yourself for a job well done. Perhaps the incentive could be a $100 shopping spree at the mall when you've completed two months of exercising twice per week, or maybe going out to a movie if you avoid sugar for five days. Or maybe an afternoon in bed reading a great novel. Make it count!
Over all, do what works for you, but be mindful to never create punishments for yourself! Punishments for not doing the right thing may only lead to despair and binges of even worse behavior. If you mess up, acknowledge that you messed up and simply start again. The guilt you may feel is punishment enough. You don't need any more!
So, relax, enjoy the New Year, welcome the opportunities that the New Year brings, and be gentle with yourself as you plan for 2014 and beyond.
Remember---rewards are good, punishments are bad, and anything you do to improve your health is worth its weight in gold!
Happy New Year!