By Carol Phillips
The New Year is often a time of renewal. After the holidays, people’s thoughts often center on making positive changes in their lives, especially with a prime focus on health. However, setting new goals is often followed-up with a lack of follow-through. Here’s an easy, four-week plan to create a successful year.
Week One: Self-reflection
Spend a great deal of time thinking about who you are now. Life is always changing and the person you grew to know when you were younger may be completely different than the person you have become today. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. What works for you? What doesn’t? What are the roadblocks that get in the way of making healthy decisions?
Recognize the areas of your life that excite you versus activities that have become boring or counter-productive. Embrace the qualities that are positive and healthy and begin to think about slowly changing qualities that may be negative and unhealthy.
Week Two: Positive Thinking
Spend a full week “listening” to the dialogue that goes on in your own head. Are you self-critical or easily critical of others, even if you don’t speak these thoughts? Or do you give yourself positive messages and tend to think positively about other people? Those who participate in negative self-talk are much more likely to make unhealthy choices in all areas of their lives. Slowly and consciously change your negative thinking into positive thoughts, so positive actions will follow.
Week Three: Planning Small, Realistic Changes
Spend one week thinking about small changes you can make in several different areas of your life and choose behaviors and activities that appeal to you. Make “fun” the priority. For example, think of an activity you’d love to try, and then research a local class or group available. Sign up and put it on your calendar. Or choose a new healthy food to try and research the most popular way to prepare it. Another idea is to reduce your weekly activities by eliminating unnecessary chores, delegating, or learning to say no when possible.
Week Four (and beyond): Start the Fun
Begin each day with a positive thought and implementing small changes you find exciting. Life truly is what you make of it and healthy behaviors can be an exhilarating part of the journey. Here are some ideas to help you get started:
- Listen to upbeat music more often. Music stimulates the entire brain.
- Volunteer one hour per month for a cause you love; the more physical the better. Helping others feels good and reduces stress.
- Every time you make a healthy decision, congratulate yourself. Positive thoughts keep us moving in a healthy direction.
- Take at least one minute each day to be still and grateful. Forcing life to slow down gives us a sense of control and time to let our brains relax.
- Help someone realize one of their dreams. Working together can give us a greater sense of purpose.
Successfully implementing healthier behaviors does not begin with actually making the changes. Successful change begins with updating yourself on who you really are, learning what is most likely to work for you, and positively embracing simple changes that grow into lifelong habits. Happy New Year!
Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps companies significantly reduce costs and increase productivity through a comprehensive approach to wellness. Based in Manchester, N.H., she can be reached through her website at www.HealthDesignNH.com.