Change Your Habits to Change Your Year
The healthy habits we hear so much about this time of year can definitely change our bodies, but let’s try a new approach for the long haul. Forming a new habit takes commitment and maybe more than a little willingness to get out of our comfort zones.
1. Move: We all know this, right? But it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the notion that fitness is an all-or-nothing proposition. If we can’t exercise for an hour a day, we might as well take to the couch. Not so. Make a small change and build on that throughout the new year. Make an appointment with yourself so you are sure to get it done.
“Find an exercise routine that works for you and one that you enjoy,” Brande Yarborough, Senior Wellness and Membership Director at the George I. Theisen Family YMCA in Travelers Rest, says. “Take a group exercise class, find a friend or family member to work out with or hire a personal trainer. Hold yourself accountable and schedule exercise into your day like you would an appointment or meeting.”
2. Eat: Do yourself and your body a favor by skipping the cleanses and such this January. Make a change for the long haul that will kick fad diets to the curb. It’s health that matters – weight loss is just one part of that. A new book, “How Not to Diet,” by Michael Greger, a physician and author of “How Not to Die,” might be just the thing to help. The key here is that Greger’s work is evidence-based – and he isn’t trying to sell you a magic pill. All proceeds from his books are donated to charity.
Greger focuses on foods that enable weight loss while considering how these foods actually affect health and longevity. The book lays out the key ingredients of the ideal weight-loss diet, including factors such as calorie density, the insulin index and the impact of foods on the gut microbiome. And you might increase your overall health in addition to changing the number on the scale.
3. Drink: We don’t need bottle water here – Greenville is known for its great tasting water straight from the tap. A reusable water bottle is an inexpensive way to invest in your health and you get to contribute positively to the environment in the process. A stainless steel water bottle – or glass, if you’re careful – can help you avoid plastic and make a statement. Whether its adorned with beautiful florals or snarky comments, the bottle can be one more accessory that reflects who you are.
Try tracking your water intake for a few days. Doing so can help establish the habit of increasing your intake. Think of it as moisturizing your skin (and every other part of your body) from the inside out.
4. Take a minute: Whether your focus is mediation, prayer, deep breathing or just allowing yourself to daydream, it doesn’t take long for a moment of rejuvenation. Download an app with a breath bubble that encourages you to breathe in and out in synch with a graphic. It sounds simple – and it is – but it can instantly change your outlook. Make it habit to give yourself a minute just for you. Relax your shoulders, take a breath. Doesn’t that feel better?
5. Sleep: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults typically need 7 hours or more of sleep per night. More than a third of Greenville County residents aren’t getting that, according to County Health Rankings. Life happens, along with wakeful children, barking dogs and work deadlines that won’t wait. But as much as it is in your power, it is a free and wonderful gift to yourself to skip that afternoon cup of coffee, shut down Netflix a little early and just get to sleep.
6. Give thanks: Can gratitude become a habit? Isn’t it worth it to try? When it feels like the world is on fire, it can take effort to notice blessings. One easy way to reinforce the gratitude habit is to put it in writing. If a daily gratitude journal, whether paper or app, suits you, give it a try. Make a note before bed or while you drink your morning coffee. If that seems too much, commit to writing a thank you note once a week or even once a month. Snail mail that isn’t a bill or a request for a campaign contribution feels like a treat these days, so you will not only center your focus, but you will likely make the recipient’s day in the process.
7. Unplug: It was all too easy to establish the habit of constant connection. Social media, email and texts mean we can carry the whole world with us everywhere we go. While it might be a bit more difficult to break that habit and learn how to unplug once again, it is worth the effort. Can you set limits on your own screen time? How about starting with putting your phone away after a set time each day (and not at the moment you go to sleep)? Uninterrupted focus on your partner, friends or family is worth missing out on your notifications. Write down your goal and find a friend to help you stay accountable if needed.
8. Make a plan: A bullet journal (https://bulletjournal.com) is a habit tracker, calendar and overall life hack in one notebook. It is a return to paper that just might change your life. The method has become a movement among devotees that add color, art, custom pages and more to schedule and plan life by the year, month, week and day.
Jill Hendrix, owner of Fiction Addiction, has embraced it and she offers classes and a monthly BuJo Buddies drop-in session the last Saturday of each month. Enthusiasts work on next month’s journal spreads, share ideas and meet new friends (another very good habit to add for 2020).
“Bullet journaling has encouraged me to define my priorities and simplify my life, all while staying organized, productive and creative,” Hendrix says. “I simply love it and cannot recommend it enough.”
9. Help: A spirit of service can be cultivated by making it a habit. If adding margin to your schedule so you can help on a regular basis is new, start with something defined. Meals on Wheels (https://mealsonwheelsgreenville.org) is a simple and rewarding way to serve. It takes about an hour, and committing to drive at least once a month means you can sign up for a regular route. Once you’ve built that habit into your schedule, you might find that you want to serve the community in other ways. There are countless ways to get involved in service to others in Greenville. Doing so on a regular basis might just get you more than you give.
10: Encourage: This may be the simplest habit of all: commit to being deliberate about encouraging others. Lift others up, celebrate their triumphs, lend an ear. Encouragement is free and it’s a renewable resource that can make all the difference for someone who needs it. Here – I’ll start: Those changes you want to make and those new habits you want in your life? You’ve got this. I believe in you.
This article was written by Chris Worthy.
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