OK friends, it's done and gone! If you were on a “diet” or had other resolutions you were working on in January … you made it! The first month of 2018 is over. How did you do?
Maybe you have already achieved your stated goal (no alcohol for a month, for example) or maybe you are still working on it (such as weight loss), but either way, the long-term goal is to continue these new healthy habits in some form and sustain that progress through the year.
I know many don't however. You know how I know? The parking lot at the gym grows suspiciously sparse all throughout February as people slowly lose motivation. Thanks for the parking spot though! And my calendar starts to book up in March, April, and May when well-intentioned resolutions don't work out and people realize the summer months are closing in.
Don't waste all that progress you made in January! Lifestyle change that produces lifelong benefits doesn't just happen in a month. Sure, it helps reset your mind frame and sets new patterns in motion, but the work has to continue over the next months and even years. Here are a few tips to renew that motivation and hopefully help you avoid starting all over from square one again next January.
1. Asses and learn
Assess what you learned over the last month, and jot down what you learned from it. Likely you found out something about yourself that may be useful in planning for the following months. Maybe it was taking on too many changes at once. Maybe it was learning how to process new and unexpected emotions that resulted from changes in diet, exercising or thinking. Or maybe you saw that your lab markers really do respond favorably from healthier habits. Whatever it is, jot it down so that you remember this going into the next month.
2. Never beat yourself up
Do not let perceived failure derail your efforts. So many people let a day or two of backsliding take their entire set of goals off course. The ol 'mantra is “well, I already screwed up, so I might as well go all out.” Avoid this thinking! We all mess up, and that is unavoidable. Learning how to deal with perceived failure and pick yourself back up again is an incredible skill. It's not easy, but refocus yourself and get right back up. Every day is a new day, thankfully, and a new chance to start over. Every time you do so, you are that much closer to where you want your mind, body and health to be.
Every time in awhile, take some time to visualize what you see yourself doing, eating or being in January of next year. That time will come quicker than you think, and obviously you don't want to end up in the same place repeating the same goals once again. Put a motivating picture up if that helps. Have a reminder set on your phone with encouraging words. Remind yourself in regular intervals of where you intend to be which should greatly increase your motivation to up in the daily work to get there.
This may already be part of your goals, or lifestyle, so if it is, go ahead and ignore! But if not, I include this here because moving your body incredibly supports our mind. If our mind is functioning better, we are in the best state to do what is right for your health. Over and over studies show that exercise improves mood through the release of endorphins, reduces feelings of anxiety and depression and increases energy. These are all things we need to stay on track with new health goals. If our mind is in the wrong place, we face an uphill battle. Now I realize incorporating exercise can be a whole thing in an of itself, but think of it as a mind activity instead and make it something enjoyable. It could be a brisk walk, a Zumba class, or dancing in the living room with your kids. The goal is just to move. Daily.
Writing about your progress weekly can be incredibly helpful as you move toward a new way of living. My most successful clients are typically those that keep a running log of how they are doing week to week so they can not only track progress but pinpoint areas that need some fine-tuning. Often it's only when we see our week in writing that we can objectively evaluate and make helpful changes that get us closer to our goals. You don't need to write every day, but at least weekly is useful. You might want to track things like daily food and beverage choices, exercise, feelings / mood, digestive symptoms, etc. Whatever you are trying to change, start tracking it so you can visibly see that progress over time. It can be extremely motivating to keep the momentum going, or it can provide a checkpoint to make changes if things just aren't progressing as anticipated.
Hopefully, these quick tips give you a few ideas to continue your New Year's resolutions into February and far beyond. You have already put in a good 30 days of work … don't stop now!