Mindful awareness

Monday, January 24, 2011

Maintaining “Resolve”

This is the last full week of January; how are you doing with your new year resolutions? People have usually begun to drop off their intensity and interest for the goals they set for themselves a month ago. It might be because their resolutions were too vague to maintain such as “I resolve to be a better person.” It might be because their resolutions were not reasonable such as “I will lose 10 pounds a month until summer swimsuit season.” Human behavior requires that goals be measurable and attainable for us to stay interested, such as “I will add two servings of vegetables to my meals each day” or “I will park at the far end of the lot to get a brisk walk each morning and evening.”

A clear difference between those last two “resolutions” and the first two is that the latter are set as intended habits. We can schedule our activities and plan our meals in a way that adjusts our habits. We can track our success in adjusting our habits by reviewing our calendars or activity logs. Scheduling, planning, and tracking activities make them more obvious and easier for us to maintain interest. For instance, I could decide on a healthy habit to omit sodas, alcohol and juices from my diet, drinking unsweetened water, tea and coffee instead. It would mean planning to bring a water bottle or an insulated flask of tea with me when I leave the house in the morning. I could track my success by marking days on a calendar indicating the days I did not drink calories. I would be healthier because I would have ingested less sugar and salt, reducing my risk for certain cancers, heart disease, and diabetes.

Oh, and by the way, I would have reduced my caloric intake by about 200 calories a day per drink if I omitted sodas, alcohol and juices from my diet, drinking unsweetened water, tea or coffee instead. It takes about 3500 calories to burn a pound of fat. So by cutting out sodas, alcohol, and juices I could eliminate at least 200 calories from my diet a day and lose nearly two pounds a month. And that is by doing nothing else! If my second new habit is to use stairs rather than elevators each day or to take a brisk walk during lunch hour then I would be conditioning my heart and lungs and burn even more calories.

If our new year resolutions are really ways to improve our health then we don’t need to become frustrated by setting resolutions to “lose weight” or to “get healthy”. Weight loss and healthy hearts will become welcomed secondary benefits to developing new healthy habits.

Think of a healthy habit you can adopt for the month of February. Make your resolution to change your habit, not to achieve a goal. Plan your day to include that habit and track daily whether you maintained your commitment. If you miss a day, just start over the next day without looking back.

Chances are you will have maintained that resolve longer than a traditional new year “resolution.”

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