Healthy Habits Instead of New Year’s Resolutions
I find that there’s an aversion to the idea of New Year’s resolutions. It seems that the thought of failure is linked with resolutions like peanut butter is to jam or like healthy eating is to bland foods. Of course, sometimes those things are linked. But sometimes they aren’t. I prefer almond butter with jam. And of course I know and enjoy lots of healthy foods that are delicious too!
What I prefer to think of, however, are long term healthy habits. A habit is something you do without having to think much about it–“something that a person does in a regular and repeated way.” And, because of that, bad habits are hard to kick. But good, healthy habits can also be hard to kick, making us more successful at achieving our goals.
Have you tried something before without success? Why not try again, maybe with a slightly different approach.
Try Something Different
Every January, I get a bit restless. Throughout the year I intersperse hiking, cycling, snow shoeing, and SUP yoga into my routine. But I often feel like “kicking it up a notch” when the year’s number changes. In other Januaries I tried Crossfit, training for Tough Mudder, bootcamps, and return to step classes (my old fave). I liked some things about those activities, but I always feel a pull to return to my yoga practice.
This year I decided to see if any new healthy habits for exercise would stick. First I tried working with a trainer one-on-one. On the first workout she. Kicked. My. Butt. Can’t say I liked it. But the 2nd and 3rd sessions I felt stronger. It’s good to have someone help you evaluate what you’re doing, and I’ve recognized some areas of weaknesses that I can continue to build up.
The other thing I tried was a Moksha hot yoga class. I’ve tried Moksha before, as well as Bikram’s. I didn’t much like them then, but I thought I’d try it again. Nope. Too hot. Too stuffy in the room. Too hard to breathe, as a result. But the first 15 minutes (I went early) of lying in the heated room did loosen up my muscles from the trainer’s workout.
Though I likely won’t continue with these two particular healthy habits for 2016, it was well worth giving them another shot. For one, I re-iterated in my mind that I really like my usual form of fitness (body and mind) through yoga. I was restless. I am at peace again.
For another, it’s good to challenge oneself. Not that yoga doesn’t challenge me. It does. But doing something different brings another kind of challenge.
Tweak What You’ve Tried in the Past
And, here’s the last reason why trying something again can be beneficial. Maybe this time it works.
My friend was advised to do a nasal saline rinse. He told me that he had a horrible experience with that in the past. He had used a neti pot to pour water into one nostril. It didn’t come out the other nostril. It stayed stuck somewhere in his sinuses, he told me, leaving him with a horrendous headache. I suggested he try a “nasal irrigator” called Nasaline–what looks like a big syringe with a silicone tip at the end. Because the device allows you to push the fluid in a manner you control, instead of relying on gravity, I find it is stronger in its effect.
It worked! Had he avoided trying it again–same basic premise with a different approach–because of a past bad experience, he never would benefited from this easy solution.
What Healthy Habits Can You Try Anew?
Maybe you go to the gym, do yoga, eat lots of veggies, meditate, go for a daily walk, or come in for acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine tune-ups regularly (you should, you know). Or maybe you just make sure to brush your teeth after meals. Regardless, pat yourself on the back because you have some healthy habits you have maintained.
Now, are there some areas that could be improved upon?
If you are having trouble finding ways to make your healthy habits stick, ask me. I may know a technique, a person, a device, a simple tweak that will work better for you.
I hope this doesn’t send you into a panic, but we’re only a week away from Christmas now! For some, this time of year is exciting, for others it’s madness, and for still others it’s both. Holidays can overwhelm us with special sweet treats and the busyness of gift shopping, decoration hanging, and party celebrating, and it’s common for us to throw our healthy habits out the window. I’m not suggesting you skip all the delicious goodies and bah humbug your holiday to-do list, but it is possible to find some balance. I swear it’s true.
My 5 Fave Healthy Habits
I know, it’s the 12 Days of Christmas, so shouldn’t I write about 12 healthy habits? Maybe, but I also still have some holiday to-do’s that aren’t yet checked off, so here are 5. 🙂
Start the day with a healthy meal
Much better than a partridge in a pear tree is a healthy breakfast. You never know how your day is going to progress. Sometimes lunchtime ends up being shoved between chores as you drive from one place to the next. Or you’re scrounging through your desk drawer, hoping you left a package of crackers in there from last week’s soup. Or you’re so tired at the end of the day that you call a bowl of cereal “part of a complete meal.” Well, really, it’s the whole meal, but Tony the Tiger won’t tell on you. So, start the day with a healthy meal.
When I lived in Japan, I found out that a traditional breakfast includes fish, rice, miso soup, a boiled egg, a couple of little pickles, and maybe even a salad. I learned to enjoy that, but still prefer what I think of as “breakfast foods” to make up my breakfast meal. These are my most common choices for a start to my day. This one for warm summer months: see the Breakfast in a Jar recipe. And this one for cold winter months: Ready-in-the-Morning Rice Cooker Oatmeal Recipe. A healthy habit of having breakfast sets the tone for eating healthier for the rest of the day.
Exercise, in some form or another
I used to work for a gym, where I sold memberships and also helped train people on the basic use of the machines and set them up on a starting workout program, if they wanted that. I liked belonging to a gym. But I can understand why it would be less than appealing for many. And why many will not get enough (or any) use of a gym membership, even though the payments continue to be withdrawn. A workout doesn’t need to be a in a gym.
My preferred workouts are yoga classes (so much more than a “workout,” and my husband loves to bug me by asking me how my workout was, when I come back from the yoga studio), Grouse Grinds, snowshoeing (really hope to be able to get up there soon this year!), SUP yoga, a bike ride, or anything else that seems fun. Sometimes my workout is a silly dance as I clean house or procrastinate a chore. But it could also be playing tennis, running and playing with your dog, a brisk walk, tai chi class, dance class, swimming, skating, or even taking the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator (I love beating people to the top of the stairs when I leave a Skytrain station and they’re all still shoved onto the escalator). A healthy habit of exercise is one that you can sustain, regularly. Even when you’re super busy. Even though you’d rather stay on the couch.
Laugh often, even at yourself
I don’t “lol.” When I realized that LOL doesn’t mean “lots of love,” I realized that I’m going to write out what I mean instead of using cyber shorthand. I will “hahahahaha” if I’m texting or emailing though, depending on how funny I find the particular joke. I know I’ve inherited my dad’s sense of humour. I like “dad jokes.” I like bad puns, dumb play on words, and goofy groaners. I’d rather sing “three french toast” than “three French hens.” You hosers know what I’m talking about. The rest of you are probably not born in Canada or are just much younger than me. If you don’t know this, you can check it out Bob and Doug McKenzie’s 12 Days of Christmas here. If you don’t laugh, don’t blame me though!
I actually thought to name my business “Active Health Acupuncture!” (yes, with the exclamation mark) so that I could shorten it to “AHA!” I even gave semi-serious contemplation to the tagline, “Needles to say, acupuncture works.” Then I thought maybe about this one, “Dr. Carr, better at acupuncture than at tag lines.”
Laughter is a great healthy habit to take on. It burns calories, boosts mood, decreases stress hormones, improves immune function, and even helps relieve pain. So, if you don’t want to laugh at yourself, laugh at me and my ridiculous sense of humour! I have some jokes here on my blog, Seriously, Laughter is Medicine.
No, not a wifi signal. But real, true connection with another living being. The other day I was walking down the street, and the man I passed said, “Good morning.” I almost tripped when he said it, as it’s so unusual in Vancouver! But I did quickly recover and returned the greeting. My grandfather lived his whole life in a small town where he knew practically (or maybe even truly) everyone. When he would visit us in Montreal, he would tip his hat and say, “Bonjour” as we walked by strangers. Since the streets of Montreal are a lot busier than those of his small town, he could get quite busy with hat tipping and friendly hellos. And though people, like me, were first surprised, they almost always smiled and responded. Connection can be deep. Telling your best friend your deepest, darkest secret. It can also be superficial and light. All are important.
Believe it or not, deep in my core, I’m shy. I used to hide under my desk when I was a kid. When I entered university, I was a year younger than most of my friends, meaning that I couldn’t join them when they went to a bar. One night I had had enough of waiting for them to return, so I decided I’d had enough with being shy. Before I had too much time to think about it, I walked down the dorm hall, ready to find someone else who I could hang out with. I found a smoky room (not a healthy habit!) full of the kind of people that I was afraid of in high school. But I went to the doorway anyway and said hi. Turns out they were super friendly, and though I hate the smell of smoke and probably damaged my lungs just sitting in that room, I made some great friends. If you’re feeling a bit more hermit-like, try connecting with an animal or even a tree. I never consider the name calling of “tree hugger” as an insult. Finding connection is probably one of the most core to our souls healthy habits you can keep.
Act preventively, treating so you don’t get sick
Of course it makes sense to choose the path that leads to where you want to go. But then you also have to actually take steps on that path to help you move in your chosen direction. Knowing that you don’t want to get sick, and that you do want to live healthy so that you can do the things you enjoy and spend time with the people you love, means that you should be taking action to make those things possible.
Lifestyle choices and healthy habits, such as those mentioned above, can certainly help. But sometimes it helps to have a guide who can point you in the right direction. That’s where a health professional can step in. Natural healthcare providers, like registered Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine, often treat symptoms, diseases, and health issues. But we especially want to help prevent illness, and treat symptoms you thought you’d have to live with forever. Like the daily headaches I used to get, the sore back a patient became “used to,” the bloating another patient figured was just part of who she is.
What are your favourite healthy habits?