Resolve to Be Well in 2011
Try these tips for feeling great in the new year and every year.
The approach of a new year is a great time to consider lifestyle changes that will bring us more health and happiness. It's also a good time to review the past year for any improvements we've made, and honor what's already working in our lives. Another New Year's Eve practice I like is the "burning bowl" ceremony, in which we write down things that we want to shed and burn the pieces of paper to release the old. We then write down the positive ways we want to feel in the new year, along with some strategies to get there. I asked some Arlington wellness practitioners to share their strategies for implementing healthy changes with us.
Set Yourself Up for Success
People often set their new year's goals too high, says Barbara Gosselin, an Arlington Physical Therapist and Holistic Bodyworker. If those goals aren't met, it can trigger a sense of failure that feeds the very patterns we're trying to break. Instead, says Gosselin, set goals that you're likely to accomplish.
"If you want to start a fitness regime, don't say 'I'm going to the gym every day,' as this is probably difficult to accomplish if you aren't currently working out at all," says Gosselin. "Instead, set incremental goals, like going to the gym twice a week, and feel really good when you do that."
Once you establish a pattern, try pushing yourself a little further, adds Gosselin, and find activities that are fun to keep you moving.
"Movement is a natural function of the body, and exercise can and should feel good," says Gosselin. "Try different things and choose those that make you feel happiest when you're doing them."
Be Accountable, Prepare Your Meals
We all know the benefits of exercise, but what does it take to stay on track with good fitness intentions? Accountability, says Chelsea Hudson, a trainer and manager at Arlington's Get in Shape for Women.
"It's proven that people are more successful with health and fitness goals if they exercise with someone, whether it be a friend or a personal trainer," Hudson reports. "Ask family and friends to change their nutritional and exercise habits with you, to create a support system at home."
Hudson says it's important to read food labels and steer clear of trans fats, sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup, a common sweetener in processed foods that can increase the risk for Type 2 diabetes. One way to avoid these perils is to prepare your meals at home.
"Planning your meals out for the week before going to the grocery store will help you eat healthier," says Hudson. "It will also cut down on the extra calories and expense of eating out."
As for what to prepare, Arlington Personal Chef Danielle Schertzer recommends combining complex carbohydrates with protein at each meal, three times a day, starting with a healthy breakfast.
"If you eat a bagel with butter for breakfast, you'll be tired by 11am," says Schertzer. "Rather, eat oatmeal with nuts, or yogurt with fruit, or eggs and some whole wheat toast. Don't skip meals, and eat a little something in the afternoon so you don't go crazy at dinner."
In general, Schertzer counsels clients to avoid refined carbohydrates and saturated fats, drink hot water and lemon juice in the morning to cleanse the body, and choose foods with the most nutritional value when possible (think sweet potatoes instead of white).
Are You Breathing?
What if you exercise, eat well, and still feel stressed? Patricia O'Flynn, a Wellness Coach in Arlington, would ask you to take a deep breath.
"When people are stressed or anxious they tend to breathe a lot of short, shallow breaths in the chest," O'Flynn says. "Deep breaths into the abdomen create longer, slower brainwaves — similar to the ones we have when we feel relaxed.
O'Flynn says even 10 minutes a day of conscious breathing or meditation can improve our lives. "Set your timer for ten minutes, lie down, and just inhale and exhale while feeling and listening your breath," instructs O'Flynn. Then, breathe in to the count of three and out to the count of five, and remember this conscious breathing throughout your day.
Mindfulness is another technique for slowing down, says O'Flynn. Drinking a glass of water becomes a mindfulness meditation when we attune to the sounds and sensations of the process. Be thankful, too, for the water. Cultivating gratitude is a powerful practice for mental and emotional well-being.
Finally, O'Flynn says you can also use your imagination to reduce stress and induce relaxation. Imagine for 10 minutes that you are on your favorite beach or nature trail, and let your senses conjure up the sounds, smells and sights of this soothing place. Try to really be there in your mind. In fact, try it right now...
Feel Better? I hope you do, all year long.