How to Make the Best of New Year's Resolutions
If only hoping and wishing would get us to where we want to be. We pine and dream what our lives would be like if we could only… look leaner, lose weight, lower our cholesterol, run more often or whatever you might wish were different about your health or your body. In order to move from 'wishing' to actually achieving, the first step is getting into the right state of mind.
It is absolutely the case that your mindset, outlook, and attitude towards what you want to accomplish that makes all of the difference in whether you succeed or fail.
Getting your head straight isn't easy, but it's absolutely essential for making sure you don't fall off the wagon before you can say "Day 2."
Gearing up your mindset can keep reaching your goals from feeling like work. Because honestly, who wants to work more at a goal? What if meeting personal goals could feel like a reward?
Researchers at Harvard University did a study about work and changing the mindset in female hotel room attendants, to see how their mindset would affect their health.
The study included 84 women who worked in 7 different hotels. Their jobs involved cleaning rooms, washing laundry, and performing other housekeeping tasks. Researchers told half of them that their daily work was good exercise, and that by doing this they actually satisfied the US Surgeon General's recommendations for achieving an active lifestyle.They were given examples of how specific tasks were good forms of exercise, and were told approximately how many calories they burned with each task. After 4 weeks, the researchers compared these women to a control group who were not informed of how their work was beneficial to their health.
What they found shows that mindset matters more than even something like exercise for certain health outcomes. Individuals in the mindset group lost weight (about 3 pounds), decreased their blood pressure and their waist-to-hip ratios, as well as their body mass index (BMI) after 4 weeks. These same results were not seen in the control group. The women in the mindset group didn't actually do any extra work-exercise as compared to their peers in the control group; they only changed their mindset toward their work being 'healthy exercise' for them. The positive effects of training our brain to delight in healthy behaviors are endless!
How to Get Your Mind Right
If you've ever felt successful after achieving something difficult, like landing a great job that you really wanted, reaching your goal weight, or finishing an important project, you can probably conjure up some of the thoughts you had during that successful time. While re-visiting these proud moments might work once in a while, sometimes we need to wipe the slate clean and get a fresh start in order to prepare for whatever journey lies ahead.
Tips for Training Your Thinking
1. Keep Only the Diamonds
Along the way, you likely have found out some precious truths about learning to meet your goals. Accompanying your past experiences, there are often many mis-truths you've collected along the way. This is rubbish that can slow you down and hold you back mentally. If you wipe the metal slate clean, then keep only the diamonds, or precious lessons learned, from your past experiences. Let the rest melt away, and pretend like you are attempting to lose weight for the first time in your life. Approach with child-like curiosity, there are always new thoughts to think.
2. Practice Positivity
This is not the Pollyanna-type excessive gladness, although she was definitely a pro at positivity. Instead, practicing positivity is telling your mind, purposefully, to be positive about your health. That your choices are good for you, and for your body. This is not lying to yourself and pretending like everything is easy. Rather, when you are faced with a decision, think about how good you will feel after you've made the right one. Let that fuel and focus your thoughts.
3. Agree with Your Inner Quitter
We all have a voice in our heads that tells us, "It's not worth it" or "I don't want to do this, or I'm too tired, and I don't have to." Agree with that voice - admit that you don't want to do it, and then do it anyway. Sass back, even get a little angry and say, "I hate the idea of running today, but heaven help me I'm going to do it anyway." Dig deep for this, but by all means, admit when something is hard, and have the last word with your inner quitter and conquer it by running anyway, almost out of spite. Then, you can gloat over yourself a little.
4. Address the Fear of Failure
Fear has its roots in the perception that there are things in our life that we cannot control. Certainly, there are many things that we cannot exert any influence over, like the car driving next to us, or the electricity going down in a storm. But if we are constantly afraid of the things that we can't control, our body responds negatively and hormones that cause you to gain weight, like cortisol for example, are released. If you are afraid of beginning a new health transformation because you might fail again, admit it! But then, so what if you fail?! You'll have the chance to try again and you'll be a tiny bit wiser next time around. And you'll have more success when you admit that failing in certain ways can actually help you get to the root of your mentality, which you do have the power to control.
It can be a great practice to start and end your day with positive affirmations that help you celebrate the good that you are doing for yourself as you work toward reaching your goal. These affirmations allow you a structured time to celebrate the little wins that you have achieved during the day, and they can make a great deal of difference as you work to get and keep your mind in the right place.
Here are just a few examples, although yours can be anything you wish:
"This will be (or was) a great day. I am worth the work that I will do (or have done) to improve myself today."
"I am living into a new future where my health and wellness are my priority. I will not be discouraged from attaining my vision."
"I am making this healthy choice because (fill in your own reason)."
Crum, Alia J., and Ellen J. Langer. 2007. Mind-set matters: Exercise and the placebo effect. Psychological Science 18, no. 2: 165-171.