I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and enjoyed celebrating with your loved ones! We were traveling this year to visit some family that lives in Tennessee. It was my first time visiting the south, and it was a blast. We had a wonderful, restful week, celebrating Christ and spending time with each other.
Now that Christmas is over, we’re all looking toward the new year, and the hopes and intentions we have. So, I wanted to write a bit about the concept of New Year Resolutions, especially with regards to health initiatives. In general, I don’t think its a good idea to make resolutions about food and exercise.
A big part of healthy eating means that we pay attention to what we put in our mouths. But, aside from mealtimes (or meal-prep times), food and eating shouldn’t occupy our waking thoughts all that much. In other words, we should be mindful of our eating habits, but they shouldn’t consume us! When we progress to thinking about food outside of the appropriate times, we are usually either exerting mental energy trying to avoid it, or abusing it by trying to use it to numb out emotions or stress.
I generally share with clients that food plays three roles in our lives: physically fueling our bodies, allowing us to connect with others (friends, family, farmers, God), and satisfying our minds and bodies. This doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for “should’s” or “should not’s” or any other type of moral language. Some foods are more nutritious than others, but we need both cookies and kale to maintain balance in our diets. So, whenever we make resolutions about food, we start to think about it in black and white terms, which can create disordered thinking patterns about food.
So, I wanted to share a few ways you can look to create healthy habits in the new year without focusing too much on food.
10 Healthy Resolutions That Don’t Involve Food
- Practice gratitude: Research shows that expressing thankfulness actually rewires our brains to more often experience joy, satisfaction, and happiness. Check out this Ted Talk and consider making thankfulness part of your day. If you journal, write out three or four things you’re thankful for each morning, even if they’re as simple as a hot cup of coffee, sunny days, or people in your life you appreciate.
- Unplug: Too much time on social media can lead to anxiety and depression, create feelings of inadequacy, or make it easy to avoid responsibilities — leading to stress and frustration. Track the time you spend on your devices, and strive to cut back. You also could delineate a time of day to unplug. Research shows that avoiding electronics and screens an hour before bed can promote better sleep, too!
- Invest in friends and family: One theory for why so many Americans are stressed, anxious, and depressed is that we tend to have fewer close relationships nowadays. A few years ago, I made a resolution to call my grandma three times per week. Now, it’s a habit I don’t think twice about, and we’re both happier because of it!
- Spend time in meditation and/or prayer: Science continues to show that the healthiest people dedicate time each day to quietness. I personally find that I’m much more peaceful, and my days go so much more smoothly when I take time in the morning to connect with God.
- Take up a new hobby: Keeping our minds active is one of the best ways to prevent depression and cognitive decline. If your lifestyle has reached a lull, you might consider investing in your brain — learn a new language, take up painting, or try out that aerial yoga class you saw on Instagram.
- Volunteer your time: This is pretty self explanatory in terms of the global benefit, but it can also make you healthier and happier, too! The Heart Foundation wrote a great article about the personal benefits of volunteering, among them being a sense of purpose in life, and social opportunities.
- Clean our your closet: This is a great way to embrace minimalism and feel happier, donate to the less fortunate, and clear up your mental space. Cleaning the closet doesn’t have to just mean de-cluttering; it can also refer to emotional baggage that weighs us down. Repairing relationships and getting rid of old hurts is a great way to invest in your emotional health.
- Set social boundaries: A great first step would be to read Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. The second step would be to put some of the principles into practice! Healthy social boundaries are hard to establish, but can be very freeing.
- Create new cleaning habits: Make a regular schedule for cleaning those often ignored places — air filters, dusting, changing bed sheets, disinfecting the bathroom. Whatever part of your home is neglected, make a habit of keeping up with it. You’ll probably feel lighter, and your body will thank you.
- Get outside: The big golden sun is the best way to keep Vitamin D levels up, and fresh air does wonders for the immune system. It can also be an excuse to break up the monotony of sitting if you have a desk job, or get some gentle movement into your day. Hanging out outside for a bit can also present the opportunity to express gratitude for the beauty of nature.
Hopefully this list has inspired your goal setting process! Let me know what resolutions you’ll be making in 2019 — I’d love to know!
Have a blessed and safe new year,