As a new year arrives, you may be thinking about resolutions. And while it doesn't hurt to set intentions, be nice to yourself! Don't go into a new year already thinking only about the things you could improve. First, celebrate what you're already amazing at and set reasonable goals that are rooted in what will make you feel good—not what others may expect of you. For more, we asked the experts for insight on making the best of 2022.
SET ACHIEVABLE GOALS
From getting medical appointments on the calendar to setting intentions for bigger life or career goals, Suzann Foerster, CEO, Suzann Foerster Leadership Coaching, says writing things down is a great starting point.
"After you have a robust list of ideas, consider your most important values," Foerster said. "It's easy to get seduced into picking goals we think we 'should' do or believe will make us happy without considering how they connect to our most deeply held values. Aligning your goals with your personal values will ensure they're meaningful and make you more likely to accomplish them."
Your motivation is highest when goal setting. Consider what's achievable when your motivation is at its lowest.
"You're far more likely to create the life you want for yourself and those you love by getting off the busy train and slowing down to consider essential life questions," Foerster explained.
OFFER YOURSELF NOURISHMENT
Instead of being angry at your body for what it isn't, thank it for getting you through the tough times—including the last almost two years—by giving it the proper nutrition it needs (and not a crash diet).
Jill Traxler, MS, RD, Inpatient Registered Dietitian at Spectrum Health, acknowledges that talking about eating habits can be nerve wracking for some, but emphasizes the importance of maintaining a balanced diet—something registered dietitians can assist with implementing.
"By using S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-oriented) goals, patients leave with confidence not only knowing what their nutrition goals are but how to achieve them," she said.
Because many leading causes of death are related to poor nutrition, preventative measures are key.
"It's important to not overly restrict, or eating habits become more of a 'diet' instead of a lifestyle," Traxler advised. "Everything in moderation. Eat lean meats, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy, and every now and then, it's OK to have a sweet, too!"
Traxler recommends speaking with your primary care physician to get a referral if interested in meeting with a registered dietitian.
"Many of us set goals for the new year but rarely meet them because we haven't thought out the strategies that will get us there," said Jessica Luepke, Co-Owner of Valeo / Training. "Instead of resolving to 'lose 25 pounds,' identify the specific habits or behaviors it will take to do so! Master the small behaviors and you'll have big wins."
Change rarely happens by accident, Luepke says, especially when our daily routines are on autopilot. She suggests taking a few minutes each week to map out an exercise schedule.
"Overall, exercise doesn't just change your body—it changes your mind, attitude and mood, and can be a powerful tool when it comes to physical and mental health during the colder months," Luepke said. "Challenging yourself to stay consistent to a fitness routine a few days a week can keep you moving toward your goals and feeling proud of yourself. It's easier to stay consistent than it is to constantly start over."
REMEMBER: MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS
Mental health is paramount, especially in this ever-changing world we live in. Elizza LeJeune, LMSW, Clinical Social Worker, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, suggests starting small with weekly mental health goals to avoid getting overwhelmed.
"Ask yourself: If tomorrow everything was 'better,' what would that look like or mean for you?" LeJune said. "Take the response you get as a key factor to bring to your licensed therapist to get started on your menial health journey."
Outside of therapy, LeJune suggests setting aside five minutes each day to do a quick mental health check-in using the following questions:
- How much sleep did you get the night before?
- How have you been eating?
- Did you move your body this week?
- Have you engaged in any joyful activities?
"Don't use the checkpoints as a way to scold yourself if things aren't on track," LeJune said. "Talk to yourself as you would a loved one and use kindness when redirecting your focus towards achieving mental wellness goals."
Practicing mindfulness can also help slow things down (in a good way).
"Mindfulness is a natural capacity. It's something we are reawakening, not a new skill we have to learn," said Carol Hendershot, Co-Founder, Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness, who noted the practice's benefits. "Mindfulness has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, improve focus and learning, and mitigate the symptoms of chronic illness."
To begin a mindfulness practice:
- Decide on a time and a place.
- Commit, daily.
- Start slowly, committing five minutes, even if you have 10.
- Remember: This is meant to enhance your well-being!
Now go forth and kick ass.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in the Dec/Jan '21-'22 issue of West Michigan Woman.