Feel-Good Lifestyle Changes

2/17/15

Author: Emily Burrows

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Empty GymFebruary is one of the best times of year to get a machine at the gym. About 40% of the New Year’s resolution crowd has already lost steam, leaving far less demand for the stair climber and plenty of parking spots out front.

Even though we may start the year with the best intentions, the fact of the matter is that change is hard, and we humans run into many obstacles on our journey. Every last one of us has been there.

How can we get past starting the year excited and ambitious for a fresh new lifestyle only to teeter away a couple of weeks in? The formula that helps us adopt a new behavior and turn it into a lasting habit is deeply individual. But one important way we can stay steadier in our resolve is through this simple principle:

Create habits you’ll enjoy keeping.

When you’re starting a new practice or behavior, you’re more likely to stay the course if it’s something you genuinely like doing. It’s a kinder, gentler, more sustainable way to nurture your wellbeing.

We too frequently celebrate the muscle of willpower against all odds. Unfortunately, relying on willpower alone to make changes can lead to a lot of frustration and self-criticism when life gets hard and our willpower inevitably falters. Willpower isn’t enough to sustainably get us through something we hate.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The path of least resistance doesn’t always deserve the best reputation. Sometimes it leads us to stay too quietly in our comfort zone and avoid the steps it takes to lead a BIG, meaningful life.

But sometimes choosing the less grueling path, the one that we positively savor walking, truly leads to a more vibrantly healthy life. I encourage you to open yourself up to that possibility!

Creating a habit that’s pleasing isn’t just about self-kindness, after all; it’s also about committing for the long haul. When it comes to lifestyle change, the fortune really is in the follow-through.

Short-term behaviors can be helpful for building confidence, but ultimately our wellbeing lies in our true habits, those regular practices that come as second nature. When self-care practices become habits, we don’t even want to give them up!

Feel-Good Lifestyle ChangeSo let’s come back to our gym resolution for the moment. Most of us know that physical activity is one of, if not the top predictor of a long, healthy life. We need and want to move our bodies! But many of us feel like we have to slog our way through a traditional gym “workout” in order to be healthy. So we purchase our gym memberships and strongarm ourselves into going.

Maybe you love the gym. Go with gusto! But if you don’t like the gym, you are far more likely to drop your resolution to go 4x a week, even if you know what you’re doing is good for your heart. So, if your resolve dissolves, that’s ok.

If the machines at the gym aren’t your style and you feel like you’re suffering through them, maneuver your goal so that you can enjoy the practice of moving your body. What is your cup of tea? Maybe a Zumba class feels joyful! Maybe yoga helps you relate better to your body. Maybe you crave sunlight and fresh air and prefer to walk in the park.

Whatever calls your name, remember that you don’t need a “no pain, no gain” mentality to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Resolve to practice what makes you happy.

For now, please excuse me. It’s time for my daily afternoon dance break.

What self-care practice are YOU excited to turn into a habit?

Love this post? Find more activities from Emily Burrows here. For one-on-one accountability and support:

Learn about Self-Care Coaching with Emily.

Learn about Personal Yoga Lessons with Emily. 

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