Health and wellness are the linchpin of a good life–a life that holds less pain and more great experiences. At this time of year, most of us make New Year’s resolutions to embrace health, wellness and exercise, but sometimes we have difficulty maintaining those resolutions. With the New Year almost here, it is a good time to assess your present health, wellness and exercise habits, focusing on areas that you would like to improve. Then you can set some goals that have a real possibility for changing your life.
If you suffer from conditions such as sciatica, arthritis, or pain in your back, neck, knee, hip or shoulder, exercise is no fun. It is natural to avoid pain, so when exercise is painful, we become less and less active. Balance problems or dizziness may also limit mobility. A knowlegeable physical therapist can help you improve these problems. Therapy can achieve amazing results, eliminating or substantially improving conditions, but doing the day-to-day work of therapy is up to you. If you have an orthopedic or balance issue and you want to improve your health, you need to make an effective New Year’s resolution.
Many fitness habits are trendy. They come and go like fashions. Some of the trends anticipated for 2017 are inflammation-fighting foods to treat common ailments, an increase in plant-sourced proteins, and beverages that are health tonics. We will see more athleisure wear, which is active wear you can wear in everyday settings, and wellness retreats. All these are good ideas, but instead of making a resolutionbased on someone’s idea of current fitness trends, let’s try making resolutions based on what is best for you.
First, think about your goals. What are your priorities? Overall you probably want to minimize or eliminate pain. Related to that, you may want to increase your flexibility and range of motion, reduce joint stiffness and improve mobility. Perhaps you want to heal from surgery or from a sports injury. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to improve your muscle tone, increase your strength and endurance and rebuild muscles? Many of us want to lose weight. Maybe you just want to become more independent and in general, improve your quality of life. You know all these goals are important. That message is everywhere from the internet right down to the people who love you and worry about you.
All of these big goals sound good, but you probably already have that voice in your head. It’s the voice that says “you can’t do that,” or “you know you’re going to fail.” Pay no attention. Forget about failure. This is the time to dream. What does better health mean to you? Take your time and find the answer, then write it down. Some experts recommend sharing your goals with others, but you don’t have to.
Now go through your list of goals one at a time and prioritize them. Again, do this in terms of what is most important to you, not what someone else thinks should be a priority. Take that big, beautiful dream and start to break it down into manageable bites. Remember, you are not abandoning the big dream, just creating action steps to help you achieve the goal. Now is the time to be realistic about what you can and cannot handle. Record your action steps on your calendar.
How will you hold yourself accountable? Do you need monthly check-ins? Weekly? Daily? Again, take your personality into account. Most people find that some degree of social support from friends, family, or their health care team helps, but that is not true of everyone. For less social people, meeting their goals is a strictly personal matter. You know yourself best. Whether it means joining a support group or creating a timeline over your desk, using a high-tech fitness device or rewarding yourself with the kind of gold stars you got from your first grade teacher, you need to use a system that works for you.
As the year progresses, you will probably miss a milestone or two. When this happens, many of us are hard on ourselves. We berate ourselves and maybe even give up. These obstacles, however, can actually separate those who reach their goals from those who don’t. If you do not attain part of your goal, do not obsess about it. Just revise the timeline for that goal. Don’t be angry with yourself, just stop, adjust, then keep going. Do this as many times as necessary.
Honest relationships are an important part of wellness. That also means being honest with yourself. If you do not like the person you are, the person with all those health and physical problems, problems with pain, dizziness or balance, start becoming the person you want to be. Growth happens in small increments, and usually it is painfully slow, but it is also exciting. Ask any gardener. Your resolutions will only work if they are your priorities, not priorities someone else assigned to you. Your job is to figure out what you need to keep moving forward, step by step, and then get the help you need. You don’t have to do it alone, but you do have to do it in your own, individual way.
So start the New Year off right. Embrace change. Forge lasting resolutions that work for you. Make health, wellness and exercise an integral part of your life. It takes time, patience, persistence and support, but you can do it.