In Health, Small Changes Count

Regarding your health, small changes matter.

Popping up into a handstand  is easy. All you need is straight strong arms and  up  you  go. I used to do them easily. But then I developed chronic nerve pain in one of my legs, and going up was out of the question. I avoided them for years in yoga class. When my symptoms healed and  it was time to go up, fear took over. All I could think of  was buckling, which I did, again and again. In  Fierce Medicine, author and yoga pioneer Ana Forrest  writes about a Brave-Hearted Path. What if we became the hunter, and tracked down our fear, to turn from prey to predator? What if we let go of the old stories that hold us back and make a very small change? For most of us, small changes are realistic and attainable. The next time I tried a handstand, I tracked down the fear, (Have fun!) and up I popped, exhilarated! All it took was one small change in a very brief amount of time. When it comes to your health, tiny steps can help change a laundry list of habits.

Four Real New Year’s Resolutions

Access  Readiness.

Motivation has to come from within. Ask yourself what is the real objective you are after. Keep asking “why”. Uncovering the real reason of saying “I want to lose weight”, with further prodding, might really be that you want to have more energy and not miss out on hiking in the Pioneers next spring with friends.

Set your intent

Instead of waking up, tossing some coffee down our throats  and  rush  headlong into our day, Forrest suggests that you  set your intent, and not  make it overwhelming. Make one change that appeals most to you. If you are tired of a stiff neck from sitting at your computer, you might add 10   big shoulder rolls in each direction every hour you spend at your desk that day. Schedule a long overdue massage. If it’s out of control eating that bothers you, promise yourself to sit at the table every time you eat.

Small Enough Steps

Everyone knows it’s a good idea to park your car further away from where you need to be. Not only are the extra steps good for you, but it is also a time when you can take notice of the day. For those few moments, appreciate the environment you live in, the sun, or even the lack of traffic that day, and be grateful for that. Instead of feeling guilty about not getting on the treadmill for an hour, try just 10 minutes. You’ll be energized by the effort, and may even stay on it longer that you’d thought you would.

Nip an Unhealthy Habit in the Bud

As you strive to make health-enhancing resolutions materialize, Edward Philips, editor of the Harvard Health School Report, recommends taking a good look at any unhealthy habits that you can’t seem to shake. A daily diet of cookies for lunch could wreck havoc on your energy later in the day. Likewise, excessive amounts of time surfing online, for example, can leave you less opportunity to engage in healthier pursuits, such as deepening social ties, or a walk.

Your day to day choices, no matter if it’s practicing handstands or healthier eating, all count to help  bring vitality and well-being in the New Year. Happy holidays!

Connie Aronson ACSM Fitness Specialist located at the YMCA in Ketchum, Idaho.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willpower-know what you really want

Willpower is an instinct everyone has, yet it consists of much more than simply saying “I will’, or “I won’t”. As we move into the third week of the New Year, some of the lofty goals and self-control have vaporized. Don’t despair though;   self-control is only one part of willpower. The ability to remember what you REALLY want, (get out of debt, fit into your clothes, more sleep) is the ability to say “yes” to that particular goal. This is what Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., psychology  lecturer  at Stanford University, whose course, The Science of Willpower, teaches and  which her new book is based on. “To exert self-control, you need to find your motivation when it matters. This is the “I want” power, she writes.

Now Strategies

A student in Dr. McGonigal’s class, a producer, was an e-mail addict. Her behavior disrupted not only her work, but annoyed her boyfriend. The student described her email impulses almost as an itch-she just had to check her email. She was always tense. Her assignment was to catch herself before she reached for her phone. With time, she realized that her impulses had nothing to do with seeking information and was doing nothing to relieve her tension. As she began to notice how she gave in to her impulses, it gave her new control over her behavior. Catch yourself  falling  for your impulses earlier  in the process, and  notice which thoughts or situations might make it more likely that you will give in to your impulses, are strategies that McGonigal  teaches.

Stressed and Sleepless: The Enemies of Willpower

Willpower is essentially a mental muscle, but the body also needs to get onboard. The best intentions in the world can be sabotaged if you are sleep-depraved, stressed, sedentary, have a poor diet, or a host of other factors that sap your energy. Stress is the worst enemy of willpower, McGonigal writes. The  American Psychological Association shows  that 75% of Americans have high levels of stress and 76% of Americans want to improve the quality and quantity of the sleep they get. New evidence shows that poor sleep and stress contribute to poor self-control and focus. How can you harness positive willpower if you are exhausted? Inadequate sleep also contributes to weight gain, high blood pressure, depression, and lowered immunity. Globally, sleep deprivation affects the quality of life of 45% of the world’s population, according to the World Association of Sleep Medicine.

A Willpower Workout

( from The Willpower Instinct. How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of it -by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.)

  • Strengthen “I won’t” Power; Commit to not swearing (or refraining from any habit of speech)
  • Strengthen ‘I will” Power: Commit to doing something everyday that you don’t already do just for the practice of building a habit and not making excuses. It could be meditating for five minutes, or finding one thing in your house that needs to be thrown out or recycled.
  • Strengthen Self-Monitoring: Formally keep track of something you don’t usually pay close   attention to. This could be your spending, what you eat, or how much time you spend online or watching TV. You don’t need fancy technology-just a pen and paper.

Above all, believe in yourself and keep your dreams alive in 2012!