SMART resolutions you can actually stick to.
After the holidays, it becomes evident how much our bodies are affected by our lifestyle. If you’re anything like me, the holidays have basically been a lot of: eating (especially the food we normally don’t), drinking (every night), not sleeping (4 hours is the new 8), stressing (gifts, money, not enough time). This is not an article about shaming you for how you lived the past month. In fact, I love everything about this time of the year. I think it’s important for us all to get out of our routines, out from being disciplined, and I’m a firm believer that sacrificing our livers to be able to make memories with the people we love is well worth it. That being said, at the end of the holidays, we usually feel less than our best both mentally and physically – enter the New Years resolutions about hitting the gym. I love exercise, in the words of Elle Woods,
“Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands”.
However, if you’re trying to improve the way you look, feel and think, resolutions with the sole goal of increasing the number of hours in the gym, are resolutions that are very limited. If you hate the gym, it’s your lucky day, this article will be talking about the importance of creating resolutions aimed at improving your mental health and tissue health as a way to improve your overall health in the new year.
Before diving into it, I just want to get a small rant off my chest. People love to make fun of resolutions. In part, because resolutions have a tendency to be short lived. In part, because people just generally love to hate on anything that is too mainstream or universal. Advice: try not to get bogged down by the haters and try to frame your resolutions as SMART goals. RESOLUTIONS ARE COOL. It is pretty awesome that we have this universal time that pushes us to look at our life and come up with a plan to bring us where we want to be, or remind us about things we want to do. It’s a great opportunity to make yourself better, however, as Shonda Rhimes puts it – don’t be a dreamer, be a doer. Don’t be someone who is a forward thinker with great ideas, who pats themselves on the back just because they’re full of good intentions or capable of thinking outside the box. You need to work for it. I’m not an expert in goal setting strategy but I’ve read enough to know, that sticking to the basic SMART goal is a great way to avoid being a dreamer.
What is a SMART goal?
S – specific
M – measurable
A – actionable, attainable
R – realistic
There is nothing I find more important when it comes to your health than the state of your mind. It’s a subject that remains so sensitive but so relevant in so many people’s lives. We live in a world where depression and anxiety are extremely common, and it’s easy to understand why when you start taking a look around.
We are all constantly being bombarded with messages pushing us to strive for and attribute success with the new age “American Dream” – one that has evolved from something attainable: think “This Is Us” to something completely fake and unrealistic – think Kylie Jenner’s Instagram. The point is, we are being more and more wired not to be happy with what we have. We’re constantly being told that if you’re not living on a constant high, you’re not living at all. Thinking positively about yourself, your lifestyle, your relationships, and your achievements really is going against the grain. You need to stand up for and protect your own mental health, and although they are not often discussed, there are many resources out there to help you. When you have a clear mind, you make better health decisions, have more energy, and the actual physiology of your body functions optimally.
Here are some ideas on how you can improve, or address your mental health.
1. SEE A THERAPIST – a psychologist, a psychotherapist, or even a life coach: psychology is the second most common undergrad and yet people are still too embarrassed or think they do not need to see one. EVERYONE can benefit from seeing a therapist. We have all endured emotional trauma, pain, a period of feeling blue, stress, or self-esteem issues, at some point. Tapping into your mind and addressing the issues will help avoid snowballing effects when new obstacles are thrown your way. Life can be cruel, especially as you get older, and it is great to have a therapist on your side. This is especially true for the males out there. Us females love to talk to our girlfriends about our feelings; unfortunately most of you don’t have that luxury. Find a therapist you can trust, to help you work out your issues.
2. MEDIATION/YOGA: I often hear people brag about how they are too “hard core” for mediation and yoga. I definitely used to fall into that category, but the more I practiced, the more I realized that I was the one who wasn’t mentally strong enough for them. Being able to clear your mind, and just breathe is fudging hard. From a science perspective, we have 2 different nervous systems: our sympathetic and our parasympathetic. Most of us are imbalanced, too often stuck in our sympathetic system i.e. the one stimulating things in your body to allow us to cope with stressful situations. If you never do anything to help yourself tap into your parasympathetic system, your calm/peaceful state, you will be stuck in fight or flight mode – you’ll have hormones circulating preventing your body and mind from functioning optimally/properly. If you are an athlete or avid exerciser, avoiding the state of your mind, means never tapping into your true potential. There are guided meditation apps you can use like Headspace and Mindfulness which are only between 3-15 minutes long. TRY IT. If that’s not working for you, try yoga as a form of meditation. Check out ROM WOD - an amazing resource you can use from home, tailored athletes/exercisers needs.
3. MAKE TIME FOR SLEEP. High five to all you intense gym goers who get up at 4:30 every morning and hit the weights. That takes amazing discipline -you go Glen Coco!! However, if you’re not getting to bed at a time that allows for sleep in the 8 hour range, I challenge you to make a resolution to skip the gym a couple of days a week to allow yourself to rest and recover. I can guarantee you will start seeing more results by actively doing less. Neglecting your sleep is a sure fire way to leave you feeling agitated, stressed, unfocused, and can even promote poor decision-making when it come to other aspects of your health.
My personal SMART resolutions:
- Use the mindfulness app 5 times per week, for an entire year.
- Go to bed at a time that allows 8 hours of sleep at least 3 times per week for 6 months.
- Book an appointment with a therapist before the end of January. Then book a monthly appointment for the next 10months.
This is a topic I love. It is what I have dedicated my life to. I’m an osteopath in the making, and boy have I learnt a lot – but will leave that for another article. In osteo, we believe structure governs function. To illustrate, I will use the example of a car – if you get a flat tire and continue to drive, we can all agree this will have harmful effects on your car right? The structure of your car has been compromised – you’re down one wheel, the other wheels are carrying a heavier load causing stress on the entire structure of the car. If you continue driving this car, eventually more and more parts will be affected, until the car can no longer perform its function: getting you from A to B safely.
The same goes for your body. If you lack alignment, have imbalances, have an injury, or a structure out of place, your entire body can be affected through a series of compensations. Keeping with the car theme, if you get into a fender bender, it usually seems like your body has gone unharmed. However, that seatbelt that held you in pace may have caused a rotation on a couple areas of your thoracic ring. Your ribs, vertebra and sternum may all be out of place. Even though there is no pain, the structures attached to and surrounding the area can all be affected. For instance, you may start to feel more out of breath at the gym, since your diaphragm is no longer functioning optimally. You may feel like you’ve developed more heartburn – the position of your esophagus may have been shifted. You may feel inexplicably more stressed, since your sympathetic ganglia located at the head of your ribs are being continually stimulated by those ribs in rotation. These are not pathologies that you need to see a doctor about, a manual therapist can help you improve them.
All this to say that, protecting your structure by making regular visits to a manual therapist, will do wonders for your overall health. There are so many resources out there that can help you improve the state of your tissue: osteopaths, chiros, massage therapists, posturologists, physiotherapists, athletic therapists, the list goes on. Go see someone who will work toward improving the state of your tissue so that all the systems of your body can function properly. The second the mechanics of our cars are off, we rush to the garage and spend the money needed to get it fixed. It is time to treat our bodies with the same respect!
My personal SMART resolutions:
- See an osteopath once a month for 6 months.
- Book a bi-monthly appointment with my favorite chiro, for 6 months.
I hope you guys will supplement your exercise resolutions with some that include your mental and tissue health!
Happy New Year.