It happens to all of us:
Sometimes you wonder if taking care of yourself is even worth it. Maybe you’re struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder due to short days and gloomy weather. Maybe stress at work or home causes a flare or you’re slogging through the flu. Maybe the year has just been really damn difficult or maybe it’s all of the above.
It’s true that there are a lot of things in this world we can’t do anything about. Compared to all of that, the number of things we can actually change can feel insignificant. But there are things worth fighting for even if the odds are stacked against you, even if it feels like a Sisyphean battle, even if it hurts and hope is in short supply. Your health is one of them.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your health problems, start small. Start with one thing you can change today. Feeling down? Go for a walk, preferably out among nature. Even if it’s a gloomy day, the small sun exposure will be better for you than sitting inside. Need to quit coffee? Cut the amount you normally drink in half, right now, or brew yourself a pot of tea instead. Trouble sleeping? Commit to no bright screens or lights after sunset, starting tonight. Resisting exercise? Try just a few minutes of some kind of motion, like dancing to your favorite song or doing pushups during a commercial break.
You don’t have to do every single one of these things at once. When you start small, it creates a foundation–one good habit–you can build upon over time.
Here’s how to set healthy goals–and stick with them.
Choose goals you actually care about.
If you know you should exercise but you don’t actually want to go out of your way to do it, you’re probably not going to stick with it. But maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to salsa dance. So make this the month you start taking lessons. If you engage in your favorite physical activities regularly, you’ll be getting exercise without actually feeling like you’re exercising. What are things you’re passionate about or always wanted to do that would be considered healthy?
Choose goals you can actually achieve.
Don’t set out to have the body of a movie star or the skills of an all-star chef if you’ve never lifted a weight or set foot in the kitchen before. Remember, chefs have a lifetime of experience and movie stars get paid a lot of money to look the way they do. Shoot for something more manageable, like “at least 15 minutes of exercise every day” or “at least three home-cooked meals a week”. You’ll feel more accomplished when you meet those goals and amazing when you overshoot them. Once you find that you regularly overshoot them, you can raise the bar a bit higher.
Avoid temptation as much as possible.
If your goal is to eat better, don’t buy unhealthy food. Don’t walk down the snacks aisle at the grocery store, either. And don’t drive by your favorite bakery or pizza place on your way home. We are not inherently good at resisting temptation and nobody manages to do it 100% of the time. Set yourself up for success by making success as easy as possible–by avoiding temptation when and where you can.
Don’t expect to fail!
Think of New Year’s resolutions. How many have you set that you actually expected to keep all year? Or even all month? Everyone falls off the wagon, right? So we tend to set lofty goals for ourselves and then give up on them like it’s no big deal. Anything we manage to stick with is a pleasant surprise. But it should be the other way around: When you choose goals you can actually achieve, you should be surprised if you fail to achieve them.
Keep a journal.
If you check in with your goals on a daily or weekly basis, you’re much more likely to hold yourself accountable to them. Write down the steps you’re taking to reach that goal and any reasons you might have failed so far. Things like “Shelly brought donuts into the office and I couldn’t resist.” If that obstacle keeps cropping up, you’ll know it’s something you need to address. Maybe you’re not the only one who wishes Shelly wouldn’t bother or maybe there’s someplace else she can keep the donuts so you don’t have to see or smell them. Maybe you can bring a treat of your own into the office so you don’t feel left out–something sweet but healthy, like a fruit salad. And when you do something proactive toward meeting your goals, you’ve got tangible proof that you’re making progress.
Need help with that last one? I’ve been using the same health journal template since I started the autoimmune protocol in 2012. It’s been immensely helpful not just for tracking my goals and food reintroductions, but for troubleshooting my symptoms and finding solutions to my most common roadblocks. It’s a template you can use over and over again and it’s only $6.99.