Happy 2014 to all our Swagger Homies!
I’m usually like ‘screw New Year’s resolutions’ because it seems like such a gimmick. I mean, I get why people think it’s a good time to make a lifestyle change – the calendar flips, out with old, in with the new, yada, yada…but think about what most people resolve to do: Lose weight. Get in shape. Eat better. Get more sleep.
Yeah, great! But in freaking January? Really?
When most of us just want to hibernate to survive winter, we expect ourselves to shed layers? That’s a biological recipe for failure if you ask me. Getting more sleep is perhaps the one that has the best chance of succeeding this time of the year because it gets dark earlier, but as for the rest of them…
Okay, enough glass-half-full business. My point today is this: most of us have areas in our life we’d like to improve. Welcome to the human condition, right? In my opinion, the problem most of the time is that we’re too extreme. We burst out of the gates at Mach 4, dead set on wrestling our perceive deficiency or problems to the ground. We go hard. We’re focused and disciplined…
For all of one month. Maybe.
By the end of thirty days, maybe we’ve decided it’s just not worth it. It’s not fun. It’s too hard. We’re a failure. Sound familiar? Why is this, you ask?
Most of the time what we push ourselves to do is not sustainable.
In other words, most of the time what we attempt to do is doomed to fail because it’s more like punishment than a realistic lifestyle change. And how do you think that’s going to work long-term?
Do I sound like an infomercial yet? LOL. I’m definitely no self-help guru or motivational speaker, but here are a few realistic ideas to implement long-term well-being in your own life. They are life-affirming and very simple (you might even say elementary) without being extreme or a time-suck.
I’m all about being gentle with ourselves – life is hard enough. See what you think.
I don’t need to tell you why, but I will anyway. Water helps:
- maintain the balance of body fluids
- control calories
- energize muscles
- protect your skin and keep it looking good
- maintain healthy kidney function
- maintain normal bowel function
Start substituting water in place of one can of soda (even if it’s diet soda) or one cup of coffee each day. Experiment with the temperature – some people find drinking room-temperature water is a lot easier than when it’s super cold. Leave a glass by your desk and sip throughout the day.
When a series of chiropractors and physical therapists told me I’d just have to learn to live with mild, but chronic pain from degenerative disc disease, I decided to try an experiment with water and stretching. It worked. Now, six years later, if my back starts to hurt, I know that I need to drink more water. If your body is not hydrated, those discs aren’t as hydrated either. That means less cushion between the bones in your spine.
Now about the stretching…
2. Stretch your muscles for 10 minutes a day.
I never used to. I wanted to, but I always thought it was time I didn’t have. And the truth was, I never actually needed to stretch until I started getting the previously mentioned back pain and fibromyalgia symptoms several years ago. Those were tough times that I don’t need to get into, but I literally changed my life by stretching (and the water thing). I’m totally serious. For a mid-30-something year old woman I was appalled at how unflexible I’d become. And my body paid a price.
Our muscles need to move and stretch. There’s no getting away from it. And as we age, it’s more important than ever to maintain range of movement. Not only that, but as I learned, regularly stretching the muscles that are constantly shortened through work posture or daily routine can ease and prevent chronic pain.
I’m not a yoga queen, but the good news is that none of us have to be to reap the benefits. Consistency is what’s important. And stretching isn’t supposed to hurt. Most of the time I sit down on the carpet in my living room or bedroom and give myself a chance to relax into the movements. It feels wonderful before bed and gets your body and mind in a peaceful place for sleep.
Other times I stretch while watching TV (multi-tasking borders on a disorder for me). If you’re not sure where or how to start, the Mayo Clinic has some excellent starting postures with photos. The Huffington Post has some other good ones here.
Well, maybe not breakfast. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but hear me out. I’m not talking about a huge bowl of ice cream with every topping known to man, but what about a mini-candy bar or a small handful of M&Ms? If you eat something sweet, you’ll ease the craving. If treats are a part of your life, they’re no big deal. You’ll be less likely to obsess over what you’re missing instead of going overboard when you finally do give in.
The bottom line: deprivation does NOT work long-term.
Bonus tip: switch to DARK chocolate.
4. Smile and laugh a lot.
Look back on the last week of your life. How much have you laughed? If the answer is not enough, find a way to bring more joy into your life. Maybe you need to schedule a girls’ night out. Watch a funny movie with your partner. Do something silly and frivolous with your kids. Read a comedic book. Go to your local improv theater. Or maybe…just be more open to the joy around you and let it lift you up. It’s amazing what using your lip and lung muscles can do for your emotional well-being.
And speaking of endorphins…
4. Try to keep your sex life fresh.
I know this is hard (ha,ha) in our busy lives, but even if you’re not feeling particularly frisky, try to make the effort because it’s not only good for your relationship, it’s good for your health (more on this in a future post compiled by all of us Chicks!).
If I’m not in the mood, I usually let my man have his wicked way with me anyway. And guess what, almost every time I come around (LOL, listen to me with these double entendres). Maybe this means trying a new position, a new room in your house, buying a new toy, or maybe reading everything tagged SEX on our website! (Here’s where I shamelessly plug my Realistic Kink for the Girl Next Door posts.)
For toys, Adam and Eve has everything you could ever want. Amazon has a great selection as well.
As my windsurfer husband says, sometimes it’s the little puffs of wind that keep us going. My sister-in-law has a plate that says “You are Special Today.” It gets used whenever someone in their family has had something good happen that day, from a good grade on a test to random acts of kindness they’ve followed through on.
Celebrating the little successes encourages sharing, spontaneity, as well as practical goal setting. Small goals over the course of a year add up to big things twelve months later. For instance, if I finish edits on eight chapters this week, I am going to let myself have extra reading time this weekend.
If we do these mini-goals regularly, imagine how productive we’ll be over time. It’s a win-win.
6. With regard to exercise, do what makes you happy.
Yes, we all know we need to exercise, but if the thought of running on the treadmill for an hour (or five minutes!) makes you miserable, how long do you think you’ll keep it up? When we have the choice, life is too short to do stuff we hate.
There are endless ways to exercise, from dance classes (hello Zumba, omg I love you!) to strapping on snowshoes or ski boots, to swimming, lifting weights, YouTube videos in the comfort of your own home, oh man, where do I stop? The key is to be honest with yourself and think about what you enjoy, what’s realistic for your time and budget, and whether you’re a social exerciser or a rugged individualist.
If sitting on the couch with a beer in one hand and lifting the remote with the other is your idea of exercise, save up for a treadmill or recumbent bike, or use commercials to do sit ups and other basic exercises. When the show comes back on, stop and rest as your reward. Keep this up for a whole hour and you’ll have 20 minutes of exercise.
So, there you go. What do you think – anything spark your interest? What other ideas can you share for realistic life-style changes?