The fault of most failed New Year’s Resolutions is that they are too vague and goal oriented. As well intentioned as SMART goals may be, when it comes down to it, they are just a catchy acronym that don’t connect the individual making them with the process and specific steps it will take to reach the desired outcome. There are a variety of words used to make up SMART (most common: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time based), some of which I find limiting and all of which require brain power to clarify—brain power better used on self-restraint, self-discipline, or setting up an environment or system in your life that supports the resolutions you’ve made.
Here are three process oriented resolutions for those of us who would like to make 2016 healthy and happy:
1. Treat food as fuel, not comfort or a reward
Even though I love to indulge in a good steak and use meals as time to connect with family and friends, it’s important to me to keep in mind that at its core, food is a basic need. When our relationship with food is complicated by it being presented as comfort or a reward, we’re apt to experience guilt or shame when it comes to eating. If we treat food as fuel for our bodies, we can focus on filling up with the nutrients we need instead of constantly feeling like we’re testing our willpower—will we or won’t we reach for that sweet/salty/crunchy whatever?
Thanks to food marketing and the scientists behind making fast food and junk food addictive, reframing how we see and relate to food is no easy feat. However, if we take a moment to ask ourselves, “Is this fuel to help my body run?” each time we’re making a decision related to what we’re going to eat, we’re on the path toward a healthy relationship with food. When we approach food as fuel, we’re naturally guided to seek out nutrient dense items at the grocery store more than the quick ‘n’ easy nutrient-less number whatever at the drive-through.
If you’re not sure how to treat food as fuel, understanding the basics of proteins, vitamins, and minerals is a good start. And if you’re curious about “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol,” you can find articles on the internet to help you understand the bigger nutrition picture.
2. Replace screen time with _________(fill in the blank)
A lot of us tend to ignore the clues all around us that indicate we may want to rethink how much time we spend staring at the screens of our computers and mobile devices. We notice we have trouble focusing on one thing at a time, we suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), we feel strangely disconnected from our friends who we keep in touch with on various social media platforms, we’re amazed how quickly time passes when we’re clicking on links and watching videos online.
I like to replace screen time with reading actual books with paper pages, playing nerdy strategy games with my partner, and exploring my city’s cultural offerings. Based on my non-scientific study of one, less screen time leads to a fitter, healthier, more productive life. I started screen free evenings last summer; it morphed into mostly mobile device free evenings when my partner and I found a show on Netflix we wanted to watch on evenings during the week; I have a steady stream of books from the library coming my way, so it’s likely I’ll get back in the groove of being completely screen free in the evenings. I recommend screen free evenings to anyone having trouble falling asleep at night (combined with a coffee curfew of noon) or anyone who is just looking to feel like they have more time to themselves.
Note to Self is a great podcast worth a listen, if you want to hear others talk about how the struggle with managing technology in their lives is real.
3. Practice kindness every day
This sentiment is so cliché it’s easily ignored. Good thing we didn’t waste all our energy on understanding what SMART stands for, we still have strength to do the actual work of being kind. And it is work. When we’re kind to ourselves, we’re less critical of where we’re at in our lives and what we’re doing (or not doing). Guy Winch makes a strong case for practicing emotional hygiene in his TED talk, “Why we all need to practice emotional first aid.”
If we focus on practicing kindness, a lot falls into place. Being kind means being inclusive, being compassionate, and being empathetic. Moment to moment, not just when you’re at your place of worship or with your group of friends. Practicing kindness in a variety of settings and especially with those in our lives we find most challenging, creates a space for us to live in that is cushioned with love instead of riddled with hate.
Cheers to you and making the choices in 2016 that bring about positive change!