“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein
The new year is here, so you know what that means: Another round of new year’s resolutions. According to historians, about 4,000 years ago the Ancient Babylonians were the first people to make new year’s resolutions. For thousands of years, most of us, “resolute” to make the same changes year after year: lose weight, stress less, exercise more, etc. If you’re like most people, you know your greatest intentions of “trying again this year” usually fail. So why not try something FRESH?
The most common resolutions people made for 2021 were:
- Exercising more or improving fitness (50%)
- Weight loss (48%)
- Saving more money (44%)
- Improving diet (39%)
- Pursuing a career ambition (21%)
“Despite our best intentions, only 8% of Americans who make a New Year’s resolution actually, keep them all year and 80% have failed by the start of February.” – Clinical Psychologist Joseph J. Luciani, PhD
Most resolutions fail because they are too vague, too aspirational and are created based on what someone else (or society) is telling you to change. However, thanks to a new psychological study, whether you follow through with your resolution may just depend on how you phrase it. The study found that if the resolution-maker can find a way to alter their resolution to start something, they are much more likely to actually succeed. This year, when it comes to your resolutions, you need a FRESH perspective.
How to set FRESH goals
FRESH is an acronym for the five ingredients in your recipe/prescription to health: Food, relaxation, exercise, sleep and happiness. Here are our FRESH suggestions for each:
FOOD: Try a new recipe each month
Throughout the covid-19 pandemic, cooking became a survival skill. As our favorite restaurants closed, we had to get back into the kitchen and cook. Commit to expanding your culinary skills by choosing a new recipe each month. Not only will you enjoy the challenge of trying something new, getting outside of your comfort zone will help you grow as both a chef—and a person. We suggest trying more plant-forward recipes because people who eat more plants, live longer!
RELAXATION: Tune in to tune out
Get more music in your life. Regardless of what you choose, music can calm you down even during stressful times. Studies have shown that the type of music doesn’t really matter, yet classical music is known for its relaxing affects. Researchers have found, “Pleasing music can reduce blood flow to the amygdala (otherwise known as the “fear center” of the brain), lower the production of cortisol (AKA the “stress hormone”) and increase our dopamine levels.”
What music did you love as a kid or teen? What songs bring back fond memories? When you’re stuck in your head with nowhere to go, put the music on. And dance like nobody’s watching! Hey, you can even play your favorite song on repeat. Either way, aim for 10 minutes each day.
EXERCISE: Get into nature
Sometimes you must get out of your comfort zone (and during the winter, your comfortable slippers, too) to experience more happiness and that includes leaving your home and getting outside. After all, multiple studies, including a 2015 study published in Landscape and Urban Planning, found that even just under an hour’s worth of walking out in nature can make you feel happier, as well as decrease anxiety and improve memory.
Go outside and literally “smell the roses,” or, the pine trees. Scandinavian countries live by a saying, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” So, pull out the old hat and mittens and bundle up, kid. Nature is so beautiful, no matter the weather. Move your body for at least 30 minutes a day to achieve your wellness goals.
SLEEP: Develop an attitude of gratitude
As the classic Christmas song by Crosby and Clooney reminds us, “Count your blessings instead of sheep” and you’ll be asleep in no time. If that doesn’t work, we encourage you to try the Gratefulness Challenge. A 2003 study done by Robert Emmons of University of California, Davis and Michael McCullough of the University of Miami, found that individuals who kept a daily log of gratitude experienced positive affect daily, and saw a reduction of negative daily affect. If you wake up staring at the ceiling only to ruminate about the past, or worry about the future, stop yourself! Slow down your breathing and count your blessings. There is always something to be grateful for. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
HAPPINESS: Phone a friend
Sadly, losing touch with loved ones and friends is common. Reach out to someone from your past whom you really liked and reconnect with them. They don’t have to become a bestie, but it’s worth your time to let them know you’re thinking of them. Whether it’s with friends, new or old, make a bigger commitment to reaching out and connecting with your favorite people in your life this coming year.
To get started, create a call list: Get into a regular schedule of touching base with relatives or friends. According to the research in Positive Psychology, nothing makes people happier—not the new job, new car, new pants size—than other people. We are social beings and need each other to survive and thrive!
How to set SMART goals
SMART is an acronym coined by Doran, G.T. et al in the Journal Management Review in 1981 for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. He expressed the first, cogent way to define, measure and ultimately achieve goals. It works in leadership management, but it can also work in setting your resolutions, too. We encourage our clients and patients to be SMART about their goals.
Julie Graham, co-founder of FRESH Medicine and FRESH Med U, reminds us to “set goals and celebrate the small wins along the way.” Julie is also a certified health coach, registered yoga teacher and positive psychology practitioner (and she also happens to be my lovely wife!).
- Are you ready? If not, change your mindset. You can do it!
- Start small: Slow and gradual progression is what works best.
- Stay focused. When you fall off, get back on track. That’s life.
- Prepare for barriers, lapses and setbacks. Again, that’s life.
- Remain positive. Pick yourself up and get back on track!
Happy new year and cheers to a FRESH start.