When a New Year rolls around people seem to be full of motivation to make healthy changes to their lifestyle. Then, one month into the year and the parking lot at the local gym isn’t quite as crowded as it was the first week of January.
So if “healthy” people aren’t able to keep their new year’s resolution how are we, the chronically ill, suppose to make the changes to our lives that we want to see?
The key is focusing on making new habits all year round and not just the beginning of each year.
How do you do this? You start again and again. You can’t toss the idea of a new habit because you miss a day. You can’t throw it out the window and say you’ll start again Monday, next month or the first of next year. You get up and start again – today.
Habits aren’t started once from a sudden burst of motivation. They’re developed by starting 1,000 times until it becomes, well, a habit.
People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily. ~ Zig Ziglar
People that run marathons don’t just get up on January 1st and take off out their front door and return with 26 miles under their feet. They get up one day and run as far as they can. The next day they get up and do it again. Maybe the third day they just can’t get themselves to move so they binge Netflix. But day four comes and they lace up those shoes.
The person that’s lost 100 pounds didn’t eat one salad at dinner and wake up the next day to a closet full of clothes that didn’t fit anymore. They ate healthy for a few days. Messed up and ate pizza. Kept with their program for four days straight. Ate a great breakfast and lunch but then dinner was a dish of ice cream. However, instead of giving in, they got up the next morning and ate a healthy breakfast again.
People that succeed at developing good habits don’t quit when they have a setback and they don’t beat themselves up over it. They keep a commitment to themselves to improve a certain area of their life and they stick with it even when they don’t want to.
When you’re chronically ill your body doesn’t adjust to change quickly. It takes time. It takes starting over and over again – slowly but surely – until the “cheat days” or “days off” become fewer and further apart.
- I’m trying to create a simple habit of drinking more water. I know it helps my energy levels and I know it’s good for my body but, to be perfectly transparent here, I’d rather drink Coke. All. Day. I made a simple habit tracker so I can chart my progress. Day one I drank 32 ounces of pure, plain water. Day two I repeated the same. Day three I dove in and slurped down 80 ounces. Day four totaled 64. I dropped back down to 32 ounces on day five but instead of calling it quits I’m waking up each day and filling my water bottle! I’ve been inconsistent with the totals but I’m consistent with the fact that I’m walking through my day with a water bottle in hand. Any amount of water I drink is a positive. And over time, it’s increasing in amount.
- I’m also trying to do a bit of strength training. I can feel my body becoming weaker as I age and my illness-induced sedentary lifestyle isn’t helping. Each day I’m trying to do one or two exercises to help keep toned. (Not like I’m toned now, but you know what I mean. 😉 ) I’ve been able to do a few reps each day, and like the water, I’m slowly able to increase the number of reps I’m doing.
Going too fast and pushing our bodies too hard will throw us into a flare and we don’t need that. But we do need to gently nudge our bodies in healthy directions.
We need to celebrate our single steps in the right direction instead of looking at the end result as an elusive dream. If we only focus on the end result we’re trying so desperately to achieve we’re going to burn out rather quickly. Instead, focus on the process of adding healthy habits to your routine.
What healthy habits are you trying to develop? Let me know in the comments below so I can cheer you on!