The year 2020 was, needless to say, challenging, so it’s no wonder we’re eager to turn the calendar page to January and get a fresh start in 2021. Of course, with New Year’s Day comes New Year’s resolutions, which are maybe needed now more than ever as everything from our sleeping, eating, and exercise habits and stress levels have fluctuated throughout different levels of stay-at-home orders during the pandemic. It’s been harder than ever before to have healthy routines amid all the upheaval.
That’s why we tapped four of the North Shore’s top wellness experts to give us 10 tips for how to recalibrate your body and mind, set healthy and attainable goals, and stick with them all throughout the new year and beyond. Cheers to 2021!
1. Engage in a supportive daily practice.
Adopting some type of “supportive daily practice” is important, says Dawn Tardif, CEO and founder of BodiScience Wellness Center and Spa in Beverly. That could be anything from exercise, to meditation or focusing on your breathing for a few minutes, to writing down something you’re grateful for.
2. Get a buddy (or buddies).
Having a community of people who help and encourage each other is incredibly helpful, says Julie Bokat, co-owner of Fuel Training Studio in Newburyport.
“The best results happen when you have a team of people around you or a support system around you,” she says. “That community, I think, is what keeps people accountable.”
Having friends involved also makes your workout more fun, and fun is the “number one” way to feel excited about it, Bokat says.
3. Set small goals.
One reason that many New Year’s resolutions often fail? Because they’re way too big. Bokat says she’s not a fan of “big, crazy goals.” Smaller goals are more realistic and easier to achieve.
“Making tiny little incremental changes in your daily existence is what’s going to add up to big goals,” Bokat says.
Alexsandro Gois, a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at the Beverly YMCA and co-founder of Sol Fit Beverly, agrees. “Many people just focus on what they want and forget to focus time and energy on what they have to change and do to reach that goal,” he says.
4. Be specific.
Be sure your goals are specific, says Ashley Springett, M.Ed., CPT, who is not only an ACE-certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor and co-founder of Sol Fit Beverly, but also a dance and fitness teacher at Salem Academy Charter School.
“Saying, ‘I am going to exercise more’ is too vague and honestly quite lackluster; it’s hard to feel excited or emotionally connected to such a statement, and therefore the dedication to said goal will likely fall by the wayside,” she says. “But if someone says, ‘I am going to get my body moving by taking three classes a week at the gym,’ then the goal is much more specific and they can get more easily excited by choosing from the many styles of group fitness classes offered.”
5. Make small changes.
Your changes should start small, too. If you’ve spent the pandemic watching Netflix, don’t overcommit to running every day. Instead, start taking a walk two mornings a week.
“People come in with these really lofty goals. It’s great but they have to just take it one day at a time,” Bokat says. “This is about a lifestyle change. Anything more than what you were doing is the beginning of a lifestyle change.”
6. Pave your path.
Do what you can for yourself to make it easier to commit to goals. For instance, Bokat suggests “setting your intentions mentally but also physically. Put out your gym clothes, set out your sneakers the night before. Set yourself up for success.”
7. Be gentle with yourself.
Spending the weekend eating pizza on the couch doesn’t mean that you have to abandon your healthy eating goals altogether.
“We’re all human and slip up, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up,” says Gois.
Springett echoes this. “Changing behavior and creating new habits is a learned skill that takes time, so don’t get down on yourself if you ‘slip up.’ It’s just a slip, not a fall, so don’t give into the thought that you are an epic failure,” she says. “Be patient and forgiving with yourself, recognize what caused the set back, and make the necessary adjustments.”
8. Aim for balance, not extremes.
Look for moderation and balance as you work toward your goals. “Those who are successful with carrying out their New Year’s Resolutions understand not to go to extremes,” Springett says. “They know that balance is key and behavior change takes time.”
For instance, save an alcoholic drink or pizza for the weekend, Bokat says. “We’re not about starvation or stripping everything away,” she says. “The people who create balance with their food and exercise do the best with it.”
9. Prioritize yourself.
Practicing self-care isn’t selfish: It’s the opposite.
“Take that time for yourself,” says Bokat. “In turn, you’re going to be so much better for the people around you.”
Tardif agrees, saying that practicing self-care will give you the energy to achieve everything else that’s on your plate. “Protect that time,” she says. “You have to invest and do something for yourself.”
10. Reconsider your resolution timing.
While it’s tempting to make big sweeping resolutions when the calendar flips to January, the cold, dark, dead of winter (when we naturally hold onto more weight) might not be the best time to do it.
“It’s really unfair to place all of that pressure on ourselves at the New Year,” Tardif says. “Winter is a time when we like to be warm and cozy.”
She points out that according to ayurvedic medicine, spring is the best time for a fresh start. Instead of trying to shed pounds in the middle of winter, maybe start with daily meditative practices and other self-care priorities like staying hydrated or investing in regular massage.
“Slow down, be more reflective. Don’t necessarily think about shedding pounds,” she says. Then be ready to step into an “energetic spring.”