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Stepping Stones to Living Well

It’s a new year! We hear (and mumble to ourselves) “new year, new me;” “time to start over;” and other creative little quips that are meant to inspire but often fall short of sustaining our motivation. How can we take small steps to make big changes?

A "Big Picture" Lifestyle Transformation

We get so excited about the possibility of starting over with a fresh, clean slate that we forget everything we have done, everywhere we have been, and all the experiences we have lived through up until this point have positioned us perfectly for the next step in our wellness journey. They’re not meant to be forgotten, ignored, or brushed off, but rather built upon like stepping stones taking us to the next level.

Often, new year’s resolutions focus on an “absolute.” Even though goals like “lose weight,” “run a marathon,” and “stick to a diet” tend to improve our energy levels, sleep quality, mood and hormones, they also sometimes exclude the bigger picture. What life values/experiences do you want to strive for instead? This process helps us redirect our focus from a finite goal, to a well-rounded, “big picture” lifestyle transformation. This month we’re sharing four tips to help you shift your outlook on progress. By doing so, you will never “fail.” Only grow and succeed.

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Determine Your "Bad vs. Better."

Thinking in absolutes or in finite dichotomous goals leads to a “this or that,” “succeed or fail” mentality. Consider thinking in “bad vs. better” instead. After all, wellness is a never-ending journey… not a final destination!

Here are some swaps to start making your day “better:”

  • If going to the gym is too much right now, aim for ten minutes of movement in general. Ten minutes is better than zero!

  • Do you usually snack on processed food options? Switch at least one snack per day to a fresh option… one that’s crunchy, filled with fiber, and packed with nutrients!

  • Having a hard time sleeping? If your bedtime routine isn’t working for you now, what would it hurt to try something else? Consider reading instead of watching TV or journaling instead of surfing social media.

  • Next time you fall into a thought trap (or negative spiral) of “I can’t do this” or “I have to do that,” take a moment to pause and reframe. Try thinking in a positive light, even if you have to break down your to-do list or work project into much smaller pieces. Saying “I can” or “I get to” goes a long way!

Get as REAL with yourself as you can! Honesty with yourself and your habits will propel you past the bad moments and right into better days.

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Add More Color!

It’s not just the color of our foods that impact our wellness. The psychology of colors lends emotional connotations to nearly everything we do.

Look at your environment - the color of your walls, your clothes, the pens you use. Do these colors elicit feelings of restfulness in rooms you desire motivation? Would a splash of color allow the creative side of you to flourish? Consider how color psychology may empower you in every dimension of well-being!

What other ways can we add more color?

  • Add a plant to your office space. Not only do plants elicit feelings of freshness and invigoration, but they also work to clean your air!

  • Change your virtual landscape. If you stare at the computer for extended periods of time for work, try this: for just 5 minutes, take a break and play a video of a waterfall (or other favorite landscape) with nature sounds. This moment of peace will bring you renewed energy and focus!

  • Add one new color to your favorite meal. If it’s challenging because of the taste, try a different way of preparation. Maybe you dice it up and add it to a smoothie, or you roast a sheet of vegetables and add it to your stir fry. Phone a friend for their favorite way to include it in a meal. Or challenge them to add it to their diet themselves!

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Is Your Gym Bag Packed?

To “move more” is such a common goal made at the start of a new year. Yet, the CDC reported in 2020 that less than a quarter (24.2%) of adults (aged 18 and over) met the physical activity guidelines for both aerobic and resistance training.

We don’t do it because we “have to.” We exercise because we get to… that’s what we tell ourselves, at least! How can you make it a little easier, though? Keeping your gym bag packed is a motivational tool in and of itself, ESPECIALLY if you keep it stocked with strategies for your mental health and emotional well-being, too.

  • Wear confidence. What outfit makes you want to workout? Keep your go-to fit at the ready! It’s easier to accomplish your goals when you feel confident in your skin.

  • Keep yourself AND others accountable. You know one of your friends usually has Tuesday evenings off. It benefits your social well-being to have a workout buddy, and it benefits them to move their body, too!

  • Follow a 3-day rule. Has your bag sat untouched near your door or in your backseat for 3 days in a row? Be your own motivator! Set an alarm for after work that screams “EXERCISE!” Or tell a friend who works out regularly to call you every time they go to the gym.

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Success Starts In the Kitchen.

We’ve said it before (see our At-Home Nutrition Strategies blog) and we’ll say it again– how your fridge, pantry, and kitchen is organized MATTERS! It’s easy to bring home groceries and stuff your veggies in the back of the fridge, push aside your recent snack cravings to set your healthier ones in the back, and let the intimidation of making better food choices overwhelm your love for the kitchen. There are 3 simple steps you can take to transform your snack routine– starting before the grocery store!

  • Before leaving, get out a cutting board and food prep utensils and set them on your counter.

  • When you get home from the store, let the items that are unrefrigerated sit for a moment. Unpack your produce, wash, and cut up what you need BEFORE you put everything away. That means more nutrient-dense snacks will be at the ready… and your dinners will be that much easier to make when you get home from work in the evenings!

  • Instead of putting whole bags of popcorn, nuts, and other munchies in the pantry, pre-portion your snacks in easy-to-grab containers so that when you need to replenish your energy after a long day, you’re less likely to eat a WHOLE bag of your favorite chips. After all, total well-being is about finding balance (through portion control and other strategies!), not eliminating foods that make you happy.