Most of us take a little time as the past year turns into the new year to assess some bad habits and set intentions for a healthier future in all aspects of our lives. Setting those intentions is one thing, sticking to them is yet another. Here are some suggestions to help you succeed.
Start with an attitude adjustment – No matter what change you want to make in your life, design a mantra that supports that change. Tell your self things like: ” I love being a non-smoker;” or “I feel so much better being 10lbs lighter;” or “I can do so much more now that I have been exercising;” or “I have so much more energy now that I have given up sugar, or caffeine [whatever you want to give up].” Imagining and embracing the good that will come of change gets you off the “I am depriving myself” train. It’s a better motivator and it rewards your efforts rather than feeling like a punishment.
Eating Healthier – that can range from eating less meat, eating more fruits and veggies, to getting off dairy or gluten, to losing weight. Whatever the case is for you, set reachable goals.
- Prepare your alliances: Ask your friends and family to help you, especially in the beginning, by not questioning your choices or criticizing your efforts. It is never good to have someone, well intended as they might feel, say, “Should you be eating that?” Ask them not to sit down with a plate full of apple pie and ice cream while you are eating celery sticks. That’s just mean.
- Next, prepare your environment: Open your cabinets, refrigerator and freezer, take out every inappropriate thing that could potentially derail your efforts. You may know someone who can use the food you shouldn’t be eating, so think about donating to a food bank or neighbor. Ask your family to bear with you, even if they are not dieting. Eating healthy is good for everyone, not just for loosing weight.
- Replace those unhealthy items with healthier choices: Keep healthy snacks around like fresh veggies all cut and ready to eat, around so that when the urge strikes, you won’t lose out to poor impulse control. When choosing more fruits and veggies for your diet you might want to read the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Shopper’s Guide for pesticides in produce.
- Want to eat less meat? Start slowly by trying the Meatless Monday plan. Remember we don’t need as much protein as the meat industry would like us to believe. Here is a resource to find out how to replace meat protein with vegetable protein.
Get More Exercise – set reasonable goals so you don’t burn out. Actually setting goals is the best way to stick to a workout program. Maybe there is a wedding or reunion coming up. Challenge yourself to an event like a 5k walk or run for a good cause. Then up the ante t to a 10K or even a marathon.
- Find a workout buddy: And try to pick someone with a positive attitude. Having someone to meet up with really helps you stay on a schedule, especially when you work out early in the morning. Can’t find a friend to workout with? Sign up for a class. Doling out dollars for something helps too.
- Pace yourself: I was 50 years old when I trained for my first marathon and I am not one of those extreme athletes. The trick to my succeeding in getting this old body to run 26.2 miles was to NOT over train. I kept to my friend’s strict schedule over 6 months of slowly increasing distance while only running 3 times a week and only pushing for the big miles on Saturdays. For every 20 minutes I ran, I walked for 1 minute, no matter how many miles I was running. If I’d done it on my own, I would have definitely pushed harder in the beginning and either burnt out or gotten injured. Be sure and give your body time to recover between workouts, that is as important as the actual workout for progress. If you are joining a gym, don’t go everyday, start with 3 times a week and don’t up it to more than every other day for heavy exercising.
- Seize the moment: When you can take the stairs, do it. Embrace the opportunity to rake the yard or shovel the driveway etc., see it as a chance to build muscle and cardio. But be thoughtful about it, switch arms for equal impact. When I am driving long distance and have the cruise control on and no other cars are nearby, I lift my feet just a few inches off the floor to engage my abs and count to 10. I do that 3 times in a row, once an hour. (Ladies – I also do Kegel exercises when I come to stop lights.)
- Start your program off easy: Try walking 10 minutes 3 times a week, then increase the time gradually. Of course the same goes for riding a bike, going to the gym or swimming.
- Diversity is good: Try some cardio exercise in combination with yoga or palates. In my perfect world, I would run on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays, do yoga on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays, and take Sundays off.
- Always stretch: When you ask your muscles to work hard they respond by tightening up, so learn some good versatile stretching, your body will be grateful and allow you to do more. The secret to getting the most from your stretching is to find the stretch and hold it while breathing deeply into the stretch. Hold for a count to 10, then do it again a few times.
- Hydrating is so important: One of the best things I learned when I was training for the marathon was to hydrate. It was remarkable how much better my joints and muscles felt when I properly hydrated. This doesn’t mean just drinking water before, during and after exercising, it means hydrating all week, especially the day before a workout. I really learned about the effects of food and alcohol as well. Carbs for endurance and protein for recovery. Now don’t load up on carbs just because you are walking a few miles, 3 times a week. Save it for the heavy lifting when you get farther into your program.
Reducing Your Carbon Footprint – Once again start small, once you get the hang of it, it can be an addictive challenge.
- Think about eating less meat: While choosing to eat healthier you can make a big impact by reducing your meat intake. Here is the meat eater’s guide to climate change plus health.
- Buying local: Look into Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), Coops or buying clubs that offer organic and healthy choices. Ask your grocer where things come from. Let them know you care. Plus you’ll be supporting local businesses. Go to LocalHarvest to find a coop or CSA near you.
- Do you have a vampire in the house? Just unplugging your appliances can stop the constant draw on your electricity.
- Dial down: Turn your water heater temperature down a little and you will save on your electric bill. Of course, the same goes for your thermostat.
- Plan and Share: Plan your errands efficiently. Share shopping trips with neighbors or relatives.
- Try two wheels instead of three sometimes: Bike riding combines lowering your carbon footprint with good health. It takes time to make bike riding a habit. Did you know that 85% of all the driving we do is within 5 miles? And 50-60% is within 2 miles.
- Working virtually: See if you can work from home once or twice a week to reduce your commuting. It’s not for everyone, but some people are more productive at the home.
- BYOB: Remember to bring your reusable shopping bags to the store!
Detox & Minimize Your Exposure to Chemicals
- Watch out for those beauty products: Beauty and skin care products are not regulated, so they can pretty much say what they want on their labels and it can be pretty misleading AND downright unhealthy. Go through all your bathroom drawers and cabinets and de-clutter by getting rid of questionable products. To help you decide what’s questionable and what to replace, look at the EWGs Skin Deep cosmetic database. I am getting down to one organic shampoo, Dr. Bronnor’s soap, a natural toothpaste and organic coconut oil for all my grooming needs. I used up last season’s natural sunscreens for shaving my legs. Read our recent post on Ecomii.com on Why Should We Care about Toxins in Cosmetics and Skincare Products.
- Cleaning the House: House hold cleaning products are another source of poison in our homes. Vinegar and baking soda are my favorite cleaning products. Learn how to use vinegar from this Good Human’s article. Check out this cleaning kit from Care2.com. The New Homemaker shows 27 ways to use baking soda to clean your house.. Some of the brands that we like are: Seventh Generations; Greenworks; Mrs. Meyer’s (I’ve used all the lavender versions so my house smells the same everywhere.); Berkley Green; and Ecover. Listen to our Green Light: Short & Sassy vignette on Easy Green Cleaning
- Detoxing the bedroom – Start with this most important room. The bedroom is the room we spend more time in than any other room, and it’s a time for healing and restoration. I first recommend you consider an organic mattress by our friends at Essentia. Here are 5 ways to detox the bedroom I found on Care2.com.
Un-Clutter Your World – don’t try to unclutter the entire house, start with a drawer, or a closet. Approach each closet or drawer by emptying it out completely. My motto when de-cluttering is “bless it and let it go.”
- Cleaning out the closet: When in your clothes closet, if you haven’t worn it in a year, let it go. Donate your clothes, someone else might love them or need them.
- De-cluttering the kitchen: Start off by pulling everything our of the drawer or cabinet you are cleaning. If you haven’t used some of the gadgets you’ve collected, let them go. Do you really need 4 spatulas or 3 can openers. When you put things back, place the least used things at the back and the most used within easy reach. Then next year, if you find you never used those things in the back, maybe you could bless them and let them go as well.
- Organizing and storing: For the things you need to save but are not using, box or bin them up so you can store them neatly and find them easily. Mark them and make them easy to negotiate when storing them. I make a list on two sides of each box in case I need to store them facing our or sideways.
- Passing things down: When I last moved I boxed stuff up for my kids. Saving things that I don’t really use now that they will enjoy using that I can offer as meaningful gifts along the way.
- How to get rid of stuff: Craig’s list is a great to give away or sell things and people will come and pick them up. I have often put things out by the curb with a free sign and they just disappear. For more valuable or collectible items you can sell things on eBay.com. There are people who will sell things on eBay for you for a fee.
- Books: Do you really need to keep books you’ve already read? Sometime the answer is yes, but often it is no. The last time I moved I realized that I was lugging around a lot of reference books that I don’t use anymore since I get most information off the internet. And I passed down all my leather bound classics to my son who is starting a family. I do hope my grandchildren will read them. For the books you can let go of, try selling them. There are a lot of place to sell books like Amazon.com or Cash4Books and there are more. If you don’t care about making money, there are a lot of places to share or donate your books including libraries (if they are in good condition).
- eWaste: Many of us got new electronics or appliances over the holidays. You should know that we produce the equivalent of 100,000 fully loaded 747 planes of eWaste in just one year! Some of it gets shipped off to India and other developing countries where children are poisoned while sifting through the landfills. So before throwing away your old computer, cell phone or toaster etc, first consider giving it to someone who will use it. I once put an old working TV on the curb and it just disappeared. I often take things to the Goodwill because they have a job training program and they recycle electonics. Cell phones can be recycled through battered women’s programs and for military families. You can also check with your local police stations. Ask at your local mobile device store if they have a charitable recycling program. If not, go somewhere that does, many, many do. Listen to our Sleeping Naked is Green segment on eWaste.
- Listen to our Interview with Debra Duneier, Feng Shui Master and Author – We talked a lot about de-cluttering.