“I think I can, I think I can” is the rallying mantra of the little blue engine in Wally Piper’s classic children’s tale about the power of positive thinking. The lesson in “The Little Engine That Could” regarding overcoming insurmountable odds is a timely one as mid-January approaches.
Self improvement, particularly in the areas of fitness and diet, is a common New Year’s resolution. Good intentions are at their peak in early January but they often fade as the cold days of winter linger.
As Piper cajoled, having the right attitude will go far in helping to sustain resolutions according to Pamela Dunn, author of “It’s Time to Look Inside.”
“Positive thinking is vital in maintaining a stated goal, resolution or making a change,” Dunn said. “When I was training to run a 5K for the first time at 50-plus years old, it would not have worked to tell myself ‘there is no way you can do this.’ What worked was to encourage myself and then notice and acknowledge every accomplishment and milestone as well as positively encourage myself when I didn’t want to exercise, or I was tired [and] sore, or I had a bad run.”
Deciding up front how family and friends can provide support and promote success is also a key component of sticking to a New Year’s resolution or accomplishing a goal.
“Ask yourself whether you want to make sure tempting foods are never in the house, or whether you want a friend or family member to ask you about your goals, or whether you want them to not ask,” Dunn advised. “Set ground rules for those around you and be sure to be supportive of yourself as well. You wouldn’t want anyone else to put you down in order to motivate you, so be sure you don’t do that to yourself.”
The journey to self-improvement and sustained resolutions often consists of detours and bumps along the way. Dunn advises clients to accept mistakes as inevitable.
“When you do make a mistake, remind yourself that you are far greater than the mistake you just made,” Dunn said. “Use that knowledge to learn from the mistake and make the commitment to get back on track. All is not lost just because you made one mistake.”
When tempted to give up on a resolution Dunn suggests asking “what” not “why.”
“Ask yourself a ‘what’ question, such as: ‘What will serve my greater goal?’ or ‘What decision will make me feel good about myself?’ Refrain from asking yourself: ‘Why do I want that cookie, that extra helping, or to stay in bed longer?’ A ‘why’ question will keep you in the loop of going against your stated goals,” Dunn said.
Above all, Dunn tells clients to encourage themselves to live up to their word.
“Every time you say ‘no’ to going off your stated resolution, you are saying ‘yes’ to yourself and your magnificence,” Dunn said. “Every time you say ‘yes’ to following through on your word, you are saying ‘no’ to the old you.”
A positive attitude is not a guarantee of success in maintaining this year’s resolutions but it is a tool that may increase the odds and make the effort more enjoyable.
Top Resolutions for 2016
In 2016, other than faith and family, Americans have their sights set on wellness above all else according to the 7th annual New Year’s Resolution Survey from Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America. Forty-four percent of respondents reported their top focus for 2016 will be on health/wellness, with financial stability trailing at 29 percent of those surveyed. These focus areas came ahead of career/employment – coming in at 13 percent, education at 9 percent and entertainment/leisure at 5 percent.
Tips for a Healthier Lifestyle
Exercise on a regular basis. Regular physical activity not only helps you look and feel better, it can improve mood, increase quality of sleep and help you manage weight. But remember, exercise need not take place in the gym or with weights. Hiking or biking local trails, learning to samba, joining a recreational sports league, ice skating or swimming like you did as a kid, or even walking the dog can provide daily or weekly doses of exercise and fun.
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Undergo an annual physical. To be sure your body is running smoothly, have your numbers, including blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and weight, checked regularly.
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Drink lots of water. Experts recommend 64 ounces of water a day to help replenish what you’ve lost throughout the day.
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Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Both fruits and veggies are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which help protect against chronic diseases.
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Go through your cabinets. Get rid of foods that are high in sodium, fat or sugar and look for low sodium, fat or sugar items instead. Go natural and load your plate with fresh vegetables complimented by lean proteins. Eat sweet fruits rather than desserts and steer clear of beverages that are high in terms of calories, but low in terms of nutrition.