Welcome to the mid-January blahs — those slow weeks after all those good intentions, where the going gets tougher and even the toughest just want to lie on the couch and flip channels at night. I am one of them, and I am here to tell you: it’s okay to have lazy days and tired mornings. But it’s also possible to knit together these relaxation sojourns with healthy habits so that you’re at the place you want to be: living the life you want, loving the life you have, and getting in the best shape of your life.
Before we begin, though, a thought about the idea of resolutions. No one says they have to all start on January 1st. You get to reboot and refresh every Monday — or even every day — since the randomness of that date is no more or less powerful than any other. As someone for whom resolutions never work, I’d say this: Think positively about a goal, a broader desire to be healthier, fitter, slimmer, happier, save money, or be more organized. If you slip up (as we all do,) give yourself permission to start over. (I call it Mulligan Monday, or Take-Two Tuesday, Why-Not Wednesday, This-is-it Thursday, or Free-to-be Friday). Whatever you want to call it, just start now and keep going on your new track to a better, happier you.
What’s the best way to achieve your goals? For one thing, don’t be so hard on yourself. Instead of thinking, “I have to get to the gym every day,” or ” I am never touching another morsel of chocolate again,” quiet the inner-negative monologue and allow yourself some leeway. As I note in my bookThe Nine Rooms of Happiness, what you can’t change is your desire to succeed – i.e., the resolutions you made ten days ago. But you can allow yourself some slack, think more positively about the progress you are making, and not get discouraged when you have a minor setback. Just keep going, and you will achieve your goals!
Here’s what works for me:
1. When you’re tired, sleep. The first rule of thumb for all of us is that a tired machine is one that’s running on empty. Therefore, the best idea is to get some shuteye, so you don’t roam through your day looking for alternate fuel sources — namely sugar. When I find myself trolling for afternoon sweets, I know the drill: get to bed early tonight and sleep in tomorrow. So enjoy it: A guilt-free late morning, compliments of me.
2. Get out of bed after you are adequately rested and put on your gym clothes. I lay them out the night before so that I can hop straight into running tights, sneakers, fleece, mittens and a hat and head straight out the door to my run. The coffee is made, and I drink half of it before the exercise session and half after. I fuel up with something like a half a banana, so I’m out there and awake enough to put one foot in front of the other — but not awake enough to talk myself out of it. This is a great way to super-charge your day: you think, you breathe, you relax and you exercise (preferably to a favorite playlist.) And when you’re back and showering, there is simply nothing like knowing, I did it!
3. Think of the one thing you can do right now, in the next five minutes, to up your happiness. For me, it’s banging out a blog entry, reading a manuscript that’s overdue, or answering the three thank you notes that I haven’t written yet — just to feel like I got something accomplished and can strike it off my to-do list. I also keep another, bigger life list in my head: plan a great trip with the family, save more money, give back to charity, find a memorable experience to share with someone who is closest to me. Looking back on last year, think of the moments that brought you the most joy. Now think about how to bring more of those moments into your life, on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
4. Laugh. This sounds trite as I write it, but it’s just the simplest, most important thing you can do every day. Is your workplace an anxiety-pressure-cooker? Tell a joke, make a self-deprecating or funny gesture, do something to cut the tension and enjoy the zaniness of it all. Because even in the most difficult of situations, it’s important to realize we are all human. We work for a paycheck, but also for a meaningful engagement in something bigger than ourselves. Keeping perspective, whether it’s at home when the toddler throws her dinner on the floor, at work when meetings grind on, or after work when your spouse and you sit over a stack of bills, you have to understand that you can’t always control what’s happening around you. But you can always control how you react. Try to find the humor — or at least, the humanity in it all.
5. Focus on the good stuff, not the mess. The mess I refer to here is metaphorical. To wit, some of the rooms of your emotional house may be neat, and some may be strewn with clutter. But when you think about it, you have much to be thankful for, even when the day-to-day messes feel like they rob our happiness in every single room. Want to lose weight? Then close the door on the bathroom (leaving the scale inside!) and think about the places that are joyful: the family room, where you are loving your visit from your grown sibling; the kitchen, where you can create healthful meals to help you achieve your fitness goal. In this way, focusing on the good will help you to conquer the bad!