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  • Joe Hall

Setting Healthy Intentions for the New Year

Rid yourself of resolutions and ring in the new year with a healthy intention instead.

“New year, new you.” That's a phrase we hear every January 1st, as we sit down with our blank calendars and our lists of goals to achieve. We make resolutions to do things better--to be better--than the year before, especially when it comes to our health. We vow to immediately (and "permanently") cut out all junk food, work out every day, or lose a certain number of pounds....and we inevitably feel like we failed when we slip up and eat that piece of chocolate cake, skip that workout or don't see that scale budging. We may get so discouraged that we give up altogether.

Perhaps it is no wonder that word resolution comes from an Old French word that means "a breaking into parts." When we make a resolution, we look only at the parts of ourselves or our lives that we think need to be "fixed" or "improved." Instead of affirming our own wholeness and celebrating our unique gifts and talents, we tear ourselves apart for our perceived flaws and failings. We focus on the things we'll say no to, instead of the ways we can say yes to ourselves and the callings of our spirit.

So this year, we encourage you to rid yourself of resolutions and, instead, set an intention for what you want to experience more of in your life. Perhaps your intention is to eat more fruits and vegetables, to spend more time with friends, to get more sleep, or to count your blessings more often. Maybe you want to explore a new hobby or express yourself creatively. . Perhaps your intention is to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, to spend more time in nature, to get more sleep, or to check out that new yoga class you've been wanting to try.

Whatever your intention, here are some tips to help you integrate it more seamlessly into your life:

  • Break it down into small, simple and specific steps that you can build on. For example, if your intention is to be more active, start with a smaller, more defined goal like walking for 10 minutes per day. If you want to eat healthier, aim for one cup of vegetables per day. Over time, as you build your new habit and feel its positive effects, you may find that you naturally want to move your body for more minutes each day or pile your plate with more vegetables.

  • Make it enjoyable. Take that 10 minute walk somewhere that you can soak in the beauty of nature, like your favorite park, hiking trail or tree-lined street (or if you want to be more active but you hate walking, choose an activity that you love), like dancing, swimming, gardening or playing tennis. If you’re eating that cup of vegetables each day, choose vegetables that you enjoy the taste of or find new, more flavorful ways to prepare the veggies that aren't on your list of favorites. You can also make a game out of trying new or unusual vegetables that you've never had before, such as watermelon radish, kabocha squash, broccoli rabe or purple yam.

  • Make it convenient. Choose a time and location that work with your schedule (you may even want to block it off in your calendar) and lay out whatever supplies you'll need in advance so all you have to do is show up and follow through. For example, if you don’t have time to work out in the evening, bring your sneakers to work so that you can walk around the block over your lunch break. Schedule time on the weekends to stock your fridge and pre-chop some veggies that you can munch on when you get hungry (celery stalks with peanut butter and carrot sticks with hummus are some of our favorite, veggie-packed snacks).

  • Get support. Share your intention with a friend or loved one who can help encourage you and hold you accountable. Or join a class, club or community that can provide support and resources to help keep you on track.

  • Acknowledge and celebrate each small success. Pat yourself on the back for packing that healthy lunch or taking that walk around the block. Give yourself some gratitude for drinking that extra glass of water or getting that extra hour of much-needed sleep. Shower yourself with praise for pausing to take a few deep breaths during a stressful situation or purchasing that ergonomic chair.

As you begin to live out your intention, you slowly create a more intentional life. You start to say yes to the things that make you feel strong, healthy and vibrantly alive and that excite your soul. You show yourself more love, kindness and gentleness, and you invite in more grace and ease.

Wishing you a happy and healthy new year and new decade!

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